Rivers and cities: exploring their complex water-risk and its governance

Congrats to OWN DPhil student Safa Fanaian who has recently secured a National Geographic Explorer grant for 10,200$. This grant will contribute towards her fieldwork to build a basic understanding of the network of actors involved in governing water-risks of her case study of India’s Guwahati City and its rivers. This information can provide valid insights to improve responses to water risks. The grant will also include participatory mapping of projections and perceived probabilities for improvement through a workshop carried out with relevant stakeholders in Guwahati. This process will collect recommendations and perceptions of the involved actors for how the governance system can evolve in the future.

What sorts of challenges will Safa explore related to urban water governance? Rivers running through cities in India have become open drains filled with plastic and dark murky waters. India has more than 100 riverine cities. Governing the risks that emerge from the connection between cities and rivers is complex. Because rivers flow beyond city jurisdictions, not only local city departments but also other actors like national departments and interest groups are involved in governance processes. Coordination among various departments and agencies in cities is perceived as one of the biggest challenges to address water risks.

Safa’s DPhil research seeks to identify frameworks and relevant methods that allow context-specific approaches to understand and improve water risk governance for a riverine city in India. Guwahati was chosen as her case study because it is the physical gateway to the North-Eastern part of India and emblematic of growing urbanization on Brahmaputra River. The water risks under examination for Guwahati City and its rivers are linked to the incoming and outgoing waters. They include urban floods, domestic water supply, and waste-water released into rivers.


Oxford joins ‘NEWAVE’ of water governance

The European Union has awarded a major grant of four million Euros for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) to the NEWAVE ‘Next Water Governance’ to the University of Oxford and partners as part of a consortium led by the University of Amsterdam. This four-year project begins Fall 2019. One of its key objectives is researching water governance priorities and preparing actionable insights for future directions of water governance. Dr Dustin Garrick will lead a work package on innovative patterns of water governance—exploring how markets, communities and governments are addressing a wide range of water challenges globally.  The consortium will train 15 water governance DPhil students, two of which will be housed at Oxford: one on informal water markets (supervised by Associate Professor Garrick) and one on rural water finance (supervised by Prof. Rob Hope).  Both DPhil positions listed below require team players who enjoy working with a cohort of international researchers and practitioners.  Deadline is 15 November 2019. Further details about the application are here.

Governing Informal Markets in Eastern Africa (supervisor:  Associate Professor Dustin Garrick)  

Informal water markets have proliferated in response to rapid urbanisation and increasing competition for freshwater. Despite their prevalence, informal markets are virtually uncharted, particularly their governance and the hidden patterns of cooperation, conflict and competition.  Myths dominate in the absence of evidence, fuelling perceptions that informal markets prey on the poor and lead inexorably towards inequality and unsustainable outcomes. This study will examine the institutions and governance underpinning informal water markets in eastern Africa using a mixed-methods approach involving systematic review, institutional and network analysis, and impact evaluation. The ideal DPhil student will have an interest in collective action theory, institutional analysis and development, and water governance and will demonstrate an ability to learn and apply complementary methods in environmental social sciences (including qualitative, quantitative and geospatial techniques). 

Rural Water Finance in Africa (supervisor: Professor Rob Hope)  

Performance-based models for rural water services are emerging in Africa in response to unsatisfactory progress in delivering reliable and safe water to rural people. Pioneer and social enterprises are making progress, but at the margin there are still 300 million rural Africans without even basic, drinking water. Sustainable finance and institutional design are key elements to blending government, donor and consumer funds for universal delivery of safe drinking water to communities, schools, and clinics. A critical gap is understanding ways to create value to influence the payment behaviours of rural consumers and facilities in order to attract non-traditional funding. This study will examine policy and governance issues informing how rural consumers pay for water across service delivery models, payment methods, and political spaces using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The ideal DPhil student will have a passion for field-work working with rural people, social enterprises, and local government; fluency in French and English; and a strong quantitative background to model and evaluate interventions at multiple scales. Interests and expertise in behavioural economics, econometrics, institutional economics and water governance would be welcome.