Rising to the water challenge

Since its inception in 2011, the Oxford Water Network (OWN) has helped cement Oxford University’s reputation as a global centre for excellence in water research and teaching. Now in its 6th year, OWN looks to build on this success and take the network to the next level.

A glance at today’s headlines provides a stark reminder of the many water-related problems we face: drought in East Africa; floods in Peru and Colombia; conflict around the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates; concerns regarding drinking water safety in the US. These stories highlight the often complex and multi-dimensional nature of the water security challenges facing decision makers globally: it is problems such as these that prompted the creation of the Oxford Water Network (OWN) in 2011.

OWN is an initiative that seeks to leverage the University of Oxford’s diverse research expertise to tackle the growing threat of water insecurity worldwide. OWN comprises an immediate network of over 130 Oxford University research and support staff, spread across the natural, social and engineering sciences. Beyond the University, OWN maintains links with external partners drawn from the academic, policy, civil society and business communities.

Since its creation, OWN has helped its members secure a number of major funding awards. Notable examples include REACH – a global research programme seeking to improve water security for poor people in Asia and Africa; MaRIUS – a project exploring the management of droughts and water scarcity in the UK; and Gro for GooD – a project seeking to develop a groundwater risk management approach to support development in Kenya.

OWN events provide a forum to share ideas and build the relationships necessary to realise interdisciplinary collaboration. We host seminar series, workshops and conferences. In 2012 and 2015, OWN convened two, agenda-setting, international water security conferences, which brought together leading thinkers and practitioners from government, enterprise, civil society and academia to advance and debate a risk-based analysis of water security. The first of these events gave rise to a themed issue on water security in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

As OWN embarks on its next chapter, we are taking time to consider how we can build on our success to date. As part of this process, we are seeking to initiate a period of consultation with our members to better understand how we can support their research, improve its impact, and ultimately harness the full potential of the network to address the many water challenges we face.

If you have any thoughts as to how we can take OWN to the next level, contact me at alastair.strickland@ouce.ox.ac.uk. You can find out more about the Oxford Water Network at www.water.ox.ac.uk or by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

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