Developing practical strategies for cooperation in the Nile basin

Kevin Wheeler, DPhil candidate at the Environmental Change Institute, recently presented his work on alternative management strategies of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the effects on the distribution of benefits among the Nile Basin countries of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Staff from the Sudan Ministry of Water Resources, Dam Implementation Unit and University of Khartoum learn how to use and develop the Eastern Nile RiverWare model

Staff from the Sudan Ministry of Water Resources, Dam Implementation Unit and University of Khartoum learn how to use and develop the Eastern Nile RiverWare model

He presented both at a workshop on Sustainable Hydropower in the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm (31 August to 5 September) and was a panellist at the HydroVision International conference in Nashville Tennessee (22-25 July) in a session on ‘Sharing water across borders’.

This work followed from Kevin’s 2013 dissertation research for the MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management, in which he conducted interviews in Cairo Egypt, Khartoum Sudan, and Addis Ababa Ethiopia. He taught RiverWare modelling courses in each country to water ministry officials, university academics, sub-basin organisations and private consultants. Together with these stakeholders, he developed various management scenarios for the operation of the contentious Ethiopian Dam, which is currently being constructed on the Ethiopian-Sudanese border.

The MSc research, which was awarded the Water Conservators’ Prize for Best Dissertation, demonstrated how benefits and costs are distributed under different dam management practices and highlighted the tradeoffs associated with these practices. More importantly, this work empowered stakeholders within the basin by teaching them a practical tool that can be used to facilitate the ongoing negotiations between the countries.

Kevin is continuing this work in his DPhil to examine both theoretical and practical mechanisms of collaboration through dam operations under various hydrologic conditions and the implications on trans-boundary water security across different populations.

More information on issues surrounding the Nile Development can be found at:

Vacancy: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Water Resource Systems Modelling for Drought Risk Assessment

School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford

Grade 7: £30,434 – £37,394 p.a.


The Environmental Change Institute (ECI) is leading a major research project “MaRIUS: Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of droughts and water Scarcity” within the UK Droughts on Water Scarcity Programme. MaRIUS is an interdisciplinary project examining the impacts of droughts from economic, social and environmental perspectives.

We are seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Associate who will work with us to develop and demonstrate new water resources systems models for drought risk assessment at catchment and national scales.

The successful candidate will have experience of implementation, and ideally also design and development, of water resources system models. You will have a flair for the development of innovative system modelling solutions. You must have a Doctorate and excellent programming skills, demonstrated through the implementation of system models, and ideally also experience of distributed computing and advanced visualisation. You will have a sound understanding of probabilistic risk analysis, uncertainty analysis and decision analysis and preferably also innovative experience of applying these methodologies in the context of water allocation, hydro-economic and water infrastructure planning decisions. The postholder will be expected to publish their research work in the international academic literature. You will be expected to participate enthusiastically in the multidisciplinary MaRIUS research consortium, including engagement with project stakeholders in government and industry.

This is a fixed-term post for 24 months.

For an informal discussion about the post, or to contact Professor Jim Hall, contact the MaRIUS Project Manager Helen Gavin.

You will be required to upload a CV and supporting statement.

the closing date for applications is 12.00 noon on 13 October 2014. Interviews will be held on 23 October 2014.

For more information and how to apply, please see the job details on the Oxford University Recruitment website.

Vacancy: Postdoctoral Research Assistant (Social Science of Droughts)

School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford

Grade 7:£30,434 p.a.

We are seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Assistant to join the social science team in the interdisciplinary MaRIUS project. The successful candidate will be required to conduct independent and original social science research in collaboration with the social scientists in MaRIUS, focussing on fieldwork in two case study localities in the Thames Basin. This will involve designing, planning, undertaking and analysing individual and collective interviews and oral histories with local residents and stakeholders with regard to perceptions, experiences and knowledge of drought. You will be supporting the staging, recording and analysing of a Competency Group; contributing to production of joint deliverables from the MaRIUS consortium; collaborating in the preparation of research publications and book chapters. You will be expected to publish in highly-ranked, peer-reviewed academic journals and present papers at conferences/meetings.

Applications will have a PhD/DPhil in a social science discipline, relevant to environmental studies, in addition to a demonstrated ability to conduct qualitative research fieldwork (including, interviews, archival and documentary methods; ethnography and oral history fieldwork). Familiarity with relevant Human Geography and Science and Technology Studies theoretical perspectives and an ability to manage your own time effectively and undertake work to agreed timetable are also essential, in addition to excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication, present results, and represent the research group at meetings, and the ability to work collaboratively as a member of a research team.

The post is available to start 1 January 2015 and is fixed-term for 18 months.

Applications are to be made online. Please upload your CV and supporting statement as part of your application.

The closing date is 12.00 noon on 6 October 2014, and interviews will be held during week commencing 13 October 2014.

For more information and how to apply, please see the job details on the Oxford University Recruitment website.

Managing coasts under threat from climate change and sea-level rise

Coastal regions under threat from climate change and sea-level rise need to tackle the more immediate threats of human-led and other non-climatic changes, according to a team of international scientists.

The team of 27 scientists from five continents reviewed 24 years of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments. They focused on climate change and sea-level rise impacts in the coastal zone, and examined ways of how to better manage and cope with climate change. The research team was led by Dr Sally Brown at the University of Southampton and included Andres Payo at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University.

They found that to better understand climate change and its impacts, scientists need to adopt an integrated approach into how coasts are changing. This involves recognising other causes of change, such as population growth, economic development and changes in biodiversity. Dr Brown emphasised that: “Over the last two and half decades, our scientific understanding of climate change and sea-level rise, and how it will affect coastal zones has greatly increased. We now recognise that we need to analyse all parts of our human and natural environments to understand how climate change will affect the world.”

The scientists also acknowledged that long-term adaptation to climate change can greatly reduce impacts, but further research and evaluation is required to realise the potential of adaptation. “Many parts of the coast can, with forward planning, adapt to sea-level rise, but we need to better understand environments that will struggle to adapt, such as developing countries with large low-lying river deltas sensitive to salinisation, or coral reefs and particularly small, remote islands or poorer communities,” said Dr Brown.

For example, in the Maldives, many small, remote low-lying islands are at risk from climate change and will struggle to adapt. But around the densely populated capital city and airport, adaptation has already occurred as land claim is a common practice in order to relive population pressure. Sea-level rise has already been considered into newly claimed land. Thus in decades to come, potential climate change impacts, such as flooding, will be reduced for this island, benefiting both the local population and economy.

Dr Jochen Hinkel from Global Climate Forum in Germany, who is a co-author of this paper and a Lead Author of the coastal chapter for the 2014 IPCC Assessment Report added: “The IPCC has done a great job in bringing together knowledge on climate change, sea-level rise and is potential impacts but now needs to complement this work with a solution-oriented perspective focusing on overcoming barriers to adaptation, mobilising resources, empowering people and discovering opportunities for strengthening coastal resilience in the context of both climate change as well as existing coastal challenges and other issues.”

This new research, published as a commentary in Nature Climate Change, will help in the understanding of the impacts of climate change and how to reduce impacts via adaptation. Its multi-disciplinary approach could be useful if future IPCC assessment reports are commissioned.


Brown, S. et al. (2014). Shifting perspectives on coastal impacts and adaptation. Nature Climate Change, 4: 752–755. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2344

Vacancy: Project Coordinator (AgileOx Environmental Science and Local Impact Project)

School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford

Grade 7: £30,434 – £37,394 p.a.

AgileOx is a new initiative promoting interaction between university scientists and local businesses and other organisations. Oxfordshire has the potential to be an international player in the green economy and show societal and lifestyle leadership in the environment. AgileOx – co-ordinated by the Environmental Change Institute – will contribute to this potential through enhancing the local impact of the University’s environmental-related science. We are seeking to appoint a Project Co-ordinator to be responsible for overseeing and implementing the day-to-day activities for Agile-Ox. The postholder will also be responsible with others for planning, implementing and monitoring overall strategy.

You will be expected to increase the local profile of University environmental-related research and create, implement and monitor a programme of engagement with Oxfordshire-based organisations and individuals. You will be developing relationships with internal and external stakeholders, seeking a shared vision for the University and its Oxfordshire partners to promote the green economy and stewardship of the county’s environmental resources.

The successful candidate will hold a relevant degree and significant understanding and interest in a wide range of environmental issues and related science, in particular with relevance to Oxfordshire’s environmental futures. You must possess excellent and creative communication skills and experience with organising a wide variety of events.

This post is fixed-term until 30 September 2015 in the first instance. Part-time working requests will be considered.

Applications for this vacancy are to be made online. You will be required to upload a CV and supporting statement as part of your online application.

The closing date for applications is 12.00 noon on Friday 12 September 2014, and interviews will be taking place week commencing 29 September 2014.

For more information and how to apply, please see the job details on the Oxford University Recruitment website.

Safe enough? Proportionate climate change adaptation in London’s water supply system

London faces increased risk of water shortages in the future due to climate change and population growth if no actions are taken to increase supply or reduce demand, according to a new study led by Edoardo Borgomeo and Jim Hall at the Environmental Change Institute. The research presents a new methodology for water managers to incorporate climate change uncertainties into water resources planning.

Water resources managers have significant experience in planning and operating their systems in the face of hydrological and weather variability. The reality of climate change, however, poses new challenges for water resources managers. Whilst the precise impacts of climate change for temperature, precipitation and water availability remain uncertain, water managers still need to take into account these uncertainties in their water plans. In the UK water companies are now legally obliged to evaluate the impacts of climate-related risks on their systems.

To help water managers address this challenge, this study develops a methodology for incorporating climate change related uncertainties in water resources planning. The methodology uses a risk-based metric to compare different water management options on the basis of their ability to reduce risks of water shortages under continuously changing climate conditions.

This methodology responds to the need in the UK and worldwide for a way of identifying water management investments which are proportionate to the risks the water systems are facing. Supply-side and demand-side management strategies can be compared based on how cost-effective they are at reducing risks to acceptable levels.

The risk-based methodology was applied to the London water supply area to characterise the most important uncertainties and identify water management options that are capable of reducing the harmful impacts of climate change. Results from the study demonstrate that without further supply or demand interventions, the combined effects of climate change and population growth are projected to increase the risk of water shortages in the future in London.

This research, led by Edoardo Borgomeo and Jim Hall, was carried out in partnership with Thames Water and the Environment Agency. The study contributes to the ongoing discussion in the UK water sector on whether the current approach to water resources planning should change for the next round of water resources management plans in 2019.


Borgomeo, E., Hall, J.W., Fung, F., Watts, G., Colquhoun, K. and Lambert, C. (2014) Risk-based water resources planning: Incorporating probabilistic nonstationary climate uncertainties. Water Resources Research. DOI: 10.1002/2014WR015558

Harry Verhoeven speaks about the water-food-energy nexus

Dr Harry Verhoeven was a speaker at the international conference on the water-food-energy nexus in drylands held in Rabat, Morocco on 11-14 June 2014. In a video interview, he highlights the politics behind how the nexus is defined and addressed.

The conference ‘Water-Food-Energy Nexus in Drylands: Bridging Science and Policy‘ gathered international experts to discuss the impacts of climate change and water scarcity and potential solutions in the fields of agriculture, water management, agro-business and energy. Speakers provided analyses and recommendations on how to address the interrelations between water, food and energy in global drylands, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

Dr Harry Verhoeven gave a presentation on the nexus and the Nile. Using the example of Egypt, he argued that politically crafted interconnections between water scarcity, food production and energy security have been the foundation of modernist dreams, state-building projects and regime consolidation strategies for generations.

The conference was organised by the OCP Policy Center in partnership with the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), King’s College London and Texas A&M University.

Dr Harry Verhoeven teaches African Politics at the Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford, and he is a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. He is the Convenor of the Oxford University China-Africa Network and the Oxford Central Africa Forum.

Unravelling the history of droughts in the UK

Oxford Univeristy is a partner in a cross-disciplinary research project on historic droughts and water scarcity funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s programme on ‘UK Droughts and Water Scarcity’.

The project, led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will characterise and quantify the hydrometeorological, environmental, agricultural, policy and resource management, and social and cultural history of droughts and water scarcity in the UK since the late 19th century.

The research aims to identify interactions between natural and social systems in the production and management of droughts over the historic record. A major research outcome will be the first droughts inventory for the UK – an evidence base that will provide a common reference for policy makers, regulators, water supply companies, and UK business.

Drs Bettina Lange and Chris Decker, based at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University, will analyse the history of regulating water scarcity and its economic impacts in the UK, drawing on case studies of key historic droughts.

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Working with the Government of Bangladesh to tackle poverty and environmental challenges in the Delta

Oxford University was recently involved in a national-level stakeholder workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, aimed at engaging government and stakeholder groups in the development of tools, information and strategies for poverty alleviation and environmental management in coastal Bangladesh.

The workshop was attended by the Planning Minister Mr. AHM Mustafa Kamal, the State Minister for Planning Mr. MA Mannan, and the Secretary of Ministry of Planning Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam. In addition, approximately 90 participants from different ministries, divisions, agencies, development partners, and consultants attended the inaugural session.

The workshop was held as part of ESPA Deltas, a multi-disciplinary project funded by NERC, DFID and ESRC, which aims to develop knowledge and tools for policy makers to evaluate the effects of policy decisions on people’s livelihoods.

The meeting was jointly organised by the Bangladesh General Economics Division of the Planning Commission, and project partner BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology). The primary objective of the workshop was to engage the Bangladesh government in the ESPA Deltas project, to ensure the outcomes of the project feed into future legislation, policy and management. A key component of this was to establish links with the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 being currently prepared by a Bangladeshi-Dutch consortium.

The workshop also included a technical session to involve stakeholders in scenario development, and to elicit information about future scenarios and issues of key concern; to identify possible policy and management interventions; as well as barriers to implementation. The technical session was organised by University of Dundee, University of Oxford and BUET.

Through the ESPA Deltas project, Professor Paul Whitehead and Dr Emily Barbour from Oxford University are examining the impact of future climatic and socio-economic changes on water availability and water quality within the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basin. They are working with stakeholders and project partners to develop scenarios affecting a range of different ecosystem services and are investigating different management strategies to improve water security and reduce poverty.

Group discussions during the technical session of the workshop

Group discussions during the technical session of the workshop

Long-term investment in flood and coastal risk management – scoping future approaches

Working in association with CH2M HILL, Paul Sayers, Senior Visiting Fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment, and Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, have recently been appointed to explore the next generation of methods to support the Environment Agency’s national long-term investment strategy.

The long-term investment strategy for flood and coastal risk management provides the basis for the Agency’s bid to Defra for funding and currently combines a national risk analysis (using an evolution of a method developed by Jim and Paul (Hall et al., 2003) and an exploration of investment needs under alternative climate and management futures.


Hall, J.H., Dawson, R.J., Sayers, P.B., Rosu, C., Chatterton, J.B. and Deakin, R. (2003) A methodology for national-scale flood risk assessment. Water and Maritime Engineering, 156(3): 235-247.