Unravelling the history of droughts in the UK

Oxford Univeristy is a partner in a cross-disciplinary research project on historic droughts and water scarcity funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s programme on ‘UK Droughts and Water Scarcity’.

The project, led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will characterise and quantify the hydrometeorological, environmental, agricultural, policy and resource management, and social and cultural history of droughts and water scarcity in the UK since the late 19th century.

The research aims to identify interactions between natural and social systems in the production and management of droughts over the historic record. A major research outcome will be the first droughts inventory for the UK – an evidence base that will provide a common reference for policy makers, regulators, water supply companies, and UK business.

Drs Bettina Lange and Chris Decker, based at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University, will analyse the history of regulating water scarcity and its economic impacts in the UK, drawing on case studies of key historic droughts.

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Working with the Government of Bangladesh to tackle poverty and environmental challenges in the Delta

Oxford University was recently involved in a national-level stakeholder workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, aimed at engaging government and stakeholder groups in the development of tools, information and strategies for poverty alleviation and environmental management in coastal Bangladesh.

The workshop was attended by the Planning Minister Mr. AHM Mustafa Kamal, the State Minister for Planning Mr. MA Mannan, and the Secretary of Ministry of Planning Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam. In addition, approximately 90 participants from different ministries, divisions, agencies, development partners, and consultants attended the inaugural session.

The workshop was held as part of ESPA Deltas, a multi-disciplinary project funded by NERC, DFID and ESRC, which aims to develop knowledge and tools for policy makers to evaluate the effects of policy decisions on people’s livelihoods.

The meeting was jointly organised by the Bangladesh General Economics Division of the Planning Commission, and project partner BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology). The primary objective of the workshop was to engage the Bangladesh government in the ESPA Deltas project, to ensure the outcomes of the project feed into future legislation, policy and management. A key component of this was to establish links with the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 being currently prepared by a Bangladeshi-Dutch consortium.

The workshop also included a technical session to involve stakeholders in scenario development, and to elicit information about future scenarios and issues of key concern; to identify possible policy and management interventions; as well as barriers to implementation. The technical session was organised by University of Dundee, University of Oxford and BUET.

Through the ESPA Deltas project, Professor Paul Whitehead and Dr Emily Barbour from Oxford University are examining the impact of future climatic and socio-economic changes on water availability and water quality within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basin. They are working with stakeholders and project partners to develop scenarios affecting a range of different ecosystem services and are investigating different management strategies to improve water security and reduce poverty.

Group discussions during the technical session of the workshop

Group discussions during the technical session of the workshop

Long-term investment in flood and coastal risk management – scoping future approaches

Working in association with CH2M HILL, Paul Sayers, Senior Visiting Fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment, and Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, have recently been appointed to explore the next generation of methods to support the Environment Agency’s national long-term investment strategy.

The long-term investment strategy for flood and coastal risk management provides the basis for the Agency’s bid to Defra for funding and currently combines a national risk analysis (using an evolution of a method developed by Jim and Paul (Hall et al., 2003) and an exploration of investment needs under alternative climate and management futures.


Hall, J.H., Dawson, R.J., Sayers, P.B., Rosu, C., Chatterton, J.B. and Deakin, R. (2003) A methodology for national-scale flood risk assessment. Water and Maritime Engineering, 156(3): 235-247.