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Dr Kevin Grecksch as new WSPM MSc Course Director

It is with pleasure that we celebrate that Dr Kevin Grecksch is the new WSPM MSc Course Director. Kevin is excited to take on the course directorship and to meet the students and new colleagues. He is keen to share his interdisciplinary research and teaching experience and to strengthen the bridges between disciplines.

Kevin holds a doctorate in (Ecological) Economics and an M.A. in Political Science, English Literature and Communication Science. He is a social scientist who specialises in governance, particularly water and climate change adaptation. His research interests include (multi-level) environmental governance, water governance, climate change adaptation, governance of societal transformation processes, property rights and the governance of natural resources, and sustainability. Before joining SoGe, he was British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford. His project dealt with sustainable underground space governance in the UK. Other work at the CSLS included the multi-disciplinary ENDOWS (ENgaging diverse stakeholders and publics with outputs from the UK DrOught and Water Scarcity programme) and the MaRIUS (Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of drought and water Scarcity) projects. Kevin recently published a monograph with Palgrave Macmillan on ‘Drought and Water Scarcity in the UK. Social Science Perspectives on Governance, Knowledge and Outreach’.

Kevin is passionate about public engagement with his research and research impact. For example, he has organised drought walks. He recently contributed to the widely reported British Academy evidence review ‘The COVID decade: Understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19’ and the accompanying policy analysis ‘Shaping the COVID decade’.

Water governance is a ‘glocal’ issue and in his role, Kevin will be keen to provide WSPM students with a holistic and integrative perspective on water governance. His previous positions and experience have given Kevin a unique perspective on water issues ranging from political science, ecological economics to socio-legal, a perspective he is eager to pass on to students thereby equipping them with methods and approaches to make a difference in their future professional roles and beyond.

 

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WaterSciencePolicy relaunches

A cohort of WSPM students and alums created Water Science Policy (WSP) as a digital platform last May during lockdown, and this week they have relaunched it as an independent magazine to deliver original and multilingual content around water to a global audience. The platform offers a broad range of views about the most fundamental element of life at the intersection of the economy, climate, health, nature, and society’s issues. You can read the WSP manifesto here. This relaunch contains some important features for a global audience including articles in languages other than English and a greater variety of formats, including policy briefs, podcasts, and photostories. They have expanded the team contributing to WSP to include an impressive cohort of young water professionals from around the world.

So far this impressive initiative is 100% volunteering with no source funding, but it has a big vision and thus has many opportunities for support and engagement. If you would like to become involved with WSP, you are encouraged to do so by donating, translating, contributing with written/visual content to the platform either as an author or as a photographer, or by becoming one of WSP’s regional ambassadors. You can also follow Water Science Policy on social media: FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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5th Mike Edmunds Memorial Lecture

On Friday over 140 people gathered to learn from groundwater experts in Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, and Uganda. This was the fifth annual Mike Edmunds Memorial Lecture, jointly organized online by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Oxford Water Network because of Mike Edmunds’ significant contributions to both institutions during his career.  Mike Edmunds began his career at BGS in 1966 and just after his retirement moved to the University of Oxford in 2002 to continue academic research on groundwater.

The keynote was delivered by Mike’s long-time friend and colleague Professor Cheikh B. Gaye, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal. The keynote covered the unsaturated zone groundwater research that he and Mike undertook in Senegal beginning in 1985 and which continues to this day, but Cheikh also shared personal stories of Mike and their friendship with each others’ families. It was a touching tribute to the Mike Edmunds that everyone knew; while a great researcher, Mike is missed deeply for his passion, warmth, and generosity of spirit that touched the lives of many.

An insightful panel examined similarities and differences of groundwater realities between regions in Africa and covered geological and chemical challenges relating to groundwater. The panel experts were Chikondi E Shaba of University of Malawi, Chancellor College, Malawi; Professor Daniel Olago of University of Nairobi, Kenya; and Dr. Robinah Kulabako of Makerere University, Uganda. Prof. Richard Taylor of University College London who worked with Mike chaired the panel. Both Prof. Alan McDonald of BGS and Prof. Rob Hope of Oxford worked directly with Mike during his time at these institutions and opened and closed the event, respectively.

You can see the event recording here.

Event Details 

Welcome: Professor Alan MacDonald, British Geological Survey

Keynote: Professor Cheikh B. Gaye, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal

Panel Discussion

Chikondi E Shaba  University of Malawi, Chancellor College, Malawi

Professor Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Dr. Robinah Kulabako, Makerere University, Uganda

Chair: Professor Richard Taylor, University College London

Concluding Remarks: Professor Rob Hope, University of Oxford

 

In 2013, Mike and colleagues began working on a review of Groundwater Recharge in Africa which has been published recently in memory of Mike and is open access.

If you knew Mike, you may be interested in this website in memorial to him.

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OxForWater: A student-led running and fundraising challenge

By Jeremy Stroud and Mariana Portal

Acknowledging the UK’s impending winter lockdown, a group of friends from different disciplines came together with an intention to do something helpful, stay active, and make the most out of a limiting situation.

After exploring several ideas, a goal was set and the campaign named OxForWater launched on February 12. The event consisted in a COVID-compliant, semi-virtual running challenge to raise money for clean water projects in rural and isolated regions.

OxForWater challenged classmates, friends and family members to set two goals for themselves over a ten-day period: a running distance objective and a fundraising goal.

Originally, the target was to fundraise enough money to provide clean water access to 50 people, through the not-for-profit charity: water. In order to achieve this, our financial target was £1,500. Due to the incredible attitude and support received, OxForWater raised £3,608, and funds are still coming in. This means that an additional 120 people will now have access to freshwater. It’s a small number compared to the extent of the issue, but it’s important to start with a small difference and continue chipping away at it.

The positivity during a time of solitude was something unique. This began as an experiment on how a group of students from Canada, Argentina, Belgium, Mexico, and England could come together safely and make the most of an otherwise limiting situation. Today we are incredibly grateful to have had participation from all around the world.

The OxForWater challenge is something we won’t forget from our time at Oxford. We learned about solidarity as well as promoting health, and charity during a difficult time. Perhaps our experience will inspire others to identify a global need, develop a strategy and implement it effectively and creatively.

 

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2020-2021 DPhils Welcomed to OWN

OWN is pleased to welcome a new cohort of DPhil students in the School of Geography and the Environment. If you want to learn more or contact them, you can find them in our OWN directory. Below is a bit of what each is expecting to research. The DPhil programme has a mix of postgraduate students; some are working on projects outlined through external funding and others are solely responsible for determining the topic of their research and therefore start out in a ‘wider’ research space.

Olivia Becher’s research interest is in large scale water system risks and adaptation–in particular, guiding water infrastructure development in the context of climate, hydrological, and water quality related risks.

Deng Majok Chol is modelling the wetlands and simulating hydrological responses to future climatic change in the Sudd Basin of South Sudan. He is also exploring the human and societal impacts of largescale hydrological variability, historical resilience, climatic migration as possibly adaptation to the tipping points, and socio-technical interventions that may enhance or detract resilience.

Sophie Erfurth is a hydrologist conducting research on common pool resource (CPR) governance in the context of fragile political systems. Her research strives to shed light on the evolution of water institutions in relation to political instability and hydroclimatic risks and contributes to coupled systems modelling and analysis of social and hydrological interactions.

Rob Ferritto’s research interests include women’s empowerment and gender equality at the intersection of sustainable development.

Ella Fleming works on water scarcity, climate conflict and migration in Africa and studies its implications for UK security and defence.

Gina Gilson is studying the governance of informal water markets in East Africa, with a particular focus on property rights, collective action, and resource sustainability. Gina’s research is part of NEWAVE.

Katie Kowal’s research focus is on opportunities for seasonal forecasts to enhance drought preparedness with a focus in Central America.

Johannes Wagner’s research examines the payment behaviors of rural consumers and facilities in sub-Saharan Africa to attract non-traditional funding. He focuses on policy and governance issues informing how rural consumers pay for water across service delivery models, payment methods, and political spaces using both qualitative and quantitative methods. His work is part of NEWAVE.

 

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New members of the OWN Leadership Team

The Oxford Water Network is pleased to announce three new members of the Leadership Team: Dr Hussam Hussein, Dr Troy Sternberg, and Saskia Nowicki.

Dr. Hussam Hussein is a Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Politics and International Relations, Research Fellow in Transboundary Resources Management at the Oxford Martin School, member of the Middle East Centre, and Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College. His expertise is on transboundary water governance and on the political economy of water scarcity, with a geographical focus on the Middle East. He has previously worked at the World Bank, UNICEF, and at the EU Parliament. Hussam joined the Leadership Team of the Oxford Water Network to widen the network towards Early Career Researchers and students looking at water and natural resources from a politics and international relations angle, supporting interdisciplinary interactions and conversations.

Dr Troy Sternberg’s research has focused on extreme climate hazards (drought, dzud), environments (water, steppe vegetation, desertification) and social dynamics (pastoralists, social-environmental interaction, mining and communities). Since 2005 Troy has continued to research in Mongolia; in 2010 northern China and in 2015 Central Asia became additional study sites. His Gobi Framework project develops a model for sustainable infrastructure development to promote inclusive social and economic development and sustainable environments in the context of Chinese investment initiatives in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Troy joins the Leadership Team as the interim Course Director for the Water Science, Policy and Management MSc programme.

Saskia Nowicki is a devotee of interdisciplinary research with a background in environmental science. She works on water related risks and trade-offs, especially those involving water quality and public and environmental health. Her current research focuses on drinking-water safety in rural Kenya, using a systems-based approach to seek insight at multiple levels from the molecular to the institutional. Saskia joined OWN in her MSc (Water Science, Policy and Management) year and has continued to benefit from the network during her DPhil. She joined the leadership team to increase engagement with graduate students and ECRs and is keen to hear your ideas for events or other offerings that the network could support.

Predicting failures for zero handpump downtime

Patrick Thomson received an EPSRC Impact Accelerator Account grant for “Predicting failures for zero handpump downtime”. He will be working with FundiFix and other OWN members Heloise Greeff and Cliff Nyaga to implement and test failure prediction algorithms into operational handpumps.

Embedding this machine learning into the Smart Handpumps will enable FundiFix to repair handpumps before they break. FundiFix has already reduced pumps’ downtimes from weeks to days. Reducing them to zero is expected to improve public health; even a few days without a quality water supply is associated with an increase in diarrhoea morbidity.

This research builds on earlier aspects of the Smart Handpumps project and is complementary to the work REACH and Uptime are doing with FundiFix in Kenya. After completed the technical work and initial testing in 2021, Thomson and others will be running a formal trial through the REACH programme in Kitui in 2022 and incorporating this new data stream into FundiFix’s operations.

Photo credit: Rob Hope

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Sayers’ work on Nature-Based Solutions in Russia

Recently, Paul Sayers has secured funding to explore the nature-based solutions (NBS) opportunities across Russia. As part of this work, he presented on 12 November at the ‘Nature-based solutions: the IUCN global standards and programmes in Russia’ workshop. Other participants included Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation Deborah Bronnert CMG, the Minister for Pacific and the Environment Lord Zac Goldsmith, and experts from IUCN, WWF Russia, UNIDO and UNEP.

To learn more about NBS in Russia, you can view the event here:

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Osney Lock: Colouring “management” 

by Will O’Sullivan, WSPM 2020-2021

Our focus was tested on Friday November 5th. My classmates and I stood next to the river Thames under leaves just beginning to turn for autumnThat day, there were reports about the unprecedented national case-count of Covid-19 (as passersby unmistakably gave us “the side-eye” for our large group) and the US presidential election was unfolding in a crawling photo-finish (news of which was blaring out of a nearby radio). In this momentous context, we shut it all out, knuckled down and delveinto the subject of an Archimedes screwdriven hydropower project on west Oxford’s Osney island. My first question was ‘What is unique about this project? 

The idea initially came about in 2002 among some friends iThe Punter, a pub a stone’s throw from the lock. Work began on the hydropower site in 2013 and electricity was first generated two years after thatAll the hydro project’s investors are guaranteed (with some risk) a 4% return. The screw is quiet and the artificial reeds lining the fish pass allow them to rest as they swim freely upstream, a significant benefit for the river’s biodiversity and one that is shared by the Sandford hydro project a half hour’s cycle away. The electricity is sold to the nearby Environment Agency depot, and the excess is used to power households locally. The annual target production of 180 kWh is enough to power 2 million kettles. 

With so many benefits and, for an infrastructure project, a comparatively painless inception (let alone for a project without large corporate backing), the question evolved from what is so unique about the project?’ to why is the project so unique? 

Ali, the project’s manager, pointed to funding and careful management; he specifically mentioned that, without the government grant for sustainable technology funding that recently ceased, this kind of project will be impossible. The prohibitive costs of damming the river and building the concrete base would stymie any similar project before it started. Meanwhile, the community project’s collaboration with the Environment Agency ensured a regular buyer of the energy, as well as a collaborator in finely managing the conditions of the river to ensure the screw turns and the area benefits. Ali has an app on his phone that he can use to check the status of the plant remotely. 

 

In the title of our Water Science, Policy and Management course, “management” can sometimes seem secondary in what’s already a mouthful. At best, it might be an afterthought to the clear battle-cries of “science” and “policy” and, at worst, a neutral way of what can be disastrous human intervention in environmental projects. 

But for me this excursion to Osney gave colour to the word “management”. 

big factor in the Archimedes’ screw working is the hydraulic head”: the distance between the elevation of the water when it enters and leaves the system. It’s an invisible, ambient factor that is nevertheless crucial in driving the huge, churning screw. (When rains fill nearby aquifers and the pool at the bottom of the screw, the river height belois raised, thereby decreasing the height difference from top to bottom. This has the consequence that, counter-intuitively, the screw doesn’t work as well in winter when the river is most full.) 

Here is a video of the hydraulic head:

I left the site feeling that management is just a name for the invisible human ingenuity and care that lies behind the physical aspects of water (the science) and the technical nous (the policy) in water projects. Much like the hydraulic “head”, it is the invisible force driving the whole system. For this small Archimedes screw and the largest dams in the world, everything depends on that care... 

and also government grants. 

Thanks to Troy and Helenour teachers, and to Ali Lloyd of Osney Lock Hydro, who led us through the hydropower project’s history and context. 

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DAWN – Digital Africa Water Network 

The Digital Africa Water Network (DAWN), a UKRI programme led by the University of Oxford, brings service providers, universities and enabling organisations together to explore the potential for digital technology to accelerate the development of water services in rural Africa, where over 50% of the population are without even basic drinking water. In November, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment hosted three DAWN workshops focusing on what digital approaches can do to a) develop innovative finance and business models for sustainable service delivery (led by Alex Money and Rob Hope); b) standardize water service performance measurement and verification (led by Patrick Thomson and Duncan McNicholl; c) enhance accountability in the water sector and inform useful government and institutional reform (led by Johanna Koehler and Rob Hope). DAWN is currently funded via a Phase I Digital Innovation for Development in Africa grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund. For further information, contact dawn@smithschool.ox.ac.uk