Africa Water Stewardship Scholarship quenches thirst for knowledge

Cliff Nyaga is a beneficiary of The Coca-Cola Company funded Africa Water Stewardship Scholarship, which funds his place on the MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management, class of 2012/2013. He reports on his first term studying at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.

12 December 2012, by Cliff M. Nyaga

As the first Africa Water Stewardship Scholar, I arrived in late September, tired but excited for the year ahead studying at Oxford University. The characteristic cold and grey British weather was a bit of a shock but was compensated for by the timeless elegance of the university colleges. Everything seemed quieter and more orderly than where I come from back home in Nairobi, Kenya.

The course started with meeting the 26 other students from 16 different countries on a fascinating residential field trip to Dorset and the Jurassic Coast. We got to know each other and the teaching staff over the weekend while studying various aspects of catchment management and the chalk aquifer system. The staff took us to a local pub where I got my first taste of English beer. Chat over a beer with my teacher? A first, but not bad experience!

Term started gently but then soon accelerated with intense academic activity, centred around taught modules on global water issues including water security, health and policy. There was much for me to work on, learn about, questions to ask and discussions to have. I was left wishing I had much more time. Field study trips in addition to rich study and research resources exposed me to new approaches to understanding and managing water issues and have also made me a better thinker. One highlight was visiting a green wastewater treatment plant at Wessex, where virtually ‘nothing is wasted’.

Not a week goes by in which I don’t attend a lecture from a visiting dignitary, or participate in debates and seminars that involve professionals working in the water sector. And when it’s time for a break from study, it’s easy to take a relaxing park stroll or hop on the bus and visit villages near Oxford (my favourite has been Burford, a village made of stone). A boat ride down the Thames in London was an unforgettable experience.

A great aspect of the scholarship is that I have been able to interact with key people at The Coca-Cola Company to develop a research dissertation on water sustainability. This has been an invaluable learning experience and allowed me to gain a greater understanding of their Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) programme in Africa. We have some interesting ideas which I will be developing over the winter break. When I say ‘break’, this is a bit of euphemism as the work continues with various assignments and readings, including preparation for next term. I have been dying to experience snow for the first time so hopefully this will provide an exciting interlude to my studies!

While working with communities on water supply back in Kenya, I had a strong desire to develop solutions for the challenges encountered and learn how Europe was able to overcome such problems and achieve its high level of water resource development. In this respect, Oxford is providing me with a firm foundation. I am learning from distinguished teaching staff with extensive experience in policy and practice, most interestingly on how to formulate cutting-edge solutions to water challenges facing Africa. When I return to Africa, I will take this knowledge with me. I look forward to making a positive difference in addressing the water challenges my continent faces.

This is the first in a three-part blog series. Read Cliff’s second and final blogs.


Oxford water alumna features in Financial Times magazine

Kelsey Leonard, who last month received an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management, featured in the Financial Times Magazine on 24 November 2012.

In September Kelsey became the first Native American woman to be awarded a degree from Oxford Unviersity. She is an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton, New York.

A photo of Kelsey simling in her graduating gown proudly clutching her mortar board was published in the Financial Times magazine. It appeared alongside an interview with Uganda’s first female university graduate, Sarah Ntiro, who also studied at Oxford University in the 1950s.

In an interview with the Oxford Student Online, Kelsey called her time at Oxford “a unique experience” where she enjoyed “meeting graduate students from around the world and being taught by a faculty at the cutting edge of research in environmental science”.

The MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management attracts a diverse range of UK and international students each year. The current 2012/2013 group includes 27 students from 17 countries.

Strong presence of Oxford alumni at World Water Week 2012, Stockholm

This week over 2,000 politicians, CEOS, scientists, practitioners, and leaders of international organisations from over 100 counties gathered in Stockholm to discuss water and food security. World Water Week, the annual conference organised by Stockholm International Water Institute, is the focal point for the international water community and the arena for debating and showcasing solutions for the world’s most urgent water challenges. Amongst the delegates attending this year were eight alumni from the School of Geography and the Environment’s MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management.

Virginia Hooper (MSc year 2007/2008), now a PhD researcher at the University of East Anglia, spoke at a workshop on ‘Governance for water and food security’. She presented findings from an extensive DFID-funded review of the performance of water resource management institutions in delivering pro-poor outcomes and sustainable economic growth.

Other MSc alumni present at the conference were Nick Dickinson (2004/2005, IRC), Jenny Datoo (2007/2008, USAID), Lorenzo Bosi (2008/2009, World Food Programme), Philipp Peters (2008/2009, GIZ), Jennifer Möller-Gulland (2009/2010, PwC), Marco Daniel (2010-2011, HELVETAS), and Ilana Cohen (2010/2011, Aquaconsult).

The Water Science, Policy and Management Masters attracts a diverse and international group of students each year, and equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to become the next generation of water professionals. The growing global network of alumni are found in influential government, research and industry roles, actively contributing to more sustainable pathways for water management.

For more information on the MSc Water Science, Policy and Management, visit the website.


Thames Water Sponsored DPhil Studentship 2012-2015

Reduction of algal loading onto water treatment works

A three-year funded DPhil studentship is available from October 2012, in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford.

We are seeking a highly-motivated researcher for this exciting opportunity to develop research expertise in the design and operation of novel, biological pre-filters for potable water treatment works. Such skills are in great demand within the water industry, in universities and in consultancy companies. The ideal candidate will hold an undergraduate degree in a biological science such as zoology or botany, or an applied engineering or environmental science. The candidate must possess good communication and inter-personal skills, be numerate, and should have experience of, or enthusiasm for, engaging with industry on problems of an intellectually demanding and highly practical nature.

Thames Water have identified peaks in chemical demand associated with algal blooms as a current cause of seasonal increases in the costs of potable water treatment; a goal has been set to minimise the impact of algal blooms and thus reduce treatment costs at Farmoor stage 2 reservoir in Oxfordshire. It is proposed to install a combined physical and biological barrier, consisting of a combination of submerged booms and floating reed beds, in order to reduce the algal biomass exiting into the treatment process. The project will investigate and evaluate how well the installation meets its goals over a three year period via an intensive field- and lab-based protocol; this would involve quantifying and monitoring the ecology of the reed-bed installation and associated booms and filters, measuring their effects on hydrochemical flow pathways, monitoring the impact of the installation on algal populations, and quantifying the impact on the downstream water-works operation and wash water treatment and disposal. The ultimate goal would be the development of a successful final design for installation on other suitable reservoirs.

The student would be integrated into the Thames Water organization at Farmoor, with smaller scale lab-based work being executed at Oxford University Begbroke Science Park and at the Thames Water Innovation Centre, Kempton Park. She/he would be supervised jointly by academic staff at Oxford University and by staff at Thames Water.

The studentship covers university fees at the UK/EU student level, College fees, and a tax-free stipend for three years: £14,400 in the first year, with annual increments. It is available to all applicants, but non-UK/EU students would need to provide the difference in university fees. The deadline for applications is July 24, 2012. Interviews will take place during the week commencing the 6th of August. Applicants should send a CV, a covering letter explaining what they can bring to this challenging project, and reference letters from two academic referees to: Dr Nick Hankins, Department of Engineering Science, The University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PJ (to whom informal enquiries may be addressed).

Applicants should hold a full, clean driving licence. The successful candidate would be expected to work over deep water, and gain the necessary boat handling qualifications.