Managing the risks, impacts and uncertainties of drought and water scarcity

Droughts and water scarcity pose a significant risk to societies, economies and ecosystems worldwide. Impacts can be both direct, such as affecting crops and reducing water supply and quality, and indirect such as knock-on effects on business production affecting the flow of goods and services. Droughts and water scarcity jointly pose a substantial threat to the environment, agriculture, infrastructure, society and culture in the UK. In 2012 the UK experienced the driest spring in over a century, following two dry winters. A full drought could have led to potential losses of £1.5 billion. Yet despite this severe economic impact, our scientific understanding of the complex drivers causing drought occurrence, duration and intensity, and our ability to characterise and predict minimise their impacts, is often inadequate.

Following the 2011-2012 UK drought experience, the MaRIUS project has received NERC funding to explore how best to manage future droughts. This project – Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of drought and water Scarcity (MaRIUS) will introduce a risk-based approach to drought and water scarcity in order to inform management decisions and prepare households.

The span of the MaRIUS project is large and covers physical and social science topics including: drought governance; drought options and management; community responses and environmental competency. It includes climatic aspects of drought and the derivation of a synthetic ‘drought event library’; hydrological responses both on a catchment and national scale; effects on water quality including nutrient concentration in rivers and algal concentrations in reservoirs, and effect of land use change; the ramifications on water resources on the Thames catchment and also nationally. It includes the impact of drought and water scarcity on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; agriculture and farming; the economy; and on electricity production.

In MaRIUS we have developed new methodologies, datasets and and models for the analysis of drought and water scarcity impacts on river flow, water quality, ecology, farming, the economy, and how these combine to affect people.

Project website: MaRIUS


We held this event on 2 November 2017 to set out the findings of the MaRIUS research, and what outputs are available. This event profiled the research findings on the effect and impacts of droughts and water scarcity in the UK, what outputs are available for use; what further work that is planned, and how interested parties can get involved.

You can view all of the presentations from the MaRIUS LIVE conference, which took place in November 2017.

Further information about and resources from the MaRIUS LIVE! event.

An Introduction to the MaRIUS Project