Balancing social and environmental capital for sustainable development in Africa

If you weren’t able to make this 16 Sept event in person, you can catch up on the podcasts as 3 African Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellows discuss water and sustainable development.

Listen here.


An Alumni Weekend of Water

Beyond the exciting WSPM 15th anniversary celebration on Friday night, last weekend’s alumni weekend held several events that highlighted the importance of the work of OWN members.

On Saturday morning, Dr Dustin Garrick represented the water sector during the School of Geography and the Environment (SOGE) debate entitled ‘The Perfect Storm – a Perfect Solution? – Sustainable water, energy and food for the 8 billion few’. This discussion around the water-food-energy nexus provoked great questions from the alumni audience who challenged all three panelists on everything from how biodiversity fits in to how academia can make a difference. Dustin discussed water in a broader context by looking at water allocation between urban and rural areas and how formal and informal markets can come together to improve water security.

A lucky few alumni were quick enough to snag the limited fifteen slots for the Oxford Water Walk, which was a new chance to discover some of the major water challenges of the 21st Century via eight stops across the university and town. It also helped participants understand water research across different departments at Oxford in addition to Oxford’s water history. Organized and led by Dr Jocelyne Hughes, contributors to the water walk included Dr David Johnstone from SOGE, Dr Ian Griffiths from the Mathematical Institute, and impressive MSc and DPhil students. It was very insightful, highlighting everything from water quality issues and invasive species to water solutions like smart handpumps and sustainable urban drainage systems.


Smith School Water Programme Manager joins WEF Expert Network

It’s been a big month for OWN member Dr Johanna Koehler who has just received her first grant as a principle investigator (PI) and who has been invited to join the World Economic Forum Expert Network.

For this network, she will contribute to the thematic areas of Water, Sustainable Development and Africa. The World Economic Forum’s Expert Network brings together close to 5,500 leading experts from academia, business, government, international organizations, civil society, the arts, and the media committed to improving the state of the world by helping to shape the global agenda. The Expert Network is designed to promote interdisciplinary and innovative thinking about the future, challenge conventional wisdom, and develop new ideas related to regional and global agendas.

Johanna’s first grant as PI together with Co-I Dr Stefania Innocenti (SSEE) is from GCRF Research England for fifteen months to uncover people’s preferences concerning how their water is delivered. For decades rural waterpoints in Africa have been managed by heterogenous communities but not always with great results: 25% of sub-Saharan African handpumps are non-functional. New options for communities to have better access to water delivery, such as FundiFix, are emerging. How do communities make decisions when faced with the choice of signing up for reliable water services? Who are the leaders people are likely to follow when making such decisions? Using a novel interdisciplinary approach, Johanna’s study will combine anthropological and experimental methods to examine whether people follow others’ decisions depending on their leadership status and current water management arrangements. This research is part of helping policymakers understand how to achieve universal and equitable water service provision by 2030 by better comprehending how local behavioural and institutional norms and community structures which might hinder uptake of new water service models are understudied.



WSPM Hosts A Night at the Museum

By Samuel Rob and Lucy Chen, WSPM ’18-’19

As part of the Oxford Alumni Weekend 20-21 September, Oxford’s Museum of Natural History reunited over 150 Water Science, Policy and Management (WSPM) MSc alumni from around the world and academics of the Oxford Water Network to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the MSc programme and what has been and can be achieved in this sphere.

There was no shortage of acknowledgement of how large the task of meeting water challenges is, as evidenced by the title chosen for the anniversary book launched as part of the event, a compilation by WSPM academics and alumni—Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge. The Chancellor of Oxford, Lord Patten, opened the evening discussing the immense challenges facing water management in the future, particularly its role in combating climate change. Dr Claudia Sadoff, Director General of the International Water Management Institute, gave a keynote emphasizing new ways of thinking about water management, including ways to reduce demand, increase production, enhance resilience and governance while striving for equity. WSPM’s Founding Course Director, Dr Rachel McDonnell, then led a panel of MSc alumni who shared the varied ways they have created careers from the hallmarks of the course in a variety of topics from water pricing, science policy, water and finance, rural water supply and municipal sanitation. To conclude the evening, the current WSPM Course Director, Dr Jocelyne Hughes, announced the goal to raise £50,000 for dissertation fieldwork over the next 5 years as part of the inaugural WSPM anniversary fundraising campaign.

Photo by Donna Palfreman

A reception inside the museum’s main exhibits followed, which allowed alumni and academics to reconnect and to learn about the research of current MScs, DPhils and post-docs through the Oxford Water Network showcase. While reflecting on the assembled group, current WSPM Academic Director, Prof. Simon Dadson, noted that the diversity of WSPM alumni highlights the programme’s unique outreach and impact.


Oxford Water Network: Report on Hydro-JULES Internships (2019)

By Marcus Buechel and David Crowhurst

This summer, three Oxford Water Network postgraduate students joined the inaugural eight-week Hydro-JULES Summer Student Programme in Wallingford. This summer internship allowed them to work on specific research projects related to the new Hydro-JULES programme
recently launched by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

The Hydro-JULES project is a Natural Environment Research Council-funded programme aiming to develop a global leading, three-dimensional, open source community model of the terrestrial water cycle. The resulting model will enable UK scientists to tackle a range of outstanding scientific questions related to hydroclimatic extremes, hydrological forecasting, and land-atmosphere feedbacks. Professor Simon Dadson from Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment leads the project in conjunction with a range of scientific and academic partners including the Met Office, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, and the British Geological Survey. Culminating the two-month internship, all interns received positive feedback after presenting their work at the Next Generation Land Surface and Hydrological Predictions conference on 11 September.

The Oxford interns worked on a variety of projects:

  • Olivia Becher, MSc (Water Science, Policy and Management): Flood inundation modelling in Africa: evaluating large-scale model predictions with satellite earth observation
  • Marcus Buechel, DPhil (Geography and the Environment): Developing climate and landscape change scenarios for large-scale modelling with Hydro-JULES
  • David Crowhurst, DPhil (Geography and the Environment): Deriving in situ actual evaporation from the COSMOS-UK environmental monitoring network

Thanks to this internship opportunity, they gained valuable insights and skills to advance their careers in water research and were able to be part of research that is providing a strong foundation to the new programme at CEH. For Marcus, the internship really improved his understanding of running complex earth system models and analysing large datasets. This will be invaluable as he takes his DPhil further, investigating how future climate and landcover change will impact hydrological systems in the UK. David will continue his internship in the fall and aims to publish with CEH colleagues a paper on a new evaporation data system for COSMOS-UK, which David developed during his internship. This dataset is producing the first in situ evaporation dataset from a UK environmental monitoring network. Olivia’s internship involved evaluating a global flood inundation model against earth observation data before its application in coupled studies of feedbacks between inland waters and regional climate. She plans to continue to collaborate with CEH in quantifying the risk of compound flood events in the UK through interactive model coupling.

The Hydro-JULES Summer Student Programme will return in Summer 2020, and applications will open in March 2020. More information about Hydro-JULES can be found on its website:


Support the WSPM Anniversary Fund

As part of recent celebrations of 15 years of WSPM, an anniversary fund was launched.

Read more here.

How finance and institutions are shaping global water thinking

Dr Sonia Hoque, Dr Johanna Koehler, and Cliff Nyaga discuss water affordability and how finance is shaping thinking on water in this REACH blogpost.

Read more here.