Reflections on the 10th Annual Hydro-Hegemony Conference

King’s Water held a strong presence at the 10th Hydro-Hegemony Conference earlier this month, highlighted by presentations and co-organizing from Professor Naho Mirumachi, a presentation on La Plata governance by Isabella Battistelo Espindola, and attendance by King’s 1st year PhD student, Veronica Horvath.

Hosted at the Humanity Hub in the Hague, Netherlands, Hydro-hegemony 10 was notably international, with many languages being spoken during coffee break debates and experts from river basins across the world.

ImageDuring the closing reflections of the conference, the words “hopeful, inspired, and grateful” were commonplace. Many emerging scholars were excited to share their work for the first time among seminal authors in the field. Many collaborators were excited to have a chance to re-connect and discuss new life events and research endeavors. Conversations over coffee breaks were held in multiple languages while scholars and practitioners debated the topics presented at the prior sessions.

Sessions provided both topical and regional coherence, namely around stakeholder representation, the power of framing and discourse in transboundary water conflicts and cooperation, and current issues in the Nile, Helmand, Lake Victoria, Lake Chad, and La Plata Basins.

In an effort to move beyond binary associations, King’s Water’s Dr. Naho Mirumachi and King’s Geography graduate and University of East Anglia Professor Mark Zeitoun discussed the many faces of conflict and cooperation. Along with HH10 co-organizer Dr. Jeroen Warner, they have a book being released early 2020 on opportunities for transformation.“Do Rivers Have Rights?” was one of the favorite sessions and the presentations on Colombia’s Atrato River made the room abuzz. In particular, hearing from judicial officer Aquiles Arrieta was quite compelling.

PhD Profile: Visiting Scholar Isabela Battistello Espindola

Hello, my name is Isabela Battistello Espindola, I’m 29 years old and I am a PhD visiting researcher here at King’s Geography. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics from FACAMP (Faculty of Campinas), Brazil, and a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences from Federal University of Sao Carlos (Sao Carlos, Brazil). Now, I am doing my doctorate in Human Geography at the Department of Geography, University of Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil). I received a fellowship from the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo to develop my doctorate studies. And due to that fellowship, I could apply to receive an international doctorate fellowship to develop my research studies abroad. And I ended up coming to King’s to do that. I am really excited to be in King’s, to be part of King’s Water and to be in London! I think this is a huge opportunity for me.

You might be asking what I am studying.  My PhD research focuses on the management of transboundary water resources in South America and it takes the La Plata Basin as a study case. South America has almost 30% of the world’s water reserves (Did you know that?), with 25 out of 310 transboundary river basins. More than half of South America’s territory is covered by such basins (Quite amazing, isn’t it?). Despite its wealth of water, South America is not exempt from water-related conflicts (Yeah, sadly we have those). The La Plata Basin is one of the main South American river basins, being shared between Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. With an area of 3.1 million km², the La Plata Basin is the fifth largest river basin on the planet. The second largest in South America (The first is the Amazon basin, but I think that you already know that). The La Plata basin has more than 75 large dams spread across its territory, and an estimated population of over 100 million.

My research focuses on the La Plata basin management, importance and recognition before the States and regional institutions (such as MERCOSUL, U.N.), using possible contributions from the Intergovernmental Committee of the Countries of The La Plata Basin (CIC), it’s own international river organization, for the development of institutional and legal frameworks for South American transboundary waters management. (The photo above is with the Secretary of CIC).

Water issues are relevant to any State’s agenda. This is common fact. Water is a natural resource of high importance to all living beings, gaining social, economic and political relevance in our society. Its quantitative distribution is not homogeneous and the maintenance of its quality to meet the different demands has been compromised by the diverse uses and inefficiency of water management systems. In the case of transboundary waters, the problem is even greater, as they need exclusive legal treatment, since they are located in two or more countries, causing consequences for all those who share. This is the case of South America.

Why come to research at King’s? One of the main strands of analysis and studies of geopolitics and international relations around transboundary waters is hydropolitics. This aspect permeates aspects of international conflicts and cooperation related to transboundary water resources. Through a bibliometric survey (shown in the partial report presented to the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo for Process 2017/17997-9), I discovered that King’s College London stands out in terms of productivity on the subject of hydropolitics. In addition, Dr. Naho Mirumachi is one of the main references on the subject. The TWINS matrix, a methodology for the analysis of conflict relations and international cooperation related to transboundary water resources, developed by Professor Mirumachi, is a novelty and has not yet been applied to the case of the La Plata Basin.

The Department of Geography excels through a critical approach to development theories, ideologies, practices and policies, conducting empirical research on a variety of geographical configurations and scales from the international to the local. With respect to research, the department brings together a number of themes linked to the issue of development, such as water resources management, vulnerability to disasters, global health policies, modernism and decolonization, environmentalism, consumer practices, migration and livelihoods urban. It is a world reference center.

King’s Water specializes in both the environment and development, covering the social and physical sciences to explore the challenges of water governance, from global to local scales. It is an interdisciplinary group that works on the biophysical, political, socioeconomic, development and institutional aspects of water resources and their management. Among the main themes are research on conflict, cooperation and water security, as well as institutions for allocation and access to water. Research through King’s Water ranges from theoretical discussions, socio-political analysis of water interactions and innovation to methods and tools related to remote sensing, hydrological policy support systems and ecotoxicology. These themes, particularly on the political and institutional aspects of water conflict and cooperation intersect with my research.

Finally… do I like my research? For sure! I believe that this is an extremely relevant and urgent, once it seeks to discuss the problematic surrounding the issue of transboundary waters, taking the La Plata Basin in South America as a study case, considering aspects of geopolitics, hydropolitics, international relations, among others in its analysis and discussions.

… and what happens next? Plans for the future? For sure is to finish my PhD and start my postdoc as soon as possible. Also, I would like to return to teaching, because I really like it and miss it.

If you want to learn more about Isabela’s research, contact her at or King’s Water Research Assistant, Veronica Horvath, at

Keep up to date with her research via google scholar here.

Reporting back from the field: Okavango 2019

After a successful field visit in the Okavango delta, students report back on their activities.  In this post, we have Anna Nohre, a MSc Water: Science and Governance student writing about her experience.

At the beginning of July I was fortunate to partake in a Kings College London field trip to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The Delta is a unique wetland environment that is habitat to a range of incredible animals and plants, which KCL is examining in association with the PLuS Alliance colleagues from University of New South Wales and Arizona State University .

Our group included staff and students from all three universities. A few days in Maun, on the edge of the delta, allowed time for team building, learning accurate surveying techniques, and studying the physical environment of the delta. I especially valued University of Botswana’s Dr Mike Murray-Hudson giving us a talk on the eco hydrological flows that create the delta environment. The annual flood of the delta is imperative to its health, as sediment and nutrients are transported and deposited across the plain. Thus disruption to the flow upstream in Angola or Namibia could have detrimental effects to the delta downstream. This insight gave me a better appreciation for the unique, but potentially fragile environment we were visiting.

The flight to our base camp in the Abu concession of the Okavango Delta was spectacular. We flew low at only one thousand feet and were able to see elephants and hippos at certain points. I was excited to finally be in the delta, seeing impala, warthogs, vultures, vervet monkeys and baboons on the short drive from the airstrip to camp.

Over the next few days we completed surveys of mammals, birds, and plant life, taking care to accurately digitise the results each day that will also help build up a body of knowledge for students and researchers of PLuSAlliance and at base camp. The surveys also gave me the opportunity to learn how to identify species, and by the end of the week it was satisfying to name numerous types of birds and antelope without consulting identification books.

Students working together for transect measurements and a Little Bee Eater being spotted

Certain birds such as the Little Bee Eater, African Fish Eagle, Lilac Breasted Roller, and the Fork-tailed Drongo were easily recognisable by their distinct features. While similar looking species of starlings were harder to differentiate, leading to some amusing mnemonics.

The trip was a treasure trove of information and has been highly informative for my dissertation. I made field observations throughout the week, including lecture notes on relevant topics. Furthermore, I was able to conduct interviews with water management experts who study the Okavango that will be my primary methodology within my project which focuses on application of the problem-shed concept to water management within the Okavango River basin.

A male leopard and distinct leopard footprints left around camp

It was amazing being so close to delta wildlife, even whilst in camp a highlight was one slightly nervous night when some elephants spent a few hours shaking nuts from the trees above our tent. Similarly waking up and discovering leopard tracks nearby was both disconcerting and exhilarating. We were lucky enough to also see a leopard later in the week.

Safe to say I will never have another experience quite like it, and I am so thankful to all the professors who shared their expertise and enthusiasm for their subjects, as well as all the staff at the Elephants without Borders camp who hosted us.



blog post series from the okavango delta

Staff and students from King’s Water are en route to the Okavango basin.  As a third entry to our series of blog posts on the fieldtrip to this unique river basin, MA student, Hanna Chorbachi reports on what she’s looking forward to during the trip.  This exciting trip will aim to understand the complex sustainability challenges of the Okavango delta and is part of a joint project of the PLuS Alliance with University of New South Wales and Arizona State University.  See previous blog posts here and here.

I’m a Masters student on the Geopolitics, Territory and Security programme at King’s. I completed my undergraduate degree at Exeter University, in English Literature and International Relations. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I had a keen focus on resource use in literature, and how changing land use was represented in memoirs. After graduating, I knew I wanted to apply my knowledge of resource use and its impacts in a real-world context, hence the decision to study a Geography Masters at King’s. My thesis focuses on the multi-scalar network of actors that are involved in managing the Okavango. I look at how actors other than the state, such as the international level (both NGOs and foreign governments), and the local level, influence the riparian governments’ dominant basin management narratives.

Throughout my Masters, I’ve taken modules in the Political Economy of the Environment; Water, Security and the Environment; and the Geopolitics of Natural Resource Disputes. I’ve also audited modules in the Political Economy of Oil and Gas, and Water Resources and Management. This has given me a breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of resource management. Furthermore, through attending events and seminars hosted by King’s throughout the year including the public perceptions of climate change, and hydro-hegemony, my interests have been steered in the direction of water management, transboundary issues, and power relations.

Outside of King’s, I’m a volunteer speaker for WaterAid, and have just secured a job in the UK Civil Service. As part of DEFRA, I will be working in their international conservation team, helping to realise green corridors for wildlife, and create programmes that foster positive human-wildlife relations across Southern Africa.

The trip to the Okavango Delta will be highly beneficial in multiple ways. Firstly, I will have the opportunity to listen to lectures from leading academics from the universities involved in the PLuS Alliance, as well as lectures from partners that manage the area directly. By experiencing the Delta first-hand, I hope to gain an understanding of how basin management decisions affect both humans and the ecosystem, and understand the trade-off that occurs between plans for socio-economic and infrastructural development, and wishes to protect the environment. I will also be helping to examine data on the biodiversity of the area, which is important for monitoring ecosystem health. Finally, the trip will allow me to experience one of the areas I will be working on in my role at DEFRA, meaning I will be more experienced and knowledgeable about the on-the-ground reality of an area I will be helping to manage in the future.

PhD Researcher Profile: Meng Zhang

Meng Zhang graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Tianjin University of Technology, China, and a master’s degree in Pollution and Environmental Control from the University of Manchester, UK. After years of study in the field of environmental science, Meng has a broad understanding and grasp of environment knowledge in water, atmosphere, solid waste, environmental monitoring and assessment. However, Meng is most interested in water environment and water ecosystem. During his master’s degree, he practiced water quality monitoring and microbial analysis in the Peak District and Prays Mountain.
Meng is now pursuing a doctorate in water pollution at the Department of Geography, King’s College London., supervised by Dr. Michael Chadwick.
Meng’s study had three main directions. First, the effects of nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon on water quality in time and space, and explore the relationship between their effects and land use types. Second, explore the uptake and regeneration of nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon at the sediment-water interface. This is crucial to the current water quality and water ecological restoration. Many studies have shown that when exogenous pollution of water bodies is effectively controlled, the water bodies may still be polluted by the release of nutrients from sediments to the overlying water. Third, explore the metabolism of river ecosystem through the change rate of dissolved oxygen.
China is facing the challenges of urban river pollution control, Meng chooses Beijing for his study. He is also doing experiment with tributaries of the Thames River in London to provide richer data on potential comparisons between the water quality of urban rivers in the two capitals.
Meng’s three water words:
For more about research opportunities with King’s Water, check out our website. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter!

10th Hydro-hegemony Conference (HH10)

King’s Water is pleased to co-host the 10th Hydro-hegemony conference (HH10).  This conference will be of interest to those working on transboundary water issues and the politics of water in general.  The conference is open to both academics and practitioners, following the eclectic spirit of the London Water Research Group which has driven the hydro-hegemony conversations for the last decade plus.

Read the conference concept note here, as well as details below.


The 10th Hydro-hegemony conference (HH10) discusses ‘The Power of Representation & the Representation of Power in Water Conflict and Cooperation’. The conference is co-organised by IHE Delft, Wageningen University & Research, King’s College London, the University of East Anglia, and the London Water Research Group, supported by the City of The Hague, the Netherlands. It will take place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 October 2019 in the Humanity Hub, a venue within easy reach of Den Haag Central Station.

The HH10 conference provides a platform to discuss representation of interests and issues as well as representation through discourses, narratives and images. It will focus on the following two questions:

  • Who and what is (not) represented in transboundary water decision making?
  • How are transboundary water issues (re)presented?

More information can be found in the attached call for papers.

We invite researchers, students and practitioners to address these questions and submit:

  • a proposal for a 90-minute session including speakers with a word limit of 500 words, or
  • an abstract for a 15-20-minute paper presentation with a word limit of 300 words

Young researchers are especially encouraged to apply.

The deadline to submit your proposal or abstract is 31 July via

Participation to the conference is free, but registration is required. Please register here:

For questions please do not hesitate to email to

On behalf of the organisers,


Jenniver Sehring, Rozemarijn ter Horst, Emanuele Fantini, Jeroen Warner, Sumit Vij, Naho Mirumachi and Mark Zeitoun


Blog post series from the Okavango delta

As a second entry to our series of blog posts following the staff/student field trip to understanding the complex sustainability challenges of the Okavango delta, we have a student profile by Heather this week.  This trip is a joint project of the PLuS Alliance with University of New South Wales and Arizona State University.


Into the Okavango Delta by Heather Needham

I am a first-year undergraduate student currently studying BSc Geography at King’s. During my first year at university, I have found studying modules themed around biodiversity, climate change, hydrology and natural hazards really interesting.

Outside of university, I have recently completed a two-week internship at the Royal Geographical Society, and I represent the Society as a Geography Ambassador.

It is an honour to be awarded a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship which gives me the opportunity to travel to the Okavango Delta this month. This will be a new experience for me as it the first time I have flown outside of Europe.  I will be joined by students from the University of Arizona and the University of New South Wales in which we will help preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Botswana, I will be exploring the physical and human processes that affect the wetland. This enables me to advocate conservation through the exploration, collection and analysis of data in the Okavango which supports my ambition to protect and conserve natural landscapes. In particular, I will be assisting Michael Chadwick on his research examining the factors that affect the ecosystem services in Botswana. Specifically, I will be investigating how disease affects Botswana spatially.

Even though writing my dissertation is still quite far off, the research trip to Botswana will enable me to understand how to conduct a field research project abroad and what is involved in higher academic research. This will give me the experience and skills I need to fuel my ambition to be the first in my family to obtain a Doctoral Degree.



Okavango 2019: Exploring the unique delta

For the third year running, we’re off to the Okavango delta in Botswana as part of a river sustainability project funded by the PLuS Alliance.  With a group of staff and students from King’s, as well as fellow colleagues from University of New South Wales and University of Arizona, we will look at the socio-ecological challenges and opportunities of this unique river basin.

Daniel Ramsay tells us what he is looking forward to during this trip:

I am a master’s student currently studying MSc Environmental monitoring, modelling and management with a three-year background in studying BSc Geography, which has led to specific interests in exploring substantial environmental change over time using remote sensing analysis and the impacts future climate projections have on these landscapes.

I have further developed my skills within these fields across several modules King’s has offered this year including monitoring and modelling environmental change, ultimately leading to a drive and passion for further exploring a particular environmental landscape under threat for my dissertation research.

I have previous experience in this study field from research analysis with regards to studying environmental change across the Murray Darling Basin in South Eastern Australia using remote sensing techniques to assess the vast drying of one of Australia’s most crucial ecosystem resources for my undergraduate dissertation.

Using this previous experience motivated me to develop my master’s dissertation, which involves using satellite data to map wetland cover and change while using a hydrological climate model to assess the future changes across the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

I am lucky enough to have the opportunity thanks to King’s Water to travel to the Delta come July 2019, to further develop my understanding of the region first hand while also allowing for the collection of ground truth data which will supplement, support and give an accuracy for my desk-top research. I am hoping this exciting opportunity will provide me with not only great experience in developing my fieldwork skills but the determination in providing valuable research results for the people of Botswana in helping to preserve their one-of-a-kind heritage site

Film screening and workshop: “Our Lives Depend on the River”

Film screening and workshop:

 “Our Lives Depend on the River

Hydropower development and its impact on environment, poverty and conflict dynamics in the Lower Omo, Ethiopia

Monday 3rd June 9am – 3pm

King’s College London,

Bush House (South East Wing), 1.01, London

Communities in Nyangatom, in the Lower Omo region of Ethiopia, have experienced a range of environmental shocks since 2015 including drought, changes in the Omo River flood-regime due to dam developments, and crop pest infestations, which have curtailed crop harvests. These changes are contributing to increased environmental degradation and poverty, reduced food security and increased dependence on government food aid.

During the workshop we will consider how communities can be supported to adapt their livelihoods to cope with changing environmental conditions and to mitigate the impact of lost flood-retreat cultivation livelihoods.

Our findings come from an ERSC-DFID funded study ‘Shifting in/equality dynamics in Ethiopia: from Research to Application (SIDERA)’, an interdisciplinary research project which examined the links between poverty, conflict and environmental degradation in the Omo Valley, and the role of inequality at the core of this nexus.

Register to attend the event at:

Film: “Our Lives Depend on the River”

This film illustrates challenges faced by communities in the Nyangatom district, Ethiopia, including changes to the Omo River, crop pest infestations and invasive plant species.

The film was produced as part of the knowledge exchange component of the SIDERA project, which aims to:

  1. exchange knowledge among diverse stakeholders and different disciplines and fields, e.g. integrating knowledge regarding environmental changes and their implications for poverty, peace, and security
  2. stimulate new thinking/conversations about prevailing and alternative models of development, social inclusion, and profit sharing

During the workshop, we will describe how we set about co-producing, translating and transferring crucial knowledge from local environments, where largely non-literate communities hold vast unused expertise, to the national and international spheres, and vice versa. We will also feed-back on discussions from a series of dissemination workshops carried out in Ethiopia at national, regional and local levels. Finally, we will discuss potential solutions, future directions and policy recommendations.

Film screening and workshop: “Our Lives Depend on the River

Monday 3rd June 9am – 3pm

King’s College London, Bush House (South East Wing), 1.01, London


09:15 – Coffee

09:30 – Introductions:

  • The SIDERA project
  • Challenges facing communities in Nyangatom

09:45 – Key Findings:

  • Environmental Change: How have recent developments affected the spatial and temporal availability of and access to natural resources in the region?
  • Wealth/poverty: How are environmental changes influencing relations of material in/equality?
  • Peace/conflict: How are changing resources affecting conflict dynamics in the region?

11:00 – Coffee

11:30  – Film Screening: Our Lives Depend on the River

12:00 – Breakout Discussion

12:30 – Lunch

13:30 – From Research to Application:

  • Policy recommendations
  • Our approach to translating research into application
  • Ongoing work

14:30 – Reflections

15:00 – End