Monitoring the Nile for long-term sustainability

This article by Chris Flitch in Water on the Nile River features a quote by Dr. Kevin Wheeler of the University of Oxford.


Water Security and Poverty: Learning from the source at REACH’s Oxford conference


The 2018 IPCC Special Report warns of the increased risk of extreme weather events such as floods, and droughts in a warmer world. These risks, coupled with population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation, will increase the demand for water and will further stress available water resources. Meanwhile, the 2018 High-level Political Forum’s review of the progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) states that current efforts are not on track to meet SDG 6 targets by 2030. These trends and increased pressures highlight a clear need to strengthen policies and investments to improve water security, unlock sustainable growth and help the poor move out of poverty. 

Since 2015, the DFID-funded REACH programme has been collaborating with government, practitioner, and enterprise stakeholders to improve water security for millions of poor people in Africa and South Asia by delivering world-class science that influences policy and practice. On 27-29 March, REACH’s international conference on Water Security and Poverty will convene leading practitioners and scientists in Oxford to discuss key results to date from the REACH programme in Bangladesh, Kenya and Ethiopia, and continue to shape major academic, policy and practice debates around water security and poverty. Key topics to be discussed at the conference include: groundwater and poverty; rural water security; climate resilience; strengthening institutions; water affordability; water quality risks; water and health; women and marginalized groups; and aligning sectors to achieve the SDGs—particularly SDG6. The full programme for the conference can be accessed here.

Ganvie, Benin







A key focus of the conference will be to present current state of water security knowledge in Africa and Asia and discuss research uptake into policy and practice with external policy makers and practitioners including senior members of the governments of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh; representatives from UNICEF, DFID, Sida, IWMI, UN-HABITAT and Oxfam; and many key UK and international universities and organisations. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson will open the conference on 27 March. Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Coordinator for SDG Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, Government of Bangladesh, H.E. Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Minister, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Government of Ethiopia, and Hon. Simon Chelugui, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Kenya, have confirmed their participation, demonstrating their support and commitment to REACH.  Their presence at the conference alongside that of key practitioners will be important in highlighting what the priority areas are, where real progress is being made, and where interventions and investments should focus. This conference will focus on inclusive opinions with half of the speakers being women and half of them being from Asia and Africa.

Tickets to the conference are still available from the conference website.

If you have any questions about the conference, please email:


Oxford Part of Water Security Research Hub

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is pioneering an ambitious new approach to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges through a £200 million investment through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) across twelve global research hubs. Over the next five years, these Interdisciplinary Research Hubs will work across 85 countries with governments, international agencies, partners and NGOs on the ground in developing countries and around the globe, to develop creative and sustainable solutions which help make the world (including the UK) safer, healthier and more prosperous. The new Hubs are a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building on the success of the REACH programme’s work on water security for the poor, a strong Oxford water team led by Katrina Charles and including Cheryl Doss, Dustin Garrick, Jim Hall and Rob Hope will join other researchers from Colombia, Ethiopia, India, and Malaysia under the leadership of the University of Newcastle to create the Hub on Water Security, which will focus on access to a reliable and acceptable quantity and quality of water, and managing water-related risks for all. The United Nations considers water security an intractable challenge that is “the critical determinant of success in achieving most other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. Therefore, this Hub will improve water security through developing and demonstrating a systems and capacity building approach that better understands water systems, values all aspects of water; and strengthens water governance to enable integrated water management.

A New Year, A New start at Oxford Water Network

With Alastair Strickland moving onto new opportunities, the Oxford Water Network welcomes Kathryn Pharr as the new coordinator.  Kathryn is thrilled to take on this new role having enjoyed being a part of OWN previously through her research on policy and socio-ecological factors of water resources in 2018.

Kathryn’s work as Coordinator will focus on strengthening interdisciplinary linkages among researchers and partners working on water issues, both within and beyond the University of Oxford. This will include new events and opportunities, particularly for Michaelmas term 2019, so be on the lookout! Kathryn also welcomes any suggestions and ideas.

Before joining OWN, Kathryn has worked on policy and programmes regarding transboundary water, integrated water resource management, water governance, and science & technology innovation & entrepreneurship as a contractor for the U.S. Department of State. She has also consulted on Arup and 100 Resilient Cities’ City Water Resilience Framework. Kathryn’s work has taken her to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Her academic background is Analytical Chemistry and International Relations with a Masters of Science from Wake Forest University (North Carolina, USA) and a Bachelors of Science from the College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA).

Oxford working with the Environment Agency National Framework to help manage England’s water resources

Given uncertainties from climate change and other variabilities, how can the UK best manage and plan for its water resources to remain sustainable? What type of solutions make the most sense? These are just some of the questions challenging the Environment Agency’s new team developing the water resources National Framework.

Luckily, they are also the questions that Professor Jim Hall’s research team have been tackling, for the last four years under the MaRIUS project. In additional to serving on the National Framework’s Senior Steering Group, Jim Hall and his team are providing technical experience to help with the Framework’s programme of work.

From the recent 25-year environmental plan, the Environment Agency has a created a National Framework to better manage the water resources across England. The National Framework will provide strategic direction to water resources planning, include water users outside the water industry and support collaboration. It will advance and present evidence on probable water deficits and surpluses across England over time and will use this evidence to set expectations of regional groups and water companies. It will also develop and scope tools and science to support collaboration between water companies and other sectors. The Agency is now working with both the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester on their respective models to better understand the possibilities of water scarcity for England in the future and potential solutions.

NERC under the UK Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme, Oxford’s MaRIUS project works to manage the risks, impacts, and uncertainties of droughts and water scarcity. Part of this large project involves modelling national water resources, using the simulation and optimization model platform called WATHNET. The water resources researchers have also worked in collaboration with Atkins to produce the 2016 pivotal Water UK Long Term Planning Framework report. The model assesses water resources in both England and Wales now and in the future, in the context of climate change. The model includes validated data from water companies, and other datasets, and is used to can assess the likelihood of future water shortages and when and where strategic solutions may be needed. The model includes data from sector other than public water supply, like agriculture, from other MaRIUS models, thus enabling examination of multi-sector needs, and the economic impact of drought and water scarcity. The water resources model is currently being expanded so that, from spring 2019, the Oxford team can work closely with the National Framework to and begin to explore future scenarios. Once again, Oxford is at the forefront of applying water science in decision-making.