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.

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:


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:
  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:
  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:
  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:
  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?

Bathing without water

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.

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Stephen Lintner visits the Department of Geography

Stephen Lintner joins the Department of Geography at King’s College London in 2017 for his third year as a Visiting Professor. Professor Lintner has over 40 years of worldwide experience in environment, infrastructure and water resources management. At King’s, he focuses on three complementary themes: policies and procedures for management of environmental and social impacts and risks; assessment and management of transboundary freshwater, coastal and marine resources; and evaluation of historical processes of human modification of environmental systems. Lintner previously held leadership roles at the World Bank; his most recent position, from 2000 to 2014, was as Senior Technical Adviser with global responsibilities. Earlier he was the Bank’s Adviser for Freshwater, Coastal and Marine Resources Management. Prior to joining the World Bank, Lintner served in the United States Agency for International Development, United States Geological Survey and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He is the former President of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA). He holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University (USA).

In addition to giving a number of research seminars and lectures, Professor Lintner has made time to meet individually with students and staff during his visit. Anyone who would like to meet with Stephen is invited to sign up for free online ( Master’s and PhD students interested in careers in international development, finance, and environmental policy are especially encouraged to make an appointment.

Event flyer for Stephen Linter's seminar on 8 February

Stephen will be speaking at the Human Geography Seminar this week, sharing his insight into international development financing. Please join us from 4:30pm in the Pyramid Room. A drinks and nibbles reception will follow.

International Development Financing: Current Priorities, Policies & Practices
Stephen Lintner, Visiting Professor
Wednesday 8 February 2017
4:30pm, Pyramid Room

This seminar will consider international development financing from the perspective of the multilateral development banks (MDBs) that are among the principal sources of such financing. The current priorities, policies and practices of these institutions will be reviewed, with a focus on environmental and social issues. The seminar will also discuss how the MDBs are structured and governed, how they develop their policies and strategies, and how the programs and projects they fund are prepared and implemented. Stakeholder engagement, and the processes used by the MDBs to engage a range of participants, including people affected by projects, will be addressed as well.

Funded water studentships at Leeds

The River Basin Processes and Management research cluster at the University of Leeds provides international leadership in understanding and managing environmental processes and feedbacks that control and link water, sediment, solute and biotic dynamics in river basins, estuaries and marine systems.  The Cluster has recently announced a variety of funding opportunities for water research.

A fully-funded NERC Industrial CASE studentship will examine the hydrological function of organo-mineral soils in downstream flood risk.

We seek to understand hydrological processes operating in upland organo-mineral soils and how their management and vegetation cover influences river flow peaks. This novel field, lab and modelling project will expand our knowledge on the function and hydrology of upland soils which are of high conservation value. The project will directly provide urgently needed management decision-making evidence on upland soil management for flood peak reduction. Organo-mineral soils cover around 20 % of the UK, and are particularly common in upland areas with the main types being stagnohumic gleys and acid brown earths. Unlike peatlands, the function and hydrology of organo-mineral soils is globally very poorly understood with major gaps in the literature. These soils typically underlie upland heathland and grasslands in areas with high conservation value. It is unclear whether these soils are dominated by throughflow (and what their typical permeability range is), infiltration-excess overland flow or saturation-excess overland flow in different topographic contexts and rainfall events. It is also unclear how management of organo-mineral soils impacts their role in runoff generation.

There is an urgent need for evidence on ‘nature-based’ flood management solutions, particularly in UK uplands – source areas for the UK’s major rivers. Recent modelling work on peatlands by researchers at the University of Leeds has shown that controlling overland flow velocities by changing the surface cover conditions in key spatially identifiable parts of the catchment can play an important role in reducing flood peaks (by up to 20 % for some rainfall events) (Gao et al., 2016). However, we do not have data from organo-mineral soils, which are likely to function quite differently to peat, to inform such modelling and so practitioners have limited basis for upland management decisions which may benefit those downstream at risk of flooding.

The student will be part of the River Basins Processes and Management cluster in the School of Geography and water@leeds which is the world’s largest interdisciplinary university-based water research centre. water@leeds hosts 140 PhD students. These groups provide access to routine training through seminars, structured feedback on project ideas and technical training. The successful PhD student will have access to a broad spectrum of training workshops that range from technical through to generic skills building. The supervisory team will provide training on soil hydrological processes and modelling.

This is a fully-funded 4 year studentship providing full UK/EU level fees and a tax-free maintenance stipend of approximately £14,500pa.  To apply, please submit an application for study and the required supporting documents listed here by 9 January 2017

Additional projects with water@leeds include:

Projects eligible for NERC DTP funding 2017/18

Projects without funding

Studentship available: Human Dimensions of Water in Appalachia

West Virginia University is pleased to offer a Graduate Research Assistantship exploring the social elements of the hydro cycle. See below for more details and to apply.

Human Dimensions of Water in Appalachia

This study will focus on the dual nature of water in West Virginia: a resource towards economic transition and/or a source of concern due to its polluted and destructive nature. This study will be based on a case study methodology where experience with qualitative methods is required and knowledge of GIS is welcomed.

Faculty Information:  Dr. Martina Angela Caretta,

Applicants interested in the Graduate Research Assistantships described below are encouraged to contact the research faculty prior to applying. Applicants must submit a CV and research statement addressing specific interests and qualifications for the potential research topics outlined below. In addition to the specific qualifications for these positions, potential candidates must meet the admission standards and be fully accepted into the Geology & Geography Department at WVU. Transcripts, test scores, and all other completed application materials are due January 1, 2017 for Fall 2017 admission. You can access the application portal here:

WVU Geography offers both Masters and Doctoral degrees and a rigorous certificate program in Geographic Information Science.  Our rapidly growing graduate program is composed of 19 core geography faculty with expertise in the interdisciplinary subfields of Human Geography, Environmental Geography and GIScience.  WVU Geography faculty are engaged in local, regional and global research focused on human-environment relations, climate change, political geography, spatial science, digital humanities, forest ecosystem modeling, cultural and political ecologies, conservation science, feminist geography, science and technology studies, humanitarianism, land change science, critical cartographies, food justice, and development geography.  Faculty are currently conducting research in South Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and the United States, including Appalachia.

PhD Researcher Profile: Nando Lewis

Nando Lewis is a PhD candidate supervised by Frans Berkhout in the Department of Geography and Anja Shortland in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. After taking a gap year to cycle from Lima to Buenos Aires, Nando completed a BSc in Psychology in 2013 at University College London. During his BSc, Nando also took a module in primatology and this led him to Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Nigeria where he assisted a project researching chimpanzee tool use by the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. A short walk from Bedford Way to Tavistock Square ensued, where Nando completed an MSc in Security Studies, also at UCL.

King's Water PhD student Nando Lewis dives with a turtleWater is not only an academic subject for Nando. He was born in it, and his main leisure activities include underwater rugby and spearfishing. Nando’s passion for spearfishing has taken him to the Azores, Canary Islands, Madeira, much of the European Mediterranean, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the glorious coastlines of Dorset and Northumbria. Spending so much time underwater searching for fish has shown Nando the devastating impact that unregulated fishing (including spearfishing) can have on the size, number, variety and behaviour of fish. Nando enjoys travelling and is proficient in French, Spanish and German, maintaining his proficiency during the ‘off-season’ by reading fiction books in those languages. He hopes to find many more excuses to travel through his association with King’s Water.

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PhD Studentship available with King’s Water member Bruce Malamud

A 3-year fully funded research studentship funded through EDF Energy is currently open for applications. The positions is based at King’s College London at the Department of Geography and will be academically supervised by Prof Bruce D. Malamud (KCL) and industrially co-supervised by Dr. Pietro Bernardara (EDF Energy R&D UK Centre).

Many world regions are at risk from different kinds of natural hazards (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme temperatures, floods) occurring spatially and temporally in close proximity. The industrial sector is increasingly interested in a “multi-hazards” with respect to better designing infrastructure, not just the potential impacts of a single hazard, but a combination of multiple hazards, and how industry can incorporate ideas of multi-hazards into their risk assessments and designs. However, multi-hazard research is a relatively young, multi-scale and multi-disciplinary field of study. Researchers working on multi-hazard include statisticians, social scientists or engineers. Current studies on multi-hazards can be conducted at multiple scales ranging from country to region down to site specific (e.g., a single building). The result has been “multi-hazard” research using different methods, approaches and even vocabulary, with no “standard approach”. Here, this PhD aims to address one part of multi-hazard research by creating and using probabilistic models of multi-hazard events.

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PhD Researcher Profile: Anna Lavelle

In a special edition of our series profiling the King’s Water students, here’s a repost of a piece from the King’s Geography blog highlighting PhD researcher Anna Lavelle. Anna is supervised by King’s Water staff members Nic Bury and Michael Chadwick.

PhD researcher Anna LavelleExploring the regular ‘inmates’ of the John B Thornes Laboratory, we ask PhD student Anna Lavelle what she gets up to…

• What are you doing in the lab?

My current work looks at examining nitrate and ammonium fluxes across the sediment-water interface in urban London rivers to determine the success of restoration.

• Why is it important?

The synergistic effects of multi-stressor factors placed upon river networks draining urban land is a phenomenon widely know as the “urban stream syndrome”. These stressors include physical habitat modifications, hydrological change and poor water quality resulting from increases in nutrient and toxicant loads. In recent decades, restoration efforts aimed at improving the physical structure, flow characteristics and ecological condition of rivers have been implemented across London to counteract these problems. However, little research has been undertaken to determine the success of restoration with respect to ecosystem function. The dearth of knowledge surrounding ecosystem function forms an important part of this project.

• How did you get into your field?

I have always had an interest in river environments. Examining river erosion along the Daintree River, Australia for my undergraduate dissertation using remote sensing , I began to gain an interest in the different factors shaping river environments. Following on from this, segments of my master’s degree in Aquatic Resource Management were focussed on river functioning and management. After being accepted onto my PhD programme and liaising with my supervisors, we found there to be a considerable amount of scope to examine ecosystem function as a determent of river restoration.

• What’s your favourite piece of kit in the lab?

The fluorometer! It is a compact and portable item of equipment used to measure parameters of fluorescence which correlate to ammonium concentrations in water.

• Tell us about an interesting or surprising finding you’ve come across recently?

I have noticed that there has been an increased focus on community river clean-up groups in and around London. It has been great to see the success that community engagement has brought about.

MSc Student Profile: Daniyar Sagadiyev

Thus far on our King’s Waster Postgraduate Taught Student Profile Series, we’ve met China’s Olivia Pang, Californians Henry Symons and Rebecca Peters, and Britain’s Jack Bathe and Hazel Lewis. Today, meet Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Sagadiyev.

Daniyar Sagadiyev did his undergraduate in Almaty, Kzakhstan, the country’s former capital, where he studied water resources and water use. Since 2010, Daniyar has worked as an expert in the Committee for Water Resources in the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture.

DaniyarDaniyar’s time at King’s is sponsored by the Kazakh government. He was awarded a two-year period to achieve his master’s in order to further his capacities in resource management. Daniyar is using that opportunity to pursue a MSc Water: Science and Management with King’s Water because he liked the modules available. His favourite is the Water, Security and Environment class, which he describes as “allowing students to see how independent states work together to allocate shared water resources and jointly solve emerged water problems”.

After finishing his time at King’s Water, Daniyar will take his learning back to his native Kazakhstan to continue advising the Ministry of Agriculture.


For Daniyar, these words come to mind when he thinks about water:





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