Drought—no longer uncommon topic in England, 1976 drought now 4x more likely to occur

Henny van Lanen, a guest speaker, mentioned in his opening remarks in Oxford’s 2019 conference on Drought and Water Scarcity, water regulators in northwest Europe are biased towards floods and usually do not think about the effects of drought. And yet, Prof. Len Shaffrey, a specialist in meteorology and climate change also at the conference, announced that now the drought of 1976 is 4 times more likely to occur. There is a growing realisation however of the impacts of not having enough water, with the conference occurring in the wake of the speech by Sir James Bevan, the head of the Environment Agency, in which he warned that England could be in the jaws of death due to water scarcity within twenty-five years—no surprise to this audience of experts.

During a two-day conference, over 140 participants discussed the impacts of drought in the UK and throughout Europe and Turkey and the Americas—particularly in the summer of 2018. Comparing challenges and solutions in the international context gave perspectives regarding research in the UK and ideas for new solutions like the use of satellite data. Many sessions honed on technical details around planning and management, climatology, hydrology, and drought impacts, but also flagged the need for more governance and communication, and to place a greater value on water and its use.

This fourth annual conference was organized by the UK Droughts and Water Scarcity programme, which is  composed of five projects: Historic Droughts, Impetus, MaRIUS, DRY (Drought Risk and You), and ENDOWS. ENDOWS was responsible for a vibrant part of the conference where university students from Falmouth University shared their innovative media campaigns to raise issues of drought and water scarcity with the public. Ideas included racing to finish showering before a three-minute song ends. One afternoon breakout session was dedicated to a series of talks on how research can help communities and risk perception through communication to assist in behavioural changes.


U.S. Irrigation Continues Steady Eastward Expansion

In this Circle of Blue article, Dr. Dustin Garrick discusses the types of conflicts likely among water users due to increased irrigation.

REACH Conference a Success

The REACH programme hosted its second international conference at the end of March with a focus on improving water security for vulnerable communities. Speakers covered a wide range of water security issues from the need for better wastewater treatment to sustainable manufacturing; from how to meaningfully include communities in research to the implications of waterlogging issues for vulnerable communities; from planning for climate resilience to the challenges of achieving safe water.   One important aspect of the plenaries and panels was that speakers represented governments, researchers, private sector, and civil society so that different concerns and dynamics were emphasised.

A highlight of the conference was that over half of the speakers were from the countries where REACH works: Bangladesh, Kenya, and Ethiopia. This meant that participants were able to hear on-the-ground perspectives on how REACH research is impacting policy and practice and what still needs to be done. Breakout parallel sessions each day enabled participants to delve into the detail with presenters on everything from co-producing knowledge across stakeholders to groundwater risks and rural water security.

Major themes of the conference reflected the research that REACH has conducted over its first three years, one of those themes being gender and water security. Organisers reflected this focus on inclusivity in the conference format (over half of the speakers were women and over half were from developing countries) and protocol with chairs encouraging young women to ask the first question at each session. This framework did help ensure a lively and more diverse discussion throughout the three days of the conference. Here is the inclusivity conference guide that also came out of the conference.


How Rivers Shape Society

Marcus Buechel reflects on how rivers shape society in this blog.

Oxford-led review shows rapid urbanisation increasing pressure on rural water supplies globally

Dr Dustin Garrick discusses the importance of governance in negotiating between rural and urban needs for water.

Read more here.

This is what the UK needs to do to avoid running out of water

Wired interviewed several experts, including Oxford’s Dr Helen Gavin, about limitations of the UK’s water supply and what can be done about it.

Read more here.