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Current policies cannot stabilise the Colorado River in face of ongoing megadrought

OWN member, Dr Kevin Wheeler, publish a new article in Science Magazine, titled “What will it take to stabilize the Colorado River?”

Download the article here: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abo4452

Read the Oxford Martin School’s recent article that featuring this Science publication: Current policies cannot stabilise the Colorado River in face of ongoing megadrought

“An ongoing megadrought, impacts of climate change and systematic overuse have created a crisis for the Colorado River, an essential water source for 40 million inhabitants of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. The current policies and international agreements governing this river are insufficient to maintain secure water supplies, concludes a commentary published today in the journal Science from the University of Oxford, Utah State University and Colorado State University.”

The New York Times has also recently published a great piece on the topic related to this Science article: A Painful Deadline Nears as Colorado River Reservoirs Run Critically Low

Many Congratulations!

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OWN Sessions at the AGU Fall Meeting – Now accepting abstracts!

OXFORD – July 2022

The AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall meeting will be held in Chicago and online from 12-16 December 2022. The AGU Fall meeting is the world’s most prominent Earth and space science event, bringing together research communities to advance science and create impact. This year the theme of the meeting is ‘Science leads the future.’ OWN members and collaborators are convening two sessions that focus on pathways for better science-based decision-making. One session will focus on the nexus of water, health and climate change. The second focuses on citizen science water quality monitoring.

Abstract submission is open! Any questions about the sessions can be directed to OWN co-chair Dr Saskia Nowicki (saskia.nowicki@ouce.ox.ac.uk). Note that the conference is hybrid, so presenters will have the option to present in-person or online. The conference registration fee will be waived for residents of lower-income and lower-middle-income countries.

GeoHealth Session GH022 – Water and health in a volatile climate: science-based strategies for equitable well-being in a water secure future
Deadline for abstract submissions: Aug 3.
Submit here: https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm22/prelim.cgi/Session/160329

Session description: Global health is inextricably linked to water security, which is jeopardised by climate change. Research is needed to understand the severity and distribution of health risks as water demand and contamination pressures are compounded by the intensifying water cycle. Reliance on groundwater, for example, is central in climate-resilient water supply strategies. Yet groundwater geochemistry, salinity, and pollution risks are not sufficiently evidenced nor accounted for in policy – particularly in lower income settings. This session seeks interdisciplinary research that focuses on the complex intersection of climate change, water (in)security, and health. Following the AGU22 ‘Science Leads the Future’ theme, research presented in this session will support the inclusion of water-related health risk management in key global agendas: for example, those that focus on climate-resilient water services, net zero energy transitions, adaptation financing, and biodiversity restoration. Presentations will also indicate research priorities by outlining the limitations of evidence in this space.

Convened by OWN Co-chair Dr Saskia Nowicki from the University of Oxford, REACH programme collaborators Dr Florence Tanui from the University of Nairobi, Dr Behailu Birhanu from Addis Ababa University, and Dr May Sule from Cranfield University.

Innovation Session – Technologies & Approaches for Decentralized Water Quality Monitoring with Citizen Engagement.
Deadline for abstract submissions: Aug 17.
Link to session description and to submit is here: https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm22/prelim.cgi/Session/158916

Session Description: Many citizens have a close relationship with their local water bodies, e.g. they use them for drinking water for themselves and their livestock, for crop irrigation, and for fishing as a source of food or recreation. Therefore, engaging citizens in monitoring their local water bodies can provide them with the knowledge and information to take an active role in preserving water quality at community level, and at national and regional level by providing additional data and information that can support policy and management. Despite significant progress and increased prevalence of citizen science projects for water management, mixed results are still observed. A large question is whether data acquired via CS programs can be of substantial enough quality to serve different purposes from regulatory surveillance to operational decision-making. For CS to be useful, rigor as well as data-validation tools need to be incorporated. Elements of participant social identity (e.g., their motivation for participation), and contextual knowledge (e.g., of the research program itself) can shape participation and resulting data outcomes). As such, the success of the data collection is not solely dependent on the technology, but also on the recruiting strategy and program structure. The aim of the hereby proposed session is to explore technological and institutional success factors to guide the development of decentralized water quality monitoring programs that engage citizens.

Convened by José Monge Castro, a student in the University of Oxford’s MSc Water Science, Policy and Management programme, OWN Co-chair Dr. Saskia Nowicki, and Javier Mateo-Sagasta from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

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Good Luck with your exams – WSPM 2021-2022 Cohort

Despite the fact that the year has started in the pandemic, and the Michaelmas and Hilary terms are passed, the Trinity term exam season is approaching. Since 2004, students from all over the world have taken the master’s degree examination in Water Science, Policy, and Management (WSPM) every spring/summer.

We understand that studying for examinations might be difficult at this time. As a WSPM alumnus, I recall the stressful moments of revising for the three exams: Water Science, Water and Society, and Water Management. It was challenging and required hard work to go through old questions and brainstorm to answer and frame the arguments by using previous exam sheets, compiling case studies to support the arguments, and structuring the exam essays within the given time frame. But, in the end, we were able to complete the exams successfully. Remember to take a deep breath and believe in yourself, as many alumni have done before you. We all have faith in you.

We wish you the best of luck for the exam week.

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Introducing the new OWN Leadership Team

Earlier this year, Louise Slater and Kathryn Pharr, the Oxford Water Network (OWN) chair and coordinator respectively, stepped down from their positions. After three years at the helm, Louise is stepping back to focus on her research on Dynamic Drivers of Flood Risks , while Kathryn has taken up the role of Senior Policy Analyst for International Climate Action with WaterAid. On behalf of OWN, we want to thank them for the excellent work they did shaping and leading the network.

We are pleased to introduce the new team leading the network: Katrina Charles and Saskia Nowicki are co-chairing OWN, and Pan Ei Ei Phyoe has taken up the coordinator role.

Dr Katrina Charles‘ research focuses on environmental health risks, using interdisciplinary approaches to analyse how we construct our understanding of environmental health risks, and how to communicate those risks to affect change. With her research team, which includes expertise in water quality, health and social sciences, and through partnerships with UNICEF and governments, she is leading work on drinking water quality and climate resilience that will help progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal for safe drinking water quality for all (SDG 6.1). Katrina has a track record in delivering real-world impact advancing water security through large interdisciplinary programmes, such as REACH and Water Security Hub. She aims to ensure that OWN is supporting Oxford’s water researchers to achieve impact through strengthening relationships with partners policy and practice.

“I am excited to bring my experience of developing science-practitioner partnerships to the network, to support and promote the role that Oxford research has in tackling global challenges in water security, from the SDGs to climate adaptation.”

 

Saskia Nowicki works on environmental health risks and management trade-offs. She applies an interdisciplinary systems-based approach to research, drawing on her background in environmental science, with specialisation in water security. Her postdoctoral work with the REACH water security programme focuses on drinking-water safety in low-income contexts. She is working on collaborative projects in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh – using mixed-methods to seek insight for systems change at scale.  Saskia joined the OWN in 2015 when she arrived at the School of Geography and the Environment (SOGE) for her MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management (WSPM). During her DPhil, she joined the leadership team as the early career researcher representative. Now, with her role as co-chair, she is working to encourage engagement in the network and foster connections across the social and physical sciences.

“Water is an inherently interdisciplinary topic and everyone who works in this space deals with systemic complexity in some form. With the OWN we can foster knowledge exchange and collaboration to better engage with this complexity.”

Given her background in engineering, Pan Ei Ei Phyoe is passionate about bridging the gap between water research and technology and broader policy goals, and she is particularly interested in the links between water systems and climate change. She finally completed her MSc in Water Science, Policy, and Management at the University of Oxford, where she focused on the climate communication network and how it affects water management decisions in the Turkwel river basin in Kenya. She also earned a master’s degree in water resources engineering from the University of Stuttgart, where she focused on reservoir management, notably numerical modelling of the Schwarzenbach hydroelectric dam’s hydrodynamic system. As part of her policy consulting work with the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, she is currently supporting the organisation of the first-ever historical water and climate pavilion during COP26 in Glasgow. She’d previously worked on integrated water resources management (IWRM) projects in Myanmar, the Netherlands, and the UK.

“Water has always been an interdisciplinary subject and a connector that intertwines all sectors. The OWN can serve as a collaborative and bridging environment, with excellent networks and connections, providing access and opportunities to all of the university’s cutting-edge science, technology, innovative policies, and practical solutions in water-related research and education.”

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Welcome to WSPM 2021-2022 Cohort

Although the year has begun in the pandemic and the COVID-19 is still current, we are excited to welcome the new batch of students with strong enthusiasm for water, whether in person or online! Every autumn since 2004, a new group of students from around the world has arrived at the University of Oxford to pursue a master’s degree in Water Science, Policy, and Management (WSPM). Dr Kevin Grecksch, Course Director, and Dr Katrina Charles, WSPM Academic Lead, are especially looking forward to this cohort’s Induction on the week (0) of the Michaelmas Term.

This year’s class is the largest in the WSPM’s history, with a total of 29 students. These students hail from 19 different countries and have a variety of backgrounds, with some having recently completed their undergraduate studies and others returning to academia after working for a while. They have already visited Farmoor on the 1st of October as part of the course. They come from various sectoral backgrounds, enriching discussions and fitting perfectly with this interdisciplinary course, cross-cutting themes in economics, climate and catchment processes, governance, water quality, water and health, and water policy and management. This year-long MSc course enables students to develop a theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded understanding of sustainable water management. Including this group, almost 400+ students have enrolled in WSPM since it began in 2004.

2019 marked the 15th anniversary of the programme, and to celebrate; an Anniversary Fund was created to help WSPM students pursue overseas work for their dissertations.

We cannot wait to see the WSPM 2021-2022 cohort’s Oxford Journey. Welcome to Oxford!

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Passing of Dr Jill Crossman OUCE (2010-2017)

Co-Director of the NERC Macronutrients Programme – Oxford Directorate

I’m writing today to share some very sad news. As some of you already have heard, our friend and colleague Dr Jill Crossman passed away suddenly and far too young on last Saturday, September 11.

Jill was a driving force in Oxford helping me to direct the NERC funded Macronutrient Cycles  Programme. This programme involved 12 university groups and 4 NERC Institutes with over 120 Staff involved ranging from senior Professors to Post Docs and PhD Students, plus many Policy People from DEFRA, the UK Environment Agency and the Scottish and Welsh Governments. There was also an international advisory committee and a team from NERC. Jill helped coordinate the programme and organize many fascinating science meetings and policy groups, held mainly in the SoGe Department or in St Peters College. Despite her young age at the time, nothing fazed her and she was super-efficient and incredibly helpful to all the researchers and staff involved.

Jill was a funny and lovely person and an astute scientist. She was preparing the paperwork for promotion to associate professor at the University of Windsor in Canada, had won some major grants for environmental research in the areas of microplastics and eutrophication. Jill published widely (see her last publication https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/13/5/723 – a major intellectual and multidisciplinary contribution). Many of her colleagues and friends have been shocked at her early passing. Jill was always happiest surrounded by a bunch of scientists, talking non-stop and enjoying the odd glass of wine. The world will not be the same without her.

 

RIP Jill!

Prof Paul Whitehead

Macronutrient Cycles and School of Geography and the Environment

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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.