Highlights from Water Security, Risk and Society conference

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, spoke enthusiastically about Oxford’s key role in the leadership of the global water security agenda on 17th April at the Natural History Museum to over 220 delegates from policy, research, civil society and business participating in the International Conference on Water Security, Risk and Society.

Professor Hamilton’s address followed a public lecture where Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, underlined the UK Government’s increasing priority on water security in the UK and internationally. Greg Koch, Director of the Global Water Stewardship initiative at the Coca-Cola Company warned that we are at a critical point in the history of human civilisation facing unprecedented water risks. There is a strategic business imperative for addressing these risks to protect growth and profits, he said.

The conference was earlier opened at St Hugh’s College by the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Ian Walmsley, and the Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor Ian Goldin. “The scale of the challenge, and therefore the scale of the opportunity it presents, is unprecedented,” said Professor Ian Walmsley. Professor Ian Goldin stressed the need to tackle water insecurity as a defining 21st century challenge.

Over the three-day event, more than 70 presentations addressed the status of and pathways to water security with contributions from more than 15 countries.

Oxford University’s Professor David Grey urged for small, bold steps led by “a coalition of the willing and the capable, beginning to move an agenda that includes interdisciplinary science, business, civil society and government. We need to be innovative, coordinated and courageous, and at Oxford we are embarking on this journey with a number of partners around the world.”

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Stephen O’Brien MP, gave a keynote address on the UK government’s commitment to water security to promote economic growth and poverty reduction with a multi-million pound research investment to be shaped by the conference outputs.

The new cross-university website on ‘water’ – – was launched at the conference as part of the Fell-funded Water Security Network, led by the Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Professor Jim Hall.

A range of academic outputs and reports will be released shortly including material to directly feed into the ‘Rio +20’ conference later in the year and the global task force examining the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation post-2015.



Water scarcity to drive conflict, hit food and energy, experts say

Reuters AlertNet, Laurie Goering, 17/04/2012

Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource and shortages could drive conflict, hit food and energy production, and threaten growth in renewable energy technology, experts warned at a water security conference on Monday.

And climate change – which appears to be bringing more extreme weather events such as droughts and floods – is likely to make the situation even more difficult, they said.

Article includes quotes from David Grey, a University of Oxford water expert; Ian Walmsley, pro-vice chancellor for research at the University of Oxford; and Jim Hall, an expert on water and risk at the Oxford Environmental Change Institute.

Oxford University conference Water Security, Risk and Society responds to society’s most pressing water security challenges

Water security is a major challenge for society today. A recent study in Nature concluded that 80% of the world’s population is threatened by water insecurity. The World Economic Forum recently predicted water security to be among the world’s greatest threats.

In developing countries, limited access to an acceptable quality and quantity of water defines the lives of millions of poor people. In the UK, ongoing drought and predictions of future water shortages due to climate change remind us of the relevance of the issue to developed countries also.

The Water Security, Risk and Society conference aims to map research priorities and lay the foundations of a shared agenda for science, policy and enterprise communities to respond to water-related risk.

Conference highlights include plenary talks from the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir John Beddington, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Stephen O’Brien, the business perspective provided by Greg Koch (The Coca-Cola Company) and Gerry O’Hagan (Diageo), and a number of leading academic thinkers from across the globe.

“The risk of water insecurity has never been greater but global capacity to respond does not match up to the scale of the threat” says Oxford University’s Professor David Grey. “From the current UK drought to the recent floods in Thailand, the world is already facing multi-billion dollar impacts with an increasingly uncertain and challenging future. A failure to link science, policy and the private sector is limiting local and global progress on society’s most pressing challenges. This event will form a coalition, unified by a risk perspective, to define future policy priorities and action for the UK and the world.”

Researchers at Oxford University’s will be taking forward the partnerships forged at the conference, providing the rigorous scientific base to inform decision making and respond to current and future water challenges.

Water security and federal rivers workshop tracks the global influence of federalism on river basin management and climate adaptation

An international workshop will generate a global picture of the world’s federal rivers, the climate risks they face and the diverse river basin management strategies developed in response. The workshop – sponsored by Australian National University and the Forum of Federations – will convene scientists and practitioners from 12 countries to exchange lessons about climate adaptation and river basin management in federal political systems.