COP25: Flickers of Hope Amongst Disappointment

WSPM19-20 student Kate Cullen discusses COP25, the United Nation’s most recent round of climate negotiations. Read more here.

New Oxford book on global challenges in water

Rapid climate and environmental change, and a growing global population make sustainable water management a “defining challenge for the twenty-first century”.

A new book published last month draws together voices from Oxford’s Water Science, Policy and Management programme – a world-leading MSc course – with the aim of advancing scientific understandings, and identifying policy priorities, challenges and opportunities for water management, now and into the future.

Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge, published by Wiley-Blackwell, marks 15 years of Oxford University’s flagship water MSc.  Edited and written by some of the leading academics writing alongside course alumni now working in academia, government, NGOs, commerce and industry; the volume forms an important part of Oxford’s agenda-setting contribution to the field.

Founded in 2004, Oxford’s Water Science, Policy and Management MSc is the only interdisciplinary water master’s course, bridging social and natural sciences with cross-cutting themes in economics, climate and catchment processes, governance, water quality, water and health, water policy and management.

The book presents critical views on the monitoring and modelling of hydrological processes; the rural water policy in Africa and Asia; the political economy of wastewater in Europe; drought policy management and water allocation. It also examines the financing of water infrastructure; the value of wastewater; water resource planning; sustainable urban water supply and the human right to water.

You can watch Lord Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford and author of the book’s foreword (pictured above), Dr. Claudia Sadoff, Director-General International Water Management Institute (pictured center below), and WSPM alumni give talks as part of a reception attended by over 120 alumni in the University Museum.  |  Watch now

Guests at the WSPM 15th Anniversary event in September

Find the book here: Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E, Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) (2019) Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge, Wiley-Blackwell, 400pp. ISBN: 978-1-119-52060-3



2020 Green Templeton Lectures theme is the Future of the Commons

The commons is a powerful metaphor for understanding human cooperation, one of the most enduring puzzles for science and society. 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Governing the Commons, the landmark study by the late Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom and many colleagues demonstrated…

Alice in Typhoidland: Take a journey through the story of typhoid, from Victorian sewer systems to cutting-edge scientific research

A new exhibition tells the story of Oxford’s role in the fight against typhoid, from pioneering efforts to eliminate typhoid in the era of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to game-changing present-day vaccine trials.  

Alice in Typhoidland opens on 21 January at Oxford’s Weston Library and History of Science Museum. University of Oxford research was instrumental in proving the effectiveness of the new ‘typhoid conjugate’ vaccine, and visitors to the exhibition will be able to hear the stories of the volunteers who tested it by drinking a ‘shot’ containing live Salmonella Typhi bacteria. Their efforts helped secure the go-ahead for a large-scale field study in Nepal; the results, published last month, showed the vaccine was more than 80% effective at preventing infection. It is now being rolled out in affected countries.

Linking the present and past of typhoid control, Alice in Typhoidlandshowcases video interviews with the Oxford ‘typhoid swallowers’ alongside unique historical documents, maps, and objects ranging from Victorian sewage pipes to new vaccines and antibiotics.

The story of Alice Liddell, who inspired Lewis Carroll’s tale, was right at the heart of the earliest efforts to control typhoid in Oxford. Re-told through captivating digital animation and games, the exhibition takes visitors on a tour from Alice’s home in Christ Church college to the city’s poorest areas, to show how the disease spread unseen through contaminated food and water, killing up to one in five of those who became infected.

The story also highlights how collective action and new science helped control the disease. While Alice’s father led campaigns for effective new sewers and water systems, her lifetime also saw the rollout of the first typhoid vaccines by the British army. The exhibition traces the science and controversies surrounding vaccination efforts from Alice’s time to the present, and highlights the need for intensified international efforts against this preventable disease. Visitors will also have the chance to participate in ongoing Oxford research on public attitudes towards vaccine studies.

The history of typhoid in Oxford has been painstakingly pieced together by University of Oxford researchers Dr Samantha Vanderslott and Dr Claas Kirchhelle. They point out that while the disease may have been eliminated in most high-income countries, it still affects more than 11 million people around the world, every year.

Dr Kirchhelle, of the Oxford Martin School, said: “During Alice’s life, huge advances were made in tackling diseases such as typhoid. New knowledge of typhoid’s waterborne transmission and bacterial cause helped boost investment in essential infrastructure such as sewerage and clean water supplies. It also underpinned medical advances such as vaccination and later antibiotic treatments.

“Today, in high-income countries, we take many of these things for granted. Our aim with the exhibition is to counter the myth of typhoid as a disease of the past and highlight the threat it still poses to global health. We explore how collective action and international investment in new vaccines, antibiotics, and basic water and health systems in resource-poor areas can help control this neglected threat.”

Dr Vanderslott, of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University’s Department of Paediatrics, said: “Alice’s family was repeatedly affected by typhoid, with her mother nearly dying during one bout. By bringing to life a little-known part of Alice’s story, we want to show how we all play a part in preventing disease; typhoid may be gone from the UK and other wealthy countries, but issues such as falling vaccination rates and resistance to antibiotics mean we cannot take protection from deadly infections for granted.”  

The advisor to the exhibition was Professor Andrew Pollard, Head of the Oxford Vaccine Group. Professor Pollard, who was part of the global research team for the new typhoid vaccine, said: “We are fortunate to live in an era when we can produce new vaccines, which are a critical tool to help in the fight against diseases such as typhoid. What Alice in Typhoidland highlights is that we still need a collective, global effort to fight disease on all fronts: from medicines and basic sanitation infrastructure through to public engagement strategies to increase vaccination rates.”

Alice in Typhoidland runs from 21 January to 22 March 2020 at the Weston Library, and at the History of Science Museum from 21 January to 26 July. Visit and follow Alice on Twitter at @typhoidland for more information and updates.

The exhibition partners are the Oxford Martin School, the Oxford Vaccine Group, the Bodleian Libraries and the History of Science Museum. It has been generously funded by the New Venture Fund.

Following the conclusion of the exhibition in Oxford, it will travel to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention David J. Sencer Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. A travelling exhibition will also visit Bangladesh, Nepal, Malawi and India. 

For more information contact:

Kate O’Connor, Media and Communications Officer, Oxford Martin School

T: 01865 287365 M: 07500 073280 E:


OWN member and ECI Fellow awarded MET Office Climate Resilience Programme


Congratulations to Paul Sayers (a fellow within the ECI), who has just been awarded a project under Met OfficeClimate Resilience Programme to develop a next generation model for ‘Risk estimates using techniques from catastrophe modelling: UK Flood’. The project will run for 2 years in association with CEH Wallingford and Vivid Economics.


Head of UKRI and industry leaders praise the MaRIUS project

The UK’s £12m Drought & Water Scarcity research programme, called “About Drought” has been praised as ‘an exemplar’ of interdisciplinary research by the head of UK Research & Innovation and ‘revolutionary in the way it has been delivered’ by a key stakeholder.  Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI, particularly highlighted the stakeholder and public engagement of the programme’s projects, including the MaRIUS project. He said, “This is what a UKRI programme should be like: it’s an exemplar, a response to our changing world, absolutely interdisciplinary and providing a holistic view. The outcomes are good research that has influenced policy-making, for example the Environment Agency and water companies.”

Lead by the University of Oxford, the MaRIUS project covered physical and social science topics from drought governance, climate futures to water resource modelling.  The researchers worked with many stakeholders to ensure useful outputs: in particular and our water resource research and outputs are strongly influencing water management and planning in the UK.

Meyrick Gough, Technical Planning Director of Water Resources South East (WRSE), has thanked all the researchers for the difference their work has made to the UK’s resilience to drought, saying: “You have given us really good tools that really help us to understand the magnitude and impacts of droughts, that have been adapted by the industry and are being used. We need evidence, understanding and insights from research such as this [to support] the choices and interventions we make.”

You can read more from stakeholders, users and experts and discover the available data and results in the Programme Handbook  and the MaRIUS website.


Jakarta’s “perennial” flooding: The lock-in of infrastructural solutions


Figure 1: Residents see the flood inundating their neighborhood in the Rawajati area, Jakarta (1/1/2020, Fithriansyah)

On New Year’s Eve, the citizens of the Indonesian capital were surprised by a flood, which has been deemed to be the worst in a decade. The flood killed 67 people and displaced 400,000 residents. According to the country’s meteorological agency (BMKG), unusually high rainfall (377 mm per day), even higher than the rainfall during the city’s historic flood in 2007 (340 mm), was the cause of this flood.

Jakarta is used to flooding, with major flooding events roughly every five years since over recent decades. The scale and impact of these various flood events have influenced by more than the rainfall: high tides, upstream activities increasing runoff, unplanned development on flood prone areas, failure of infrastructure and pumps, and land subsidence. While the drivers of the flooding are complex, policy responses have been ineffective. We mapped the history of flood-related investments made in the city for the past 400 years, highlighting a narrow lock-in to infrastructural measures. A narrative that has been prominent again in these floods.

The Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has argued that the completion of two dams upstream the city is essential to mitigate future floods. Meanwhile, the Public Works Minister, Basuki Hadimuljono, maintains that normalisation (lining river banks with concrete) of Ciliwung River can mitigate the flood. At present, only 17 km of the 33 km long Ciliwung River has just been “normalised”, or what we prefer to call canalised. These infrastructure approaches fail to address the land subsidence crisis the city is facing, caused by overexploitation of groundwater, which is exacerbating flooding.

However, in recent years there has been a change in the narrative. Jakarta’s Governor, Anies Baswedan, has committed to halting the canalisation practice and opted for a greener, naturalisation, approach by providing room for the rivers and conserving their natural features. While this approach has been widely adopted internationally, with many benefits, in Jakarta there has been little progress since Governor Baswedan was elected two years ago.

In the meantime, while Governor Baswedan accepted responsibility for the floods in a post on Facebook, he blamed uncontrolled development in the upper reaches of Jakarta for flooding in the capital, an area that is outside his jurisdiction.

Flooding is one of the main reasons Indonesia relocating its central administrative functions from Jakarta to areas in eastern Borneo by 2024. The new location would also position the capital city in the geographical centre of the archipelago and is less vulnerable to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Despite this agenda, the controversial Giant Sea Wall plan in Jakarta Bay aimed at reducing coastal flood risks is progressing. However, construction is delayed as a new concept is being evaluated by the country’s national planning.

Major flood events do open policy windows, and in Jakarta historically have enabled the government to implement policies that had been languishing and to instigate flood research. However, they were not able to introduce institutional changes. Strong positive feedback cycles have reproduced similar responses to flooding (Figure 2) as canalisation, albeit expensive, provides relatively rapid relief from flooding ideal for short political cycles.

Now is the time for Governor Baswedan to push through his plans to make room for the river. Ultimately, the success of this approach will depend on is it can be integrated into a catchment scale approach that tackles upstream management and groundwater abstraction.

Figure 2. Positive feedback of Jakarta’s flood policy. Major floods were almost always responded by infrastructural approach that gives fast yet unsustainable relief
 (Octavianti and Charles, 2018, p.1115)


Thanti Octavianti is a post-doctoral researcher in cities, water and resilience at the University of the West of England, Bristol where she investigates the socio-technical aspect of household water provisioning. She did her DPhil in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, examining the political dynamics of water security, using Jakarta’s seawall plan as a case study.

Katrina Charles is Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. She is an environmental engineer by training, who leads an interdisciplinary research team on water security. Her work addresses the challenge of providing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all, with a focus on risk-based approaches in developing countries to improve health outcomes for all.