Oxford University leads £2 million research project on UK droughts and water scarcity

A £2 million three-year multi-disciplinary research project will provide new insights to minimise and manage the harmful impacts of droughts and water scarcity in the UK.

Droughts and water scarcity pose a significant risk to the environment, society and the economy. In 2012 the UK experienced the driest spring in over a century, following two dry winters. However scientific understanding of the complex drivers and impacts of droughts is inadequate.

The project Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of drought and water Scarcity (MaRIUS) will adopt a risk-based approach to the management of droughts and water scarcity. The project is designed to capture the complexity of the water scarcity by using expertise across the social and natural sciences.

MaRIUS will use scenario modelling and case studies across a number of scales, from household to national, in order to understand both the drought impacts at a local level right as well as the institutional decision making by governments and water companies. The modelling will enable testing of drought scenarios and a thorough representation of their impacts on water quality, agriculture, biodiversity and economic losses.

In addition to the modelling component, social science and stakeholder engagement are a key part of the project and will help us to understand the role of institutions, regulation and the markets in drought management.

The researchers will work closely with stakeholders in government, businesses and NGOs who will benefit from improved evidence of the risks and impacts of droughts and water scarcity. Better understanding of the effectiveness of different measures will help decision-makers make more informed decisions, from real-time drought management to longer-term planning.

The project team is led by Professor Jim Hall (Environmental Change Institute) and includes Drs Chris Decker and Bettina Lange (Centre for Socio-Legal Studies), Dr Pam Berry (Environmental Change Institute), and Professors Sarah Whatmore, Paul Whitehead, Myles Allen, and Dr Simon Dadson (School of Geography and the Environment).

Funding comes from NERC, in collaboration with ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and AHRC.

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