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Oxford awarded major programme for groundwater research in Africa

Oxford University researchers have been awarded £1.9m within UPGro: “Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor”, an initiative funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Department for International Development, and the Economic and Social Research Council. This three-year programme of research links the Computational Health Informatics Lab (in the Department of Engineering Science Institute of Biomedical Engineering) to the School of Geography and the Environment.

UPGro: Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the PoorImproved understanding of groundwater risks, and the responses of institutions to competing growth and development goals, is central to accelerating and sustaining Africa’s development. Africa’s groundwater systems are a critical, but poorly understood, socio-ecological system. Explosive urban growth, irrigated agricultural expansion, industrial pollution, untapped mineral wealth, rural neglect, and environmental risks often converge to increase the complexity and urgency of governance challenges across Africa’s groundwater systems.

The project will make four major contributions to support interdisciplinary science and governance of managing groundwater risks for growth and development in Africa:

  1. an automated, daily monitoring network for shallow groundwater levels – the first system of its kind in the world and replicable at scale
  2. a new Groundwater Risk Management Tool, which is transferable and sustainable in Africa
  3. new epidemiological insights into the health impacts of faulty or intermittent water supplies
  4. improved theory and evidence of groundwater governance and poverty pathways.

Lecturer in the Department’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering and leader of the Computational Health Informatics Lab, David Clifton, said: “This award underlines Oxford’s excellence in the development of innovative solutions to some of society’s most fundamental problems. Information-driven technologies have an important role to play in improving the lives of those in the developing world, and this programme allows us to adapt systems that were originally developed for “big data” analysis of health records within NHS hospitals. Our programme was ranked first of the 80+ consortia involved in the funding process, which demonstrates the potential of social scientists and engineers working closely to address problems of global significance.

For more information, please visit the UPGro website.