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Oxford University and UK Government to lead research to improve global water security

A new global research project led by the University of Oxford, involving Professor Ian Thompson and Dr David Clifton of the Department of Engineering Science, and backed by the British Government will help hundreds of millions of people in Africa and South Asia to have reliable access to water. Announced by International Development Minister Baroness Northover, the seven-year research project will receive a £15 million grant from the Department for International Development.

Researcher sampling water quality at a water pump in Kenya
Researcher sampling water quality at a water pump in Kenya
A changing and variable climate, increasing demand for water, crumbling infrastructure, unaffordable bills and water contamination have caused a chronic lack of safe, reliable and clean water in the developing world. The initial focus of the programme will be on fragile states which face great water security risks. Some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people live in fragile states, rural hinterlands, floodplains and rapidly growing urban slums where they have very low resilience to water shortages and the least capacity to cope.

Baroness Northover said: “Access to water is a defining challenge for the 21st century. The UK has already helped 43 million people to access clean water, but there is far more to be done. Research into how water resources can be better managed will help millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Oxford University’s expertise will ensure we can generate new ways to give up to 5 million more people secure water resources in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Professor Ian Thompson
Professor Ian Thompson
Dr Rob Hope
Dr Rob Hope
Dr David Clifton
Dr David Clifton
The programme is being led by Dr Rob Hope, of the School of Geography and the Environment. Professor Ian Thompson, of the Environmental Engineering group in the Department of Engineering Science, will lead on research into water safety via water quality monitoring and water treatment. Dr David Clifton, of the Computational Health Informatics Laboratory in the Department of Engineering Science, will lead on research into quantifying the risk of health and water insecurity for the rural poor, based on machine learning methods used in healthcare research.

Dr Clifton said: "This programme offers a fantastic opportunity to build on the rich body of expertise that exists at Oxford, both in terms of the modelling and understanding of water systems and in statistical machine learning methods for quantifying risk. Of particular significance is that the outcomes of this programme are not just academic in nature: its goals include improving water security for 5 million people in rural, poor regions.  Research of this kind has a double benefit, in that it represents investment both in building scientific capacity in the UK, and in offering tangible improvement to the quality-of-life for people living in developing regions."

The University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: “This research programme is an outstanding example of how the University of Oxford can contribute to the international effort to improve water security globally. Our researchers work to provide innovative solutions to the pressing challenges of climate change, population growth and sustainable development. They are helping to ensure that more people living in poverty can rely on safe water supplies and working to minimise the impact of droughts and floods on lives and livelihoods.

For more on this story please visit: http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/news/articles/150320-iwsp.html

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