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 School of Geography and the Environment

12 February 2014

Oxford University leads £2 million research project on UK droughts and water scarcity

Droughts and water scarcity pose a significant risk to the environment, society and the economy. In 2012 the UK experienced the driest spring in over a century, following two dry winters. However scientific understanding of the complex drivers and impacts of droughts is inadequate.

The School of Geography and the Environment have received NERC funding to begin a new project, pooling together Oxford University’s combined expertise in relation to drought and water scarcity. The project Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of drought and water Scarcity (MaRUIS) will introduce a risk-based approach to drought and water scarcity in order to inform management decisions and prepare households.

The project is designed to capture the complexity of the water scarcity by using expertise across the social and natural sciences and with key stakeholder involvement.

MaRIUS will use scenario modelling and case studies across a number of scales, from household to national, in order to understand both the drought impacts at a local level right as well as the institutional decision making by governments and water companies. The modeling will enable testing of drought scenarios and a thorough representation of their impacts on water quality, agriculture, biodiversity and economic losses.

In addition to the modelling component, social science and stakeholder engagement are a key part of the project and will help us to understand the role of institutions, regulation and the markets in drought management.

The project team is led by Professor Jim Hall (Environmental Change Institute) and includes Drs Chris Decker and Bettina Lange (Centre for Socio-Legal Studies), Dr Pam Berry (Environmental Change Institute), and Professors Sarah Whatmore, Paul Whitehead, Myles Allen, and Dr Simon Dadson (School of Geography and the Environment).

Funding comes from NERC, in collaboration with ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and AHRC.