Water Risk & Global Change

Examines the impact of global environmental change on the hydrological cycle using a range of interdisciplinary models. System-scale analysis is used to model social, biophysical and infrastructure dynamics related to climate, demographic and economic change at multiple scales. Researchers investigate interacting risks and uncertainties to identify strategies to enhance resilience and adaptation.

Some current projects

ITRC-MISTRAL: Multi-scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics

In its first phase (2011-2016) the Oxford University-led Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) developed the world’s first family of national-scale system models for analysis and planning of interdependent infrastructure systems, marking a significant advancement in the UK’s long-term, national infrastructure planning capability. ITRC’s second phase, entitled MISTRAL (Multi-scale InfraSTRucture systems AnaLytics), builds upon the success of the past 5-years, advancing a next generation of systems models and analytical techniques, to support infrastructure decision making across scales ‒ from household to global scale. Water is one of the five key infrastructure components modelled within the ITRC, alongside energy, transport, waste and ITC.

Assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in populous deltas

This project examines the relationship between poverty alleviation and ecosystem services in deltaic environments, with particular focus on coastal Bangladesh. The Oxford team are modelling the rivers upstream of the Delta – the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Meghna – to assess impacts of climate change, land use change, water diversions and dams on flows and nutrients arriving into Bangladesh from India and the Himalaya.

Attributing impacts of external climate drivers on extreme weather (ACE-Africa)

How is climate change already affecting Africa? The aim of ACE-Africa is to answer this question for one of the most vulnerable parts of the world. The project looks at whether and to what extent climate change is already affecting the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events on the continent. It also investigates the impacts of such extreme weather events on river flow and crops.

Building sustainable local nexuses of food, energy and water: from smart engineering to shared prosperity

How do decentralised energy and water supply systems interact with more localised food systems? The project focuses on the development of local nexuses of food manufacturing, energy and water supply, which may provide opportunities for rationally customising resource utilisation, production, and consumption to meet the services required within a local context. The aim is to contribute to shared prosperity for business, community, and natural ecosystems.

Changes in urbanisation and its effects on water quantity and quality from local to regional scale

This project examines the fine-scale impacts of urbanisation on water resources and pollution in the Thames river basin, where projections of future population and climate indicate serious water stress. It develops and tests a novel integrated modelling approach, implemented first for local-scale case studies, then up-scaled for testing across the entire basin. The approach takes into account projections of urban development, land management, and climate change, quantifying future impacts on water security.

Changing land-atmosphere feedbacks in tropical African wetlands

This project quantifies the feedbacks between tropical African wetlands and climate. This is being tackled by implementing a dynamic wetland inundation scheme in an Earth system model, and testing this model against soil moisture, cloud cover and methane (CH4) concentration data obtained through remote Earth observation.

Consortium on Risk in the Environment: Diagnostics, Integration, Benchmarking, Learning and Elicitation (CREDIBLE)

CREDIBLE is developing methods to support risk managers dealing with natural hazards such as floods and droughts. It introduces statistical techniques to explicitly recognise and represent uncertainty in risk assessment. The researchers are assessing the less quantifiable aspects of uncertainty, such as probabilities attached to future scenarios (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, or population growth projections). The project will improve the visualisation and communication of uncertainty and risk.

Enhancing Risk Management Partnerships for catastrophic natural disasters (ENHANCE)

The ENHANCE project is developing new ways to increase societies’ resilience to catastrophic impacts of natural hazards such as heat waves, forest fires, floods, droughts, storm surges, and volcanic eruptions. New partnerships are being developed across public, private and civil society sectors, and being assessed for their potential to manage different catastrophic hazards.

Coastal change in the UK

iCOASST is helping forecast what the UK’s coastline will look like in the future, up to 100 years’ time. This work is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is partnered by the Environment Agency (EA), who will use these methods to improve long-term flood and erosion risk management.

Flood risk: Building Infrastructure Resilience through better Understanding and Management choices (FoRUM)

FoRUM is a knowledge transfer project to capture the lessons, consolidate understanding and disseminate the methods used for assessing flood risk and determining future infrastructure investments at a national scale. The project engages stakeholders from the insurance sector, Environment Agency, Network Rail and leading consultancies.

Future Resilience for African CiTies And Lands (FRACTAL)

FRACTAL aims to change how African cities include climate change in development planning, across water, flooding, energy and associated infrastructure.  The interdisciplinary research team will improve understanding of the African regional climate system and integrate climate messages within real-world decisions, strengthening development pathways to resilience.

Improving Predictions of Drought for User Decision-Making (IMPETUS)

Scientists are working to improve the forecasting of UK drought on monthly to decadal timescales. This will be achieved by improving meteorological, hydrological and water demand forecasts and how they are combined to produce drought forecasts. We are working with stakeholders to ensure that drought forecasts are relevant for decision making.

Macronutrients Cycles Programme

Researchers in the Macronutrients Cycles Programme are quantifying the scales of nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes and nature of transformations through the catchment under a changing climate and perturbed carbon cycle. The programme is supported by an interdisciplinary research community spanning the freshwater, terrestrial and atmospheric sectors and linking with those working in the estuarine environment.

Managing the risks, impacts and uncertainties of droughts and water scarcity (MaRIUS)

We lead the MaRIUS project, bringing together experts on the processes that cause drought and their consequences. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, looking at the climatic and socioeconomic factors that are contributing to the changing risk of drought and water scarcity in the UK.

Oxford Martin School Programme on Resource Stewardship

This interdisciplinary programme aims to radically rethink global resource stewardship, delivering a framework that will create actionable input on critical global issues, such as freshwater resources, land-use and atmosphere. Research on the theme of freshwater resources and river basin management is helping improve understanding of the drivers of water insecurity and identify adaptation strategies at multiple scales.

Testing the influence of lake/wetland-climate feedbacks on African hydroclimate

Critically vulnerable semi-arid regions in the transition zone between tropics and subtropics in Africa are predicted to undergo considerable future hydroclimate change. This project integrates lake/wetland-climate feedbacks into an Earth System Model to explore impacts on past and future African hydroclimate dynamics.

UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium

The UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium informs the analysis, planning and design of national infrastructure for multiple systems, including water.


Global climate models can tell us a lot about changes in large scale climates. However, some important impacts of the global climate such as an increase or decrease in extreme weather events depend strongly on local changes, especially in the water cycle on small hydrological scales. Weatherathome.org runs regional climate models embedded in a global model on thousands of volunteers’ computers across the world, providing the detail and statistics to study weather under climate change.


  • Dr Matt Ives
  • Dr Dave MacLeod
  • Laura Turley
  • Jesper Svensson
  • Dr Sven Eggimann
  • Aman Majid
  • Dr Anna Lora-Wainwright
  • Dr Dustin Garrick
  • Dr Elco Koks
  • Jade Leung
  • Anna Murgatroyd
  • Sarfaraz Adnan
  • Tess Doeffinger
  • Steven Rubinyi
  • Dr Feyera Hipra
  • Dr Ellen Dyer
  • Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque
  • Dr Cathy Baldwin
  • Kevin Grecksch
  • Dr Beccy Wilebore
  • Dr Ana Lopez
  • Dr Tim Woollings
  • Ben Caldecott
  • Dr Samuel Chen
  • Dr Mohammad Mortazavi-Naeini
  • Dr Katie Jenkins
  • Sarah O’Keefe
  • Dr Michael Gilmont
  • Xiawei Liao
  • Dr William Ingram
  • Dr Benoit Guillod
  • Jae-Young Lee
  • Homero Paltan Lopez
  • Dr Helen Gavin
  • Dr Nick Middleton
  • Mike Simpson
  • Iliana Cardenes Trujillo
  • Dr Emily Barbour
  • Dr Katrina Charles
  • Kevin Wheeler
  • Franziska Gaupp
  • Dr Sophie Haines
  • Xi Hu
  • Joyce Klu
  • Paul Sayers
  • Andrew Dansie
  • Professor David Thomas
  • Dr Rachel James
  • Dr Scott Thacker
  • Professor John Boardman
  • Dr Abi Stone
  • Dr Jocelyne Hughes
  • Shauna Monkman
  • Professor Jim Hall
  • Professor Myles Allen
  • David Favis-Mortlock
  • Dr Simon Dadson
  • Professor Paul Whitehead
  • Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell
  • Huijuan Wu