Ebro River’s Lessons for WSPM students

By Lucy Chen, WSPM ’18-’19

How can we equitably and efficiently manage and allocate scarce water resources in a river basin with high hydrological variability and competing demands among a multitude of stakeholders? On Sunday March 10, this was the question that MSc students from the Water Science, Policy and Management (WSPM) programme kept in the back of their minds as they embarked on a sun-drenched, week-long field trip across Spain’s Ebro River basin.

At 910 km, the Ebro is the longest river in Spain and its basin covers 17% of the country’s territory, spanning nine of its seventeen autonomous regions. Since the early 20th century, Spain’s national government under Franco funded ambitious dam projects to smooth out the steep hydrograph that brought unpredictable floods and droughts, promoting economic development and fostering nationalism. Today, vast stretches of vineyards, as well as almond and olive plantations in Ebro’s semi-arid central valley testify to this legacy while tensions between domestic and industrial supply, power generation, agriculture, recreation and conservation form an ongoing challenge for the Ebro Basin Water Authority, the Confederación Hydrograficá del Ebre (CHE).

The WSPM students took a plunge into the Ebro’s hydrological past to understand its future. They travelled to the once vibrant village of Ruesta, which was displaced by the construction of the Yesa dam in the 1950s; to the infamous Flix reservoir, which is still wrangling with more than half a century of mismanagement of industrial waste; to the Ebro Delta wetlands, where rice agriculture, tourism and conservation collectively face the threat of rising sea levels; and finally to the Llobregat desalination plant—a 235m € solution to Catalonia’s water scarcity problem that currently only operates at 10% of its full capacity—raising questions about the true cost of resilience. The field trip ended with an expert panel discussion on water management trade-offs with Michael Hanemann, David Grey, Dustin Garrick and Lucia de Stefano. The students came away with the important insight that trade-offs are ultimately an issue of balancing between objectives, the choice of which entails deep philosophical reflections about rights and entitlements. Although finding the suitable objectives can be achieved at a community level by inviting citizens to reflect upon their common future, balancing benefits and costs between the local and national levels will remain a perpetual challenge.


Global Flood Hazard book is the Winner of the PROSE Awards 2019 in Earth Science

The Oxford Water Network is pleased to announce Dr. Feyera Hirpa was one of the contributing authors to the book Global Flood Hazard: Applications in Modeling, Mapping, and Forecasting which has won the PROSE Awards 2019 in Earth Science for making a significant contribution to the field.  Presented annually since 1976, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Awards for Professional & Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Awards recognize “the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content.”

Global Flood Hazard: Applications in Modeling, Mapping, and Forecasting describes the latest tools and technologies for global flood hazard modelling, mapping, and forecasting needed for flood risk reduction. Across fourteen chapters, it documents both present and future flood risks using operational flood models, remote sensing technologies, and climate change projections.  Dr. Feyera Hirpa is a lead author of the chapter “Global Flood Forecasting for Averting Disasters Worldwide”, written in collaboration with scientists from European Commission Join Research Centre, European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting, and University of Reading. The chapter reviews the recent advances in global-scale flood forecasting systems including the Global Flood Awareness System, a 24/7 supported operational service, and it discusses the ongoing research for improving the quality and usability of hydrological forecasts for humanitarian preparedness and early action.   In addition to the continuing efforts for improving the forecast skills, the chapter calls for a strong partnership between scientists, forecasters, disaster response organizations, national authorities and local communities in order to reduce the impacts of floods.


Can the Poor Pay for Drinking Water?

Rob Hope discusses whether or not there is the funding to reach SDG 6. ‘With over two billion people without safely-managed water and 663 million without basic water the costs to meet the target by 2030 runs to US$114 billion per year.’

Read more here.


UPGro Early Career Researchers: Q&A with Suleiman Mwakurya

Suleiman Mwakurya worked as a research assistant on the Gro for GooD project in Kenya, based out of the Rural Focus field office in Kwale. He recently took on a new role working for the Kwale County Government. Gro for GooD Co-I Patrick Thomson caught up with him to find out about his new job.

Read more here.

What is the Oxford Hydrology Group?

In an effort to get to know more about the different student groups at Oxford, I have briefly interviewed, Marcus Buechel, the organiser of the Oxford Hydrology Group.

Kathryn: Good morning, Marcus. Could you tell me a bit about this student-led group at Oxford?

Marcus: Sure. The Oxford Hydrology Group is an enthusiastic group of students and staff members based at the University of Oxford with a shared passion around hydrology. We seek to share our knowledge and understanding between members and keep up to date with all the latest developments in the field. Our interests stretch from evapotranspiration in the Congo Basin to Earth observation and fluvial geomorphology to the impact of dams.

Kathryn: Wow. That’s a pretty diverse range of issues. How can you cover all that in one meeting?

Marcus: Well it is a bit much for one meeting, so the Oxford Hydrology Group delivers a series of lectures and group discussions that encompasses a range of concepts. We usually meet 11:30-12:30 on a Friday, usually in the School of Geography and the Environment, alternating between a lecture or a meeting each week. Our meetings are more group discussions where we can help each other troubleshoot our research as it moves along. In future, we will also be running workshops on various topics for people to get involved with and learn new techniques and skills for their research. We are also keen to spark any potential collaborations for potential research.

Kathryn: That sounds really great. Are there any particular type of collaborators you are looking for?

Marcus: Anyone who is interested with doing something water related! If you believe you need some more hydrological expertise in your research, or think you have something to add to anyone’s current research please do come along. If you are keen and love interdisciplinary work, then you are the right kind of collaborator!

If the Oxford Hydrology Group is something you would like to know more about, or you would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact Marcus Buechel at marcus.buechel@chch.ox.ac.uk