Introducing UK drought and water scarcity research to Korean audiences in Glasgow, United Kingdom

Jaeyoung Lee, who is a member of the MaRIUS project, received funding from the project to present her research at the 2018 Europe-Korea Conference on Science and Technology held in Glasgow, 20-24 August 2018. She describes her experience below.

Jaeyoung Lee
Jaeyoung Lee

Every summer, the Europe-Korea Conference on Science and Technology (EKC) brings together Korean scientists and engineers studying and working in Europe and in Korea. The conference aims to foster and develop new relationships, exchange knowledge and ideas and to promote science and technology that is of service to society. It also attracts European scientists and engineers interested in collaborating with Korean nationals. This year marked the 11th EKC, and it was held in Glasgow, UK from the 20th to the 24th of August 2018.

Science and Technology sessions provide an excellent opportunity for participants to exchange state of the art knowledge in comprehensive scientific areas ranging from basic science to engineering and policy. Ten groups with 42 specific sessions were on offer this year and my presentation was included in the basic science group, and the ‘Water on Earth: Rain, River and Ocean’ session. Many speakers were talking about their research within the Korean context, or Europe-Korean relationships or possible collaboration projects, whereas I shared my research in the UK context as part of the UK Drought and Water Scarcity programme.

I opened the presentation with a question, “Is there a drought in the UK?” As many of the Koreans in the audience are living in Europe and the UK and have experienced another dry and hot summer this year, a few started nodding, and many of them were curious about UK droughts. I started my presentation with how the MaRIUS project has started, and what we have been doing. I then brought the audience’s attention to my research on the ‘Dynamic water quality modelling in the Severn-Thames river systems and assessment of the impact of a water transfer in drought’. Inter-basin water transfer schemes have been discussed to tackle concerns on sustainability of water resources in the UK, and the Severn-Thames transfer scheme is one of the water resource development options under consideration by the Thames Water Utilities. The occurrence of severe drought events in past and climate change have highlighted the need for such transfer schemes. Key issues to examine and resolve relate to understanding water availability, water quality and the potential adverse biological impacts and it is important to ensure that both donor and receiving rivers are not adversely affected by the scheme. To explore possible risks and impacts of a water transfer on the Severn and Thames system, I applied newly developed MaRIUS climate change projection data (Weather at Home 2; W@H 2) to a hydrological model as well as a water quality model and then considered a set of hypothetical water transfer scenarios. I focused on my methodology and preliminary findings on water quality impacts including Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) concentrations in both river systems, which was driven by w@h 2 climate data. I got a few questions after the presentation, and the one we needed to discuss more was ‘the definition of drought’. As drought can mean different things to different people and is therefore defined in many ways, I explained the type of droughts including meteorological, agricultural, hydrological and socio-economical drought and the relevant risks and impacts.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking with people who are not familiar with drought research in the UK, but at the same time it was challenging to translate complex science into words that a more general audience can understand as well as find interesting. These are skills that scientists must develop to have any policy impact, so I thank the MaRIUS project for giving me this opportunity to do so.

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