Top author turns research into a story for Hay Festival

Award-winning writer Patrice Lawrence discusses the challenges of turning About Drought research into a fictional story for young adults

An award-winning author specialising in teen fiction is writing a story based on About Drought and Drought Risk & You (DRY) research for the world-famous Hay Festival.

Patrice Lawrence, whose novel Orangeboy won the Bookseller Young Adult Prize and the Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction, has been partnered with About Drought through Trans.MISSIONII, a joint initiative by UKRI NERC and Hay Festival.

About Drought and DRY have already won plaudits for their innovative approach to research, data gathering and communications through storytelling, song, animations, video, cartoons and an educational book for primary school children. Patrice has been meeting with our researchers to plan a creative piece of writing aimed at starting conversations about drought with teenagers and young adults. It will be showcased at this year’s Hay Festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, from May 21-31.

Gripping storytelling for young adults

Renowned for gripping, contemporary writing, often set in black working-class communities, that connects with traditionally hard to reach young adult audiences, Patrice is finding it both stimulating and challenging to work with About Drought.

We met in the bustling Wellcome Collection café in London, swelled by shoppers and commuters sheltering from a late afternoon downpour and next to the Wellcome gift shop’s eclectic display of furry toy microbes, ‘earwax’ fudge and science-themed board games to talk about Patrice’s progress so far.

She immediately ‘confessed’: “I have no scientific background and I haven’t written about science before, so I have no idea why Hay chose me but part of the joy for me in writing is the sheer nosiness!

“I have met with Prof Lindsey McEwen, Dr Sarah Ayling and Dr Jill Thompson from the DRY project to talk through the messages from About Drought’s research and I’m now entwining them into a piece of creative writing.

Realistic look at what 2050 life will be like

“Scientists think differently from authors, I’m picking up little details and I am trying to work out how much creative licence I can have. I want to create characters that reflect the types of science in About Drought and I have been thinking ahead to 2050 – what will be different in the lives of those readers, surprising things that might have become precious and valuable – like water? Will the buildings they live, learn and work in be designed differently to cope with drought? Will we be eating different things? I want to weave those everyday differences into a very realistic portrayal of what life will be like and how we will be using water.”

Although the starting point to this story is very different for Patrice, the process is familiar. Her fiction for teens and young adults is careful not to talk down to readers and is not shy of tackling relevant issues such as crime, racism, housing and ‘lovely’ young characters who nevertheless do bad things, including knife crime.  Patrice is committed to working in schools, encouraging and inspiring young people from all backgrounds to read fiction and to write their own, regardless of their skills in spelling and grammar. While most of her books are set in London where Patrice now lives, she grew up in Sussex in an Italian-Trinidadian family.

With many books for children of all ages and adults to her credit, not to mention awards, Patrice has a successful formula for approaching each project. The approach for About Drought’s Trans.MISSIONII story is no different. She explains: “I always start with characters, I need to know who I am writing about, what the beginning situation is and the end. Then I play with the middle.

“I am writing it as a monologue, a first-person short story set in 2050 and narrated by a teenage character. I would love a young person to read it at the Hay Festival.  Young people’s voices are great. I spend a lot of time on buses, listening to young people chat to each other to capture their voices.

“What motivates me is engaging with teenagers and I do lots of work in schools with marginalised teens. They are not a ‘hard to reach’ audience, it is more that they are not reached in the right way.”

Trans.MISSIONII offers new platform

Patrice’s story will be performed / read at the Hay Festival which will also feature two other research project and artist collaborations – one from Colombia and the other from Peru. All three are aimed at communicating cutting edge science to new audiences through new methods. A video version will also be available.

Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director of Hay Festival, introduced Patrice to About Drought. He said: “We are delighted with this collaboration between the award-winning author Patrice Lawrence and the About Drought research project. Wherever we are in the world, Hay Festival is a home for storytellers, a space for writers and readers to come together and explore the biggest challenges of our time. Trans.MISSIONII offers a new platform for collaboration between storytellers from two different worlds: artists and scientists. We hope that by building this shared space for engagement at the cutting edge of environmental research with NERC, we can find new ways to imagine a better future together.”

Read more about the research, watch videos and listen to podcasts at www.AboutDrought.info

Follow Patrice Lawrence on Twitter @LawrencePatrice

About Drought held up as an exemplar of research that has revolutionised the way the UK manages drought and water scarcity

Report back from the final event held at The Royal Society

The UK’s £12m Drought & Water Scarcity Programme, About Drought, has been praised as ‘an exemplar’ of interdisciplinary research by the head of UK Research & Innovation and ‘revolutionary in the way it has been delivered’ by a key stakeholder.

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI, told a final meeting of policy-makers, water companies, regulators and researchers: “This is what a UKRI programme should be like: it’s an exemplar, a response to our changing world, absolutely interdisciplinary and providing a holistic view.

Influence of About Drought research

“The outcomes are good research that has influenced policy-making, for example the Environmental Framework, the Environment Agency and water companies.”

Drawing together the threats from increasing pressure on water supplies, demands for water, our changing climate and the increasing frequency of weather hazards including floods, Sir Mark said: “Drought is a significant challenge for the UK, equally challenging and as important as flooding. We are very good at managing the last emergency but tend to forget the next emergency. We need to reduce our exposure to flood and to drought.”

The event – the About Drought Download – drew together more than five years of NERC-funded research from a wide collaboration at The Royal Society in London on November 7, in an innovative and interactive format. It ranged from science to cinema, forecasting games to a ‘data bar’, the launch of a primary school book and a drought walk in St James’ Park, plus ‘fringe’ events such as the performance of a song written from community workshops, a photo booth and a ‘silent disco’ of podcasts.

Sir Mark highlighted the social science interventions and stakeholder engagement which stretched through the initial programme of four projects (Drought Risk & You, MaRIUS, IMPETUS and Historic Droughts) followed by a knowledge-sharing project, ENDOWS (known as About Drought) saying: “All this needs hydrologists, ecologists but social scientists as well.

Successful public engagement

“The public engagement is particularly impressive because one of the big challenges is how to communicate the risk to people who are thinking only about the last emergency.

“We all need to be better at communicating outcomes and impacts because if we are persuading Government to provide the money to support first-class research and innovation, we need to be much better at telling them what we do with that money – and this programme does that very well.”

Organisations and regulators that are already using the wide range of datasets and tools to better inform decisions, strategic planning and real-time decisions around water supply and drought presented alongside the programme’s key researchers.

Rob Lawson, chair of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) Water Resources panel and Director of Artesia Consulting, described the programme’s outputs as ‘the next paradigm shift’ in the UK’s understanding of drought, water resources and climate change.

He drew a dramatic analogy, saying: “If climate change is the shark then water scarcity and drought are the teeth. And this programme is one way to punch that shark in the teeth!

Changing drought strategies

“It has changed how we plan for drought, providing a ground-breaking cornucopia of drought information and access to data research tools, new techniques and new ways to plan for and to manage drought.”

Rob, who has taken part in a series of stakeholder workshops throughout the projects, also praised the wide engagement, saying: “The way this programme has been delivered over the last five years has been revolutionary, creative and imaginative, [this event has been] better than a conference of academic papers and what can sometimes be death by PowerPoint.”

He joined Sir Mark, policy-makers, regulators, water company executives and communities that have taken part in calling for continued engagement with the UK’s leading drought and water scarcity researchers and experts, saying: “We need to build on this work, this is not the end, just the beginning. We need to continue to work with researchers and the other sectors that will benefit.”

Meyrick Gough, Technical Planning Director of Water Resources South East (WRSE), thanked all the About Drought researchers for the difference their work has made to the UK’s resilience to drought, saying: “You have given us really good tools that really help us to understand the magnitude and impacts of droughts, that have been adapted by the industry and are being used. We need evidence, understanding and insights from research such as this [to support] the choices and interventions we make.”

Continuing the research & stakeholder community

Jamie Hannaford, Principal Investigator of About Drought and Principal Hydrologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) described the whole programme as ‘one hell of a journey’.

He said: “What we have seen over the last couple of years underscores our continuing vulnerability to drought; an increasing gap between supply and demand going into the future; issues around abstraction, protecting the environment, social and cultural issues.

“We are currently seeing the effects of a very long dry period that we can trace back to 2016 with a couple of very dry winters. That dry spell hasn’t gone away, despite flood events.

“There are no international parallels to this research programme, the UK is the envy of many parts of the world in having this investment in drought research that is truly interdisciplinary.

“We will continue this community, we will look for opportunities to build even further on this work, this incredible momentum and engaged community. We have answered lots of questions but more have emerged along the way.”

Read more from stakeholders, users and experts in the About Drought Handbook. It contains all the datasets and data tool outputs from the 5-year programme aimed at supporting decision-makers at every level, sector organisations, consultants as well as researchers, links to published papers, and resources such as Report Cards. Read it online or download it here.

Report back from Drought & Water Scarcity Conference

Drought and Water Scarcity: addressing current and future challenges, International Conference

View presentations below

This international event was held at Pembroke College, University of Oxford over 20-21 March 2019.

Speakers from around the world gathered to present and discuss their research on drought and water scarcity.  There was an impressive range of data, topics, in-depth knowledge and communication insights which demonstrated the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of research into drought and water scarcity.

Delegates heard that drought and water scarcity are expected to become more severe due to the influence of climate change and pressure on water resources from economic and demographic changes.  The impacts of this affects hydrology, agriculture and farming, industry and communities.  Water and the lack of water effects every aspects of society and the environment, and the lack of water has profound consequences.

You can see the full programme here.

A number of the oral and poster presenters have kindly given permission to share their work.  You can access the presentations by clicking on the links below.

 

Presentations available to view

 

Amanda Fencl, University of California, Davis – “Interconnections between Research on Groundwater, Drought and Climate Change

Anne van Loon, Birmingham University – “Drought in the Anthropocene: vulnerability & resilience

Antonia Liguori, Loughborough University – “Learning around ‘storying water’ to build an evidence base to support better decision-making in UK drought risk management

Ayilobeni Kikon, National Institute of Technology Karnataka – “Application of Optimized Machine Learning Technique in Drought Forecasting Using SPI

Caroline King, CEH; co-authored with Daniel Tsegai, Programme Officer, UNCCD Secretariat – “A review of methods for drought impact and vulnerability assessment

Cedric Laize, TBI & GeoData Institute – “Relationship between a drought-oriented streamflow index and a series of riverine biological indicators

Christopher Nankervis, Weather Logistics Ltd – “Use of Copernicus seasonal climate forecast model data to improve the accuracy of long-term forecasts: the UK Summer Rainfall Insights project.”

Daniela Anghileri, University of Southampton – “Strengthening research capabilities for addressing water and food security challenges in sub-Saharan Africa

Emma Cross, Environment Agency – “The 2018 heatwave; its impacts on people and the environment in Thames Area

Elizabeth Brock, Met Office; Katherine Smart, Anglian Water – “Re-analysis of historical events using up to date extreme value techniques, to determine the return period of historical and stochastic droughts, with particular reference to ‘severe’ or 1 in 200 year return period events

Feyera A. Hirpa, Ellen Dyer, Rob Hope, Daniel O. Olago, Simon J. Dadson, University of Oxford – “Finding sustainable water futures in the Turkwel River basin, Kenya under climate change and variability

Fiona Lobley, Environment Agency – “2018 dry weather and its impacts; looking ahead to 2019

Frederick Otu-Larbi, Lancaster University – “Modelling the effects of drought stress on photosynthesis and latent heat fluxes.

Granville Davies and Miranda Foster, Yorkshire Water – “Water resources in Yorkshire, UK in 2018: drought management, perception and communication

Harry West, University of the West of England, Bristol – “Examining spatial variations in the utility of SPI as a 3-month-ahead environmental drought indicator

Henny van Lanen, Wageningen University & Research – “The 2018 NW European Drought: warnings from an extreme event

Katherine Smart, Anglian Water; Elizabeth Brock, Met Office – “Re-analysis of historical events using up to date extreme value techniques, to determine the return period of historical and stochastic droughts, with particular reference to ‘severe’ or 1 in 200 year return period events

Kerstin Stahl, Freiburg – “Customizing drought indices to improve drought impact monitoring and prediction

Kevin Grecksch, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford – “Achieving water efficiency through social norms in the public sector

Len Shaffrey, NCAS, University of Reading – “Has climate change increased the chance of events like the 1976 North West European drought occurring?”

Lucy Barker, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – “How severe were historic hydrological droughts in the UK? Insights from a systematic characterisation and ranking of events back to 1891

Mark Smith, Hydro-Logic Services (International) Ltd – “Recent trends in water resources planning and management, and the rising importance of planning processes in reflecting the ‘consequences’ of relevance and interest to customers and stakeholders

Massimiliano Pasqui, CNR – “A customizable drought monitoring and seasonal forecasting service to support different users’ needs

Matt Fry, CEH – “The Historic Droughts Inventory: an accessible archive of past drought impact information for the UK from diverse documentary sources

Miranda Foster and Granville Davies, Yorkshire Water – “Water resources in Yorkshire, UK in 2018: drought management, perception and communication

Mike Morecroft, Natural England – “Drought impacts on the natural environment and lessons for climate change adaptation

Nikos Mastrantonas, CEH – “Drought Libraries for enhanced resilience in long term water resource planning in the UK

Paul Whitehead, University of Oxford – “Impacts of climate change on water quality affecting upland and lowland rivers, wetlands and delta systems

Peter Anthony Cook, NCAS-Climate, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading – “Variations in the West African Monsoon from reanalysis and model results

Peter Kettlewell, Harper Adams University – “Mitigating drought impact on crop yield by applying film-forming polymers

Rob Wilby, Loughborough – “Challenging the mantra of wetter-winters, drier summers in the UK

Ruth Langridge, University of California, Santa Cruz – “Groundwater management in planning for drought: experience from California, USA

Sandra Santos, Wageningen University – “Improving institutional frameworks integrating local initiatives from communities exposed to drought and water scarcity in Ecuador

Stephen McGuire, SEPA – “Assessing the impacts of water scarcity in Northeast Scotland through the summer of 2018.”

Wiza Mphande, Harper Adams University – “Elucidating Drought Mitigation with Antitranspirants in Spring Wheat

 

About Drought research to feature at RGS-IBG annual conference

Innovative work from the DRY (Drought Risk & You) Project including storying drought, drought media and communication triggers for changing water use, will be presented at the prestigious annual RGS-IBG (Royal Geographical Society with the Institute for British Geographers) international conference. The conference is being held at the Royal Geographical Society in London from 27th to 30th August 2019.

Prof Lindsey McEwen, Professor in Environmental Management at UWE Bristol

The session is titled ‘Linking new interdisciplinary research into UK drought risk to explorations of the summer 2018 drought impacts’ and is being organised by Prof Lindsey McEwen, Professor in Environmental Management at UWE Bristol & Lead PI Project DRY, and Rebecca Pearce, Research Fellow, University of Exeter & About Drought Social Science Coordinator. The draft programme is due to be published this month.

Contributing papers and authors (including non-presenting authors) are:

  • ‘Daylighting the hidden’: interdisciplinary reflections on theory and practice of storying drought – Lindsey McEwen (University of the West of England, UK) (presenter), Liz Roberts (University of the West of England, UK), Antonia Liguori (Loughborough University, UK) and Mike Wilson (Loughborough University, UK)
  • Drought media – Joanne Garde-Hansen (University of Warwick, UK) (presenter)
  • Achieving water efficiency in the public sector through social norms – Kevin Grecksch (University of Oxford, UK) (presenter)
  • Changes in household consumption during the extreme summer weather in 2018 – Rob Lawson (Artesia Consulting, UK) (presenter)
  • Understanding the hydro-climatic conditions of the 2018 drought: experiences and lessons from the UK livestock sector – Gloria Salmoral Portillo (Cranfield University, UK) (presenter), Tim Hess (Cranfield University, UK) and Jerry Knox (Cranfield University, UK)
  • Unexpected Impacts of the 2018 drought in Cornwall: What has changed since 1976 and what does this tell us about future droughts? – Rebecca Pearce (University of Exeter, UK) (presenter)
  • If you can’t take the heat, get out the kitchen – when heat and water impacts of drought combine – Sarah Ward (University of Exeter, UK) (presenter), Kimberly Bryan (University of Exeter, UK) and Timothy Taylor (University of Exeter, UK)

Full programme details will become available on the RGS-IBG website and booking is open.

About Drought experts at EGU General Assembly 2019

Experts from across the UK’s £12m drought and water scarcity research programme – About Drought – will be sharing insights at EGU2019, including Dr Katie Smith who has been invited to present a keynote talk.

Droughts and water scarcity jointly pose a substantial threat to the environment, agriculture, infrastructure, society and culture in the UK, yet our ability to characterise and predict their occurrence, duration and intensity, as well as minimise their impacts, has often been inadequate.

From the new ‘Shiny’ app to share and visualise data to a searchable archive of past drought impact information from diverse documentary sources going back 160 years, as well as podcasts and drought myth-busting videos, About Drought has brought together science and social sciences in a successful interdisciplinary approach that addresses current and future water scarcity challenges.

Four projects have been funded as part of this major programme with an additional final project – ENDOWS (known as About Drought) – focusing on engaging with stakeholders, practitioners and the public to involve them in the programme and to disseminate information about the findings, outputs and datasets that everyone can use. ENDOWS is also enhancing operational drought management through improved monitoring and early warning of drought which is being co-developed with stakeholders during the ongoing dry weather. Research also covers the impact of climate change and weather it is increasing the chance of events like the 1976 North West European drought occurring. The programme is funded by NERC, ESRC, EPSRC, BBRC and AHRC.

Although the programme does not wrap up until later this year, last year’s drought across Europe called  elements of its outputs into operational use ahead of schedule, by water suppliers, regulators and policy-makers. You can hear about this and other aspects of the programme during EGU2019 in Vienna, April 7-12.

The four projects are:

  • Historic Droughts – understanding past drought episodes to develop improved tools for the future.
  • IMPETUS – improving predictions of drought to inform user decisions.
  • MaRIUS – managing the risks, impacts and uncertainties of drought and water scarcity.
  • DRY – Drought Risk & You – bringing together stories and science to support better decision-making for drought risk management.

Katie Smith (Drought Analyst & Modeller, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK)

Monday, April 8, 14:00-14:15 Room B

Keynote talk for session “Hydrological extremes: from droughts to floods” – What’s past is prologue: Reconstructing historic flow data to inform management of future hydrological extremes.

Read the abstract.

Follow Katie on Twitter @katieasmith26

Lucy Barker (Hydrological Analyst at Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK)

Monday, April 8, 14:15-14:30 Room B

Session “Hydrological extremes: from droughts to floods” – UK Hydrological Droughts: how severe were historic events? Insights from a systematic event characterisation and ranking over the last 125 years. Read the abstract.

Monday, April 8, 16:15-18:00 Room -2.16

Session “Using R in Hydrology”. Lucy is a co-convenor and will be presenting her Shiny app, developed within the Historic Droughts project, as a demo of how you can use Shiny to share and visualise data. Read the abstract.

Follow Lucy on Twitter @lucybarkerjane.

Mike Bowes (Nutrient Hydrochemist & Group Leader on River Water Quality and Ecology, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK)

The work Mike will be presenting is not directly funded through About Drought but the understanding of the causes / triggers of algal blooms in the River Thames will be used within ENDOWS this year to predict how the size and magnitude of algal and cyanobacterial blooms may change under future climate scenarios / future droughts.

Monday, April 8, 14:00-14:15 Room 2.31

Session “Advancing understanding of hydrochemical and ecological processes controlling fate of natural organic matter, nutrients and pollutants in freshwater and engineered systems using state-of-the-art methods” – Utilizing high-frequency, automated monitoring to determine nutrient sources, fates and impacts on microbiology in the River Thames catchment, UK. Read the abstract.

Nikolaos Mastrantonas (Research Associate Hydrologist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, UK)

Nikos is contributing to development of stakeholder bespoke visualisation schemes for sub-seasonal/seasonal forecasting of river flows and in the development of nationally consistent datasets, aiming to enhance resilience in the UK public water sector.

Friday, April 12, 16:15-18:00 Hall X3 Poster 85

Session “Extreme meteorological and hydrological events induced by severe weather and climate change” –Drought Libraries: a nationally consistent toolkit for improved resilience in the UK public water supply sector – poster presentation. Read the abstract.

You can follow Nikos on Twitter @NikMastrantonas.

Find out more from About Drought:

Watch a news report from the About Drought Showcase

View our drought myth-busting videos featuring water users, regulators and About Drought experts:

Listen to our podcasts featuring audio anecdotes with people recalling the 1976 drought, gardening, wildfire, media coverage of drought and water saving campaigns.

Browse this About Drought website to discover more about our research, latest events and sign up to the About Drought newsletter.

Follow us on Twitter: @AboutDrought

Thank you: Drought and Water Scarcity: addressing current and future challenges, International Conference

Thank you to all the guest speakers, presenters, poster pitchers and delegates who joined us from the UK and around the world for our Drought & Water Scarcity Conference on March 20-21.
The impressive range of data, topics, in-depth knowledge and communication insights demonstrated the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of the research that makes up About Drought.
We are preparing a post event e-pack that will feature content from the event and will be emailed to delegates.
Coming up we have workshops aimed at those using our research. If you would like to be notified of these and our other events, please subscribe to our programme newsletter via our homepage (bottom left) or email info@AboutDrought.info.

Water-saving media campaign entries are a splash hit!

Innovative media campaign ideas aimed at Millennials from Falmouth University students Chiara and David
Drought status shower icons designed by Chiara and David (Falmouth University)

Chiara & David’s shower icons in forecast (Falmouth University)

“The results span both social media and traditional media platforms, embracing the humorous side of water-saving and aiming to draw in a new, younger audience with different attitudes to consumption and waste”

By Dr Rebecca Pearce
Research Fellow at University of Exeter, who was the social science coordinator for About Drought

What’s the secret to persuading Millennials to change their habits and save water when drought looms? Who better to come up with effective answers than students from the School of Communication Design at Falmouth University?

The results are an inspiring range of peer-to-peer dynamic ideas and three will be showcased to delegates at this week’s Drought & Water Scarcity Conference at University of Oxford’s Pembroke College.

Having visited Falmouth in December 2018 to brief students extensively, I wasn’t sure how much of what I had said or presented to them would engage their creativity but they clearly listened carefully, carried out a substantial amount of work, and have come up with some great concepts. They have done a really excellent job and I would have liked to be able to showcase more of the results.

The quality is so high that I believe there may be some key players among the water companies and regulators that will have specific interests in some of the proposed approaches.

Posters to encourage water-saving behaviour in Millenials by Dannie & Max (Falmouth University)

I asked the students to shake-up the way we talk about drought and water-saving. Challenged to create a media campaign to raise awareness of water scarcity, drought, or a water-saving product, the results span both social media and traditional media platforms, embracing the humorous side of water-saving and aiming to draw in a new, younger audience with different attitudes to consumption and waste. They have clearly understood that I wanted a new narrative and approach to drought and water scarcity and they really delivered on this, having undertaken their own market research to fully understand their audiences.

Poster to encourage water-saving behaviour in Millenials by Watson and Cox (Falmouth University)
Poster to encourage water-saving behaviour in Millenials by Watson and Cox (Falmouth University)

Much of the work is based on humour rather than education or negative approaches such as rationing and threatening hosepipe bans. As the students pointed out, Millennials use a lot of water, few have gardens and hosepipes, and most don’t pay for their water directly as they either live at home, where parents pay, or in shared accommodation with bills included. They have no idea of the cost of water or the impact of using too much and therefore our current approach to water-saving campaigns will cease to be effective as baby boomers decline in number.

Innovative ideas include:

  • A Spotify Drought Playlist of 3-minute songs to shower to
  • Water-saving superheroes who feature in a series of funny and effective YouTube & TV adverts
  • A public installation of a glass shower cube which projects a water-saving superhero inside – viewers see the benefits of switching off whilst soaping up
  • A drought severity traffic light system applicable to weather forecasts, weather apps and water bills
  • Social media water-saving challenges
  • A water-saving week in June with plenty of neat ideas to make people sign-up to be water-savers and show-off their water-saving habits on Instagram etc. Popular online green influencers would be approached to get involved
  • Ambient stickers for sinks and toilet floors, with associated poster campaign showing things that Millennials save for, going down the drain as they waste water

Spotify playlist to encourage 3 minute showers by Dannie & Max (Falmouth University)
Spotify playlist to encourage 3 minute showers by Dannie & Max (Falmouth University)

If you are joining us at the Drought and Water Scarcity Conference on March 20-21 (2019) you can see a display of work by the students on the 1st floor, in the Andrew Pitt room. The students would love to hear from anyone interested in taking forward any of the campaign ideas commercially. It would be great if this competition could provide them with a springboard into a rewarding and creative career.

Drought experts to address UK conference March 20-21, Oxford

Fish rescues during drought
The Environment Agency carried out fish rescues during last summer’s drought, including this one on the River Teme in Hertfordshire. PHOTO: DAVID THROUP/ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

From hydrological modelling to drought communications strategies, from Italy to Birmingham, an impressive line-up of speakers has been released for the Drought & Water Scarcity Conference in Oxford – a must for anyone in research and policy aspects of water supply, quality, data, modelling, environment, agriculture, risk, policy, regulation and more.

The 2-day conference – March 20-21 – is organised by the UK Drought & Water Scarcity Research Programme (About Drought) and hosted by the University of Oxford. It will take an international perspective on droughts affecting our world, covering themes of climatology, hydrology, risks and impacts of drought, planning and impacts on communities and businesses.

Dr Helen Gavin, of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, is manager of About Drought’s MaRIUS project. She says: “The World Economic Forum has ranked water crises as among the top five global risks in 2019 – for eight years running.  Not only is it a major risk, but water crises are linked to many other social and environmental significant risks that confront our society. In our globally connected world, droughts and water scarcity affect everyone, and the unprecedented events experienced in recent years highlight a real long-term risk of severe drought.

“In response to this risk, our conference, “Drought and Water Scarcity: addressing current and future challenges”, focuses on the science, impacts and management of droughts, featuring case studies from around the world from highly regarded speakers.

“This multi-themed conference features case studies from around the world, exploring the different facets of droughts from forecasting to the implementation of better decision-making frameworks, from the assessment and management of drought impacts on natural ecosystems and communities, to the use of storytelling, models and earth observation.”

Conference speakers include:

The full programme can be viewed on our conference webpage, or downloaded as a PDF. Tickets cost £90 (2 days) or £50 (1 day).

Booking is open via the Oxford University booking system. Booking closes on March 13th.

Future water for food – About Drought at IRRIGEX 2019


If you are going to IRRIGEX on February 27-28, you can talk to our experts from the About Drought programme on Stand 10.
With many farmers unable to fill their reservoirs and time running out for winter fills, our leading researchers will be available at the two-day exhibition, in Peterborough, for informal conversations about the wealth of decision-supporting data About Drought has already made available.

Two of our team – Professors Ian Holman and Jerry Knox of Cranfield University also feature in the impressive programme of speakers and seminars.

In last summer’s drought some tools produced by About Drought – the £12m UK Drought & Water Scarcity Research Programme – were fast-tracked into real-time use in some sectors. Forecasts are currently indicating below average rainfall for this month and March so IRRIGEX is a timely opportunity to find out more about the tools available and how they can support your decision-making.

The theme for IRRIGEX this year is ‘Future water for food’ and it is free to attend. For full details visit www.irrigex.com. We look forward to meeting you on Stand 10.

About Drought briefing note 2: How to plan and manage water resources for public water supply

Image of front page of briefing note 2
Front page of About Drought briefing note 2 – How to plan and manage water resources for public water supply: future directions

This About Drought brief, How to plan and manage water resources for public water supply: future directions, looks at some risks, challenges and opportunities for supplies of safe and wholesome water to the UK population. It aims to help water planners and managers by presenting some of the most up-to-date approaches for dealing with uncertainty, including simulation and risk-based approaches, offering guidance on decision support tools and indicating future directions for planning and managing water resources. This is the second of a series of briefs to support improved decision making in relation to droughts and water scarcity.

The UK faces water supply shortages in the future, especially in London & the south-east. Increases in frequency & intensity of drought & high-precipitation events are projected in most regions. Uncertainty is ‘the new normal’ & conventional approaches to forecasting (based on past observed data) are less reliable than they were. To remain resilient in these uncertain conditions, the effective planning and management of public water resources is vital. Decision support for risk-based water resource planning is already available, and this brief aims to share some relevant findings from the DWS programme with water planners and managers, so that they can be put into practice moving forwards.