Governance of water scarcity and droughts in the UK

Oxford legal scholars shed light on UK drought management.

A new report by Dr Kevin Grecksch and Dr Bettina Lange of Oxford’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, explores how environmental science knowledges inform the use of regulatory tools for managing drought and water scarcity in England and Wales.

The research, conducted as part of the NERC-funded MaRIUS (Managing Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of Drought and Water Scarcity) project, is the result of the analysis of 50 qualitative semi-structured interviews with water resource managers drawn from a wide range of stakeholders including regulatory agencies, water companies, consultancies, agriculture and industry.

The report identifies a broad range of regulatory tools and environmental science knowledges currently in use, and presents a novel typology summarising their key characteristics.

It also outlines key policy issues and themes around drought and water scarcity management in England and Wales, such as the value of generating hydroecological data to aid drought management; the importance of using local expert knowledges; and the need to align various statutory and voluntary drought and water resource planning processes, to achieve a more integrated and systematic drought governance.

The report also highlights the value of flexibility in the choice of drought regulatory tools, coupled with greater clarity of what droughts need to be planned for.

Finally, the report illustrates how the highly contested nature of environmental science knowledges can inform the mobilisation of regulatory tools, citing the recent example of a review of agricultural abstraction licences at the Catfield Fen wetland nature reserve.

Further information:
Grecksch, K. and Lange, B. 2018. Governance of water scarcity and droughts. Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, UK.

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