King’s Water Researcher Profile – Dr. Majed Akhter

Dr Majed Akhter has recently been awarded from the BBC and the AHRC. The jointly-run program works with ten scholars, called “New Generation Thinkers“, to develop their broadcast skills and to create programming for BBC Radio 3. Part of the application process involved a full-day “audition” at the BBC Broadcasting House, where he also had the pleasure of meeting some of the other short-listed applicants and learn about their research.

Majed pitched “Dam Fever”, a program or series of programs that would explore the 20th-century history of large dams with a focus on their ideological, developmental, and socio-ecological impacts and contexts. Over the next year of working with BBC presenters, producers, and the other New Generation Thinkers, Majed aims to translate for a broad radio audience a decade of scholarly research and university teaching on the political and historical geography of rivers and hydraulic infrastructures.

“I’m excited to share my research on the links between state power, uneven development, natural resources and the built environment by telling good stories.”

See profile here.

Plumbing Poverty in the Americas

Dr. Katie Meehan is a new faculty member at King’s Geography and an expert in household water insecurity, urban infrastructure, and water governance and policy in Latin America and the USA. She directs the Plumbing Poverty project, a new research initiative that explores the intersectional nature of infrastructure, space, and social inequality, with a focus on domestic water provision.

In a recent article published by the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Meehan and her team explore the social geography of domestic water provision in the USA and expose its racialized, classed, and political nature. In the USA, nearly 1.5 million people lack complete household plumbing (the presence of piped water and sewerage). Just 14% of households without complete plumbing are ‘trailers’ or mobile homes.

 

This phenomenon is neither socially nor spatially random. Across all households, accounting for income and housing type, Native American households are 3.7 times more likely to lack piped water service; Black and Hispanic (Latinx) households are 1.2 times more likely. Meehan’s article begins to map the failure of public policy and local state institutions to provide equal life opportunity in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

 

Check out the article here!

Insights into Dr Margaret Kadiri’s Research

Dr Margaret Kadiri is a Teaching Fellow in the Geography Department at King’s College London. Her research tackles one of the main challenges facing the tidal renewable energy sector which is the lack of understanding of the hydro-environmental impacts associated with tidal renewable energy schemes. Tides are a highly attractive source of renewable energy. The regularity of tides reduces uncertainty over power generation while also reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy security. In the UK, tidal energy presents substantial opportunities for large scale clean energy generation and there has been an increased interest in the generation of electricity from tidal energy sources in recent years, with plans for a tidal lagoon scheme in Wales, the first in the world. Alongside plans for the development of such schemes comes the need to understand their potential impacts on the hydro-environment as this has impeded the growth of the UK’s tidal energy sector. Margaret’s work aims to address some of the hydro-environmental concerns, and to find mitigating measures to minimise the impacts, particularly the risk of eutrophication by nutrient enrichment. Ultimately, this will help in designing schemes which can maximise power output with the least environmental impacts. To this end, Margaret recently returned from a field expedition of the potential site for the proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay in collaboration with colleagues from Swansea University and Imperial College London.

In addition to providing baseline conditions, the water quality data collected during the field expedition will be used to assess the robustness of a novel coastal ocean model which is been developed at Imperial College London (http://thetisproject.org/). The aim is for the model to be employed as a reliable tool for water quality impact assessment of prospective tidal renewable energy schemes and to develop a functionality to accurately assess the risk of eutrophication.

Using documentaries for research and public engagement

Lilongwe Water Works? A research documentary on the dynamics of water provisioning and access in informal settlements

Dr. Maria Rusca – a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow and Lecturer in Water and Development at our Geography Department at King’s College London – is the Principal Investigator of “Investigating Natural, Historical and Institutional Transformations in Cities (INHAbIT Cities)”, aiming at improving understandings of the dynamics of basic service provision in urban and suburban spaces in the global South. The project particularly investigates the relation between urban infrastructures, distribution of everyday risks and uneven conditions of access to water in Maputo (Mozambique) and Lilongwe (Malawi).

Maria believes that strong connection and commitment to a cause comes with inspiring stories; she has thus decided to engage with larger non-academic audiences and policy makers by disseminating INHAbIT’s research findings through a short documentary.  “Lilongwe Water Works?” tells the stories of women accessing or providing water where the formal utility provides water through public water kiosks (see picture).

In addition to using her documentary intitled “Lilongwe Water Works?” as part of the education curriculum of Water and Development at King’s College London, and Water Governance at IHE Delft, Maria returned to Lilongwe a few weeks ago to share her findings at various events she organised.

The documentary was projected at the Water User Association in one of the informal settlements, where some community members, water users, and contributors to the documentary were able to discover and discuss the final output; the same was done in an informal settlement’s school; another projection was done at the Lingadzi Hotel, with water stakeholders (the World Bank, UNICEF, the Ministry of Water, Lilongwe Water Board, the Economic Justice Network, Lilongwe City Council, WASAMA) and journalists (Zodiac, Reuters, AFP, Free Expression institute, Times Group, Capital Radio, Nyasa Times).

The most impressive moment for Maria was to see how the documentary was able to raise debates and even confrontations in ways she had never experienced before. During these debates, concerns were raised about the role of Water Users Associations: while on the one hand they are considered to be useful in ensuring water supply, they are also causing water to low-income areas to become increasingly expensive and often unaffordable (see referenced papers at the end of the post).

To watch the documentary:

WATCH ON VIMEOhttps://vimeo.com/240647554

DIRECTOR: Maria Rusca

YEAR: 2017

SYNOPSIS: The water utility in Lilongwe, capital city of Malawi, serves people living in low-income neighbourhoods through a system of water kiosks. The kiosks work like shops, which opening hours when people can go buy 20 litre buckets of water. This documentary tells the stories of the women and men that access water through the kiosks and those who are involved in running them. Their stories reveal both the successes and the failures of providing water through kiosks and call us to question whether this system can ensure the human right to water to the residents of Lilongwe’s peripheries and to others elsewhere in the world.

PRODUCER: Whales That Fly and Hyphen Media

FUNDING: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 656738

 

For related peer-reviewed papers:

  1. Tiwale S., Rusca M., Zwarteveen M., The power of pipes: mapping urban water inequities through the material properties of networked water infrastructures. The case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Water Alternatives, Water Alternatives 11(2): 314-335.
  2. Rusca, M., Schwartz K., Hadzovic, L., Ahlers R., (2015), Adapting Generic Models through Bricolage: Elite Capture of Water Users Associations in Peri-urban Lilongwe, European Journal of Development Research, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 777–792. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1057/ejdr.2014.58
  1. Rusca M., Alda Vidal C., Hordijk M., Kral N., Bathing without water, and other stories of everyday hygiene practices and risk perception in urban low-income areas: the case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Environment and Urbanisation, doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247817700291
  2. Alda Vidal C., Kooy M., Rusca M., (2018) Mapping operation and maintenance: an everyday urbanism analysis of inequalities within piped water supply in Lilongwe, Malawi,Urban Geography, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp. 104- 121 doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2017.1292664
  3. Rusca M. and Schwartz K., (2018) The Paradox of Cost Recovery in Heterogeneous Municipal Water Supply Systems: Ensuring Inclusiveness or Exacerbating Inequalities?Habitat International, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2017.03.002
  4. Sarpong Boakye-Ansah A., Ferrero G., Rusca M and van der Zaag P., (2016) Inequalities in microbial contamination of drinking water, supplies in urban areas: the case of Lilongwe, Malawi, Journal of Water and Health, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp. 851-863, doi: 10.2166/wh.2016.258 

For related blogs:

Are we paying enough attention to water quality? https://flows.hypotheses.org/686

Bathing without water https://flows.hypotheses.org/659

22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research

New Research Output by Dr. James Porter: 22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research

Research highlights:

  • Bold and inventive solutions are urgently needed to safeguard the future use of water.
  • Collaborative-innovations are increasingly championed but it’s often unclear what influences the success (or failure) of these efforts.
  • Using an international systematic literature review of empirical studies, we identify 22 key themes.
  • Yet the importance attributed to each theme, agreement amongst the studies reviewed, and compatibility of the themes, varies considerably.
  • We caution against the uncritical use of different themes and call on researchers and practitioners to recognise the darker side of water collaboration.

Recommended reference: Porter, J.J.; Birdi, K. (2018) 22 Reasons why collaborations fail: Lessons from water innovation research, Environmental Science & Policy, 89, 100-108.

The paper is freely available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.07.004

This research is first of a series of outputs produced as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) TWENTY65 – Tailored Water Solutions for Positive Impact – Grand Challenge programme. The next research outputs will critically examine the themes identified here by comparing them with the first-hand experiences of those working in the UK water sector (e.g. water companies, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and research institutions).

Abstract: Bold and inventive solutions are urgently needed to safeguard the future use of water. In response, collaborative-innovation is increasingly championed. If stakeholders including water utilities, supply-chain companies, research institutions and local communities work together, share their experiences and pool ideas, meaningful change could happen, it’s argued. But effective collaboration is far from easy. For every incentive that drives collaboration forward, another barrier blocks its path. Whilst the literature offers many possible factors that influence the success (or failure) of collaborative-innovations, it remains unclear which factors are most important, where the highest agreement and disagreement exists, and if accommodating one factor creates problems for another. This is important because its not always practical, nor necessary, to apply everything from the academic literature. In this paper, we report findings from an international systematic literature review that brings together a range of studies that cross the water collaboration and water innovation divide. We identify 22 broad themes that are spread (unevenly) across the entire collaborative-innovation process; highlight how the level of attention given to each theme varies greatly; and where disagreement exists. Our research provides practical insights on how to create more effective collaborative-innovations in water and where future research should be directed.

PhD Researcher Profile: Pratik Mishra

‘What can the study of informal and subversive practices by which peri-urban farmers lay claim to urban-oriented water flows in drinking and waste-water canals tell us about the equity and justice dimensions of urbanization in growing Indian cities?’

‘How do notions of honor attached to agricultural land interact with its market-determined value to create a context of exchange where different ‘regimes of value’ coexist?’

‘Why do countries with similar economic backgrounds end up with different levels of alcohol consumption per capita and different mixes of beer, wine and spirits up to the present day?’

 

These are three different questions that Pratik Mishra has committed his time to answering over the last 2 years before he joined King’s as a PhD researcher in Human Geography, basing his research more or less around the first question.

IMG_20151129_142241

Pratik Mishra is from Bhubaneswar, a city on the east coast of India. He completed his Bachelors in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur and his Masters in Sustainable Development Practice from TERI University, New Delhi. Though he has held no prior position that would strictly count as a job, he worked on a number of internships and his ethnographic rural field research experience would make for around 15 months cumulatively. In a subtle incremental way, this experience has helped him quite a lot in knowing the right questions to ask and negotiating research in completely new villages looking out of place with a backpack and a notepad (though he still remains quite afraid of stray dogs which is a significant occupational hazard in his line of work!)

Pratik’s project will explore the ways in which canals meant to serve the urban metabolism do not constitute inert flows as they make their way through ‘conduit’ peri-urban villages serving variously as sites of seepage, irrigation, theft, conflict, street-level bureaucracy, etc. The canals that represent rural-urban flows of water come to signify a relationship between the urban and its periphery that might be expropriative or otherwise, but of course in a much more nuanced sense. He hopes that his research will be able to intersect and provide new insights in literatures on Southern Urbanism, Water Politics and Institutions, and Urban Political Ecology. Given that social research on urban metabolism bringing out all the lopsided design, institution and politics will always have as its baseline motive and reality the human suffering that is a shameful consequence of it all, he aspires to not lose track of that all too human reality in situating his work around infrastructures. In that direction, narrative ethnographies on the borderlines of literary non-fiction are a thing of great fascination for him.

He received PGR funding from the Graduate School for his research. His Lead Supervisor is Dr. Alex Loftus.

Pratik’s three Water Words:

Network

 

                                    Norms

 

                                                                        Non-neutral

 

For more about research opportunities with King’s Water, check out our website. To keep up to date, follow us on Twitter!

XVI World Water Congress

Four King’s Water doctoral researchers have just completed an interdisciplinary methods experiment in the Yucatan Peninsula. The trip included presentations at the XVI World Water Congress and the formation of a new institutional partnership with CICY, the Centre for the Scientific Study of the Yucatan.

King's Cancun team with CICY students  Continue reading

King’s Water undergraduate research placements

King’s College London is a research-led and student-centred university. The calibre of our research and teaching is among the very best in the world. It is our belief that our students should be involved in the cutting-edge research that makes King’s the university that it is today. King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships give undergraduate students the unique opportunity to learn alongside leading academics. This year, King’s Water is proud to announce that several of the KRUF positions are for placements with our staff.

Continue reading

Upcoming talk: “Landslides, (Palaeo)Floods, and Tornadoes”

The Department of Geography has recently launched a series of Departmental Talks marking recently completed sabbatical leave. In the second installment, Bruce Malamud will be speaking on “From landslides, (palaeo)floods and tornadoes to hazard interactions”This talk will take place on Tuesday 7th March at 6pm in Room S-2.08, with free drinks served beforehand from 5.15pm in the 4th Floor Geography social space.

A sabbatical is a focussed period to work on existing projects you have not been able to focus on, begin new research, and to apply for grants for future research, so that you have research ‘fat’ that will carry you over during the busy periods of teaching and administration upon return from your sabbatical. Paraphrasing from a meeting with Denise Lievesley (former Dean of SSPP) Bruce Malamud reflects on research undertaken and grants applied for and obtained, during his one year sabbatical (2015/16). Research included work on landslides, palaeofloods, tornadoes, hazard interactions, and invasive alien species, resulting in 6 papers submitted (4 now published/in-press). Grants submitted that were successful included: (i) as lead investigator a £2M NERC/DFID grant ‘LANDSLIP’ on early warning systems of landslides in India (with KCL co-investigators G. Adamson, A. Donovan, M. Pelling), and 2 small grants (£90k PhD studentship on UK hazard interactions with EDF energy, and €4k for a secondary school workshop in Malawi), and (ii) as co-investigator one large and one medium grant. The talk will focus on some of the research worked on during this period, the 4-year grant LANDSLIP in India which was applied for and started Nov. 2016, and some slides from countries visited (often together with other KCL staff members) during his sabbatical year, which included Austria, China, DPRK, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Spain and USA.

 

Event flyer for Bruce Malamud's research talk on 7 March

Uncertain Futures: Money and Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin

Last month, the New South Wales Irrigators’ Council Policy Manager wrote about water reform in Australia in preparation for the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council Meeting in Adelaide. Today, Stefanie Schulte authors a follow-up piece reflecting on the meeting’s outcomes and the future of water reform in the region.

 

You can never be quite sure how a Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MINCO) meeting will turn out, but 2016’s final session was particularly unconventional. The ‘water is for fighting over’ adage certainly came to pass as the gloves came off in Adelaide on 18 November between Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin water ministers. They were supposed to be negotiating the next steps in the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012 – including progress on the non-flow “complimentary measures”.

 

A Tale of Two…

When you compare the official Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting communiqué with the media reports that were released subsequent to MINCO, you might think these were two completely different meetings. Officially, water ministers acknowledged the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s work on the Northern Basin Review, discussed the impacts of the recent floods in Australia, and were briefed on the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism. In contrast, media coverage spread a sense of ‘doom and gloom’ for the future of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan and declared Australia’s long term water reform process all but dead.

Fact is, everyone had something to say about this last MINCO for 2016 – most of which was simply empty rhetoric. Reports included stories about heated debates – spiced with very explicit language – between different ministers; accusations from all sides of Australian politics; and polarising media claims from various opposing stakeholders. There was talk about pretty much everything…except the task at hand.

 

What is there still to do?

Although we are ‘nearly there’ in terms of the Australian government’s environmental water recovery, an enormous amount of work needs to be completed before the Murray-Darling Basin Plan comes into effect in 2019.

Firstly, we need to finalise the Northern Basin Review.

While the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has proposed reducing the total volume of planned environmental water recovery in the Northern Murray-Darling Basin from 390GL to 320GL, a further 42GL of water will need to be recovered to meet the target. The remaining water will need to come from water license holders in Queensland and New South Wales. Most of the recovery will come from the state of Queensland, but the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has proposed an additional 11GL in environmental water recovery from just two New South Wales valleys – even though the state has already recovered 7GL more than its required total reduction target.

Sounds odd? It should!

We are faced with this curious situation because the Murray-Darling Basin Authority sets ‘local reduction targets’ in individual valleys and ‘shared reduction targets’ across regions. The distribution of these reductions can be nominated by the respective Basin states. In the Northern Basin review, the Murray-Darling Authority has switched the ‘shared reduction targets’ to ‘local reduction targets’ – effectively locking individual valleys into specific environmental water recovery targets despite an overall over-recovery in the state.

The decision has led to some extraordinary circumstances. In New South Wales’ Barwon-Darling Valley, the original local reduction target was 6GL and the shared target 22GL. Now, its local target is 32GL and the shared reduction requirement zero. It should be mentioned that the current environmental water recovery target in the Barwon-Darling is 32GL. Convenient? Yes, a bit too convenient.

In addition, it has also meant that there are some valleys in New South Wales that have experienced an over-recovery of environmental water – including the Gwydir and Macquarie-Castlereagh valleys. Combined, these two valleys have recovered 18GL more than their proposed total reduction targets.

Unsurprisingly, questions have been raised as to how this over-recovery of environmental water will be addressed. This and other important issues still need to worked through over the 10-week consultation period for the Northern Basin Review, due to conclude on 10th February 2017.

Secondly, we need to settle on a package of projects around the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.

As mentioned in my previous post, we only have six more months to agree to a package of ‘supply measures’ for the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism. To date, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has modelled only 19 of the currently 37 notified projects with an indicative offset figure of around 400GL. The total adjustment can be up to 650GL if other ‘suitable’ supply measures can be found. To recap, these supply projects can be works, revised river operations, river management rule changes, or ‘other measures’ that enable the use of less water but still achieve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s environmental outcomes.

A lot of work is yet to be done to scope and assess any further supply measures that could make up the remaining 250GL, including non-flow complementary measures like carp control, installation of cold water pollution mitigation infrastructure, and proactive wetland management. These non-flow measures are particularly important as they can lead to wide-scale environmental benefits without the need to recover more water. Unfortunately, they are difficult to assess, as we currently do not have ‘approved’ methodologies for calculating environmental equivalences.

Thirdly, we need to have a discussion around the ‘Pre-requisite Policy’ and the ‘Toolkit’ measures.

Pre-requisite (or unimplemented) Policy and Toolkit measures are broad range actions and rule changes that can maximise the use of the Australian Government’s licenced environmental water whilst at the same time ensuring the protection of water supply and reliability to other consumptive water users.

Three main measures that have received some attention:

  1. Environmental flow reuse – “the ability to use environmental flows at multiple sites”; and
  2. Piggybacking – “the ability to call on held environmental water from a storage during an unregulated flow event”; and
  3. Water shepherding – “the delivery of a calculated volume of water that was created by the non-activation/reduced extraction at a nominated licence location to a more downstream location, after the consideration of losses, where it will be made available for extraction or use for the environment”.

It is yet to be determined whether (and to what extent) these measures or rule changes have adverse impacts on other water licence holders, how these might be mitigated, and who might pay for their implementation.

Finally, we need to ensure that the states’ water management arrangements are compliant with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan requires Basin states to prepare ‘Water Resource Plans’ for each valley that are consistent with certain accreditation requirements. In most cases, these Water Resource Plans will incorporate existing state water management legislation, water management protocols, and manuals, but they will also include a suite of new policies and documents around environmental watering, water quality standards, trade, indigenous values, and risk assessment.

20 surface water “Water Resource Plans”, 22 groundwater “Water Resource Plans” and 6 combined groundwater and surface water “Water Resource Plans” need to be developed by 30 June 2019. To date, none have been finalised.

 

 

And lastly…Where is the money?

All these tasks are still ahead of us and time and money is running out.

The Basin Plan 2012 is scheduled to be implemented by 2019 – two years from now. Significant work needs to completed, assessed, and accredited by various State and Federal departments and agreed by Murray-Darling Basin water ministers. However, funding for most Australian Government departments involved in water will run out by mid-2017 in line with the extant 10-year funding package. The Australian Government mid-year budget will be released next Monday. It may be a moment of elation or despair for those Departments tasked with implementing the Basin Plan. The figures have yet to tell.