Informing the power sector
“There is much to be done and having access to the existing About Drought materials can only better inform the deliberations.”Neil Edwards, Environment & Chemistry Technical Support, RWE Generation UK
Neil Edwards has represented RWE Generation UK in stakeholder discussions with MaRIUS and DRY, as well as attending conferences and workshops. He believes those connections have enabled About Drought’s outputs to be of greater benefit to the power sector, including building better resilience of services that rely on water-dependent infrastructure.
He says: “The next few years could be important in how the UK positions itself to deliver resilience of services – such as public water supply, power and food – in a period in which we are going to be economically and institutionally challenged. There is much to be done and having access to the existing About Drought materials can only better inform the deliberations.
New contacts improved understanding
“I’ve developed useful contacts through networking at the major events and workshops with practitioners that I didn’t have before. The networking and events together, gave me opportunities to contribute to improving the wider understanding of the interaction between power plants and the aquatic environment, which is sometimes not well-represented in academic literature.
Boost for power sector
“I believe this to be of value to RWE and to the wider power sector. It led to some power sector-focused work being done within the research programme, which has given power sector players a better information base to think through some aspects of water quality in drought and hence, contribute to developing better understanding of resilience issues.
“I also hope that the forecasting initiative with CEH will lead to improved river flow and seasonal weather forecasting information for relevant power sector locations, which will aid better risk management of commercial positions in low flow events; though this has not advanced as fast as I would have liked.”
Neil has also been able to draw on access to communications resources. He says: “I have used the softer communications / story telling materials to get an understanding of wider social considerations surrounding major drought events as background in participation in freshwater-related stakeholder activity, such as interaction with DEFRA/EA on water resource management and regional water planning.”
Risk and scenario building
Collaboration with MaRIUS supported RWE’s work on risk to power generation and scenario building. Neil says: “We have used the tailored water quality modelling work to better understand potential risk – this is now factored into our thinking and into our interaction with DEFRA/EA on aspects of resilience. We are aware of the grid-to-grid river flow work and climate change-related work, and we would access it if we felt the need.”
Interview by Sally Stevens
Posted October 2019
Putting the needs of stakeholders at the heart of drought research
“Climate change is decreasing water availability and this research has definitely demonstrated how that can cause significant problems in water treatment works and has given us a better understanding of different types of water resource options.”Dr Chris Lambert, Supply Demand Senior Technical Advisor, Thames Water
From the initial proposal for funding in 2014 to the final event on November 7, 2019, About Drought was driven by the needs of the organisations, communities and people who would be relying on the results of its research. Their practical requirements, regulatory restrictions, governance and operational methods have informed the structure, design and accessibility of the datasets and tools.
Matching the needs of water industry, NGOs and government
Chris Lambert, who is responsible for developing Thames Water’s Water Resource Management and Drought plans, joined the MaRIUS Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG). The aim of drawing this expert group from industry, NGOs and government to steer the project, liaising with MaRIUS’ social and natural scientists, was to ensure its outputs, including the ‘impacts dashboard’, matched the needs of the group in an evolving policy context. This early access proved crucial to the benefits Thames Water has gained.
Chris says: “Being on the SAG as well as being involved in the parts of the project that were relevant to Thames Water, gave me wider visibility of the total work of the project. I had a much better understanding of how we could use some of the research in developing Thames Water’s water supply strategy.
“It led to us commissioning some tailored, specific work that gave us a better insight into the reliability of future water resource development and then we fed into our 2019 Water Resource Management Plan.”
Algae growth impact on reservoirs and abstraction
Of particular interest was the work on algae growth in rivers and ‘drought coincidence’. As a result, Thames Water commissioned its own more detailed research on how projected algae growth could impact on extracting water from reservoirs in conditions of water scarcity or drought, slowing its passage through the filtering system and therefore the speed at which public demand for water could be met.
Thames Water also commissioned the development of a bespoke application from MaRIUS’s water quality research data, focusing on the catchments of the Severn and Thames, and the added likely impact of climate change on water availability.
There are further potential impacts of the timing and positioning of water abstraction, i.e. from the bottom of the river catchment as opposed to higher up, including for the health of the Severn and Thames catchments. The results led to a change in plans for the management regime of Thames Water’s reservoirs.
Climate change is decreasing water availability
Chris says: “If you look into future likely scenarios, climate change is decreasing water availability and this research has definitely demonstrated how that can cause significant problems in water treatment works and has given us a better understanding of different types of water resource options.
“Part of my role is to engage with academic bodies to understand the latest thinking and communicate it internally to our senior executives and board members and to our external stakeholders as well. Another part is ensuring we have effective communication for public and community consultation on our Water Management Plans for the more practical aspects of day-to-day water supply. Through my involvement with MaRIUS and About Drought I have found the events – such as the one-day water suppliers’ feedback workshop in Oxford – very useful in giving me visibility of what has been done and in supporting me in getting internal funding.
“I have been able to follow-up with UK-based speakers who have always been very responsive and my colleagues have also found them very helpful.
“I do think that it would be worthwhile continuing bringing this community together, even if it is just once a year, to keep us up to speed. The work isn’t going to stop just because About Drought has stopped.
“It’s important to ensure the good work that has been done to date continues and doesn’t dry up just because the funding dries up.”
Interview by Sally Stevens
Posted October 2019
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”
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”
We held our Showcase 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.
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.
The event was very successful and provided a key opportunity for stakeholders and researchers to meet and discuss the effect and impact of drought and water scarcity in the UK and what research outputs are available for the whole community.
View further information on the MaRIUS website