Water Security and Health: Researching management, governance and uses of water
Founded in 2011, the Water Security Research Centre (WSRC) brings together researchers from across the University of East Anglia to address the theoretical, practical, and policy challenges of managing and governing water for different human, economic and environmental needs from the local to the global scales.
Discover more about our approach.
Our research themes
Water security and WaSH
Researchers engaged with this theme investigate how water security and access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities are associated with global and public health, infection prevention and control (IPC), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and behaviour change.
Water politics and governance
This theme focuses on the social and political processes influencing transboundary water diplomacy and management, and includes analysis of cooperation and conflict, power, politics and hydro-hegemony, water markets, privatisation, and regulation.
Hydro-social cycles and ecosystems
Within this theme, researchers investigate challenges and solutions to uses of water for supporting human activities and environmental processes, with a focus on water allocation and efficiency for river basin management, irrigation policy, and performance, managing the challenges of hydroelectric dams, and reducing pollution and threats to biodiversity.
Climate risks, water security and well-being
Water insecurity is a major risk to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, superimposed on existing poverty and inequality. Researchers addressing this theme investigate how extreme and variable weather exacerbates water insecurity and focus on how vulnerable communities can be supported to adapt to risks and hazards associated with water insecurity because of climate change.
Thinking without borders
Our water stories show just how the UEA community comes together from a range of fields, and with different perspectives, to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. From microplastics in our oceans to water wars and social injustice; and from cutting edge research to the learning experiences we offer.
New publications by WSRC members
Cooper RJ, Warren RJ, Clarke SJ, Hiscock KM. Evaluating the impacts of contrasting sewage treatment methods on nutrient dynamics across the River Wensum catchment, UK. Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jan 15;804:150146. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150146. Epub 2021 Sep 7. PMID: 34509828.
Paper Abstract: Sewage effluent discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is a major driver of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) enrichment, but tertiary treatment methods such as P-stripping have previously been shown to mitigate eutrophication risk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impacts of sewage effluent discharged from WWTPs with contrasting classifications of tertiary treatment on nutrient dynamics across the River Wensum catchment, UK. River water samples were collected from 20 locations across the catchment at monthly intervals between October 2010 and September 2013, with 677 samples collected in total and analysed for a suite of hydrochemical parameters. The 20 sampling locations were divided into four classifications based on the type of upstream WWTP: (1) no WWTP; (2) WWTPs without P-stripping; (3) WWTPs with and without P-stripping; (4) WWTPs with P-stripping. Results revealed substantial overlaps in riverine nutrient composition making differentiation between classifications difficult. The majority of N (>97%) and P (~75%) was present in dissolved bioavailable forms across all sites and there was no significant difference in total N speciation between classifications. Total P (TP) speciation did, however, reveal higher proportions of particulate P at sites with no WWTP, indicating a greater P contribution of agricultural origin. Ratios of total dissolved to particulate P (TDP:TPP) and chloride concentrations proved effective discriminators of agricultural and sewage P, respectively, but phosphate‑boron ratios (PO4:B) were ineffective discriminators in this catchment. Most importantly, there was no evidence that P-stripping reduced overall TP concentrations downstream of WWTPs, despite evidence of a per capita reduction, nor reduced the proportion of dissolved P released. These findings were attributed to P-stripping facilities serving larger populations and thus releasing greater effluent P load, thereby demonstrating that the presence of tertiary P-stripping alone is insufficient to overcome population pressures and ensure that rivers achieve good hydrochemical status.
Barichivich, J., Osborn, T., Harris, I., van der Schrier, G., & Jones, P. (2021). Monitoring global drought using the self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index [in "State of the Climate in 2020" eds. Dunn RJH, Aldred F, Gobron N, Miller JB & Willett KM]. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 102(8), S68-S70. https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-21-0098.1
De França Doria, M., Segurado, P., Korc, M., Heller, L., Jimenez Cisneros, B., Hunter, P. R., & Forde, M. (2021). Preliminary assessment of COVID-19 implications for the water and sanitation sector in Latin America and the Caribbean. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(21), . https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111703
COVID-19 has had a severe impact on human health, as well as in social and economic terms, with implications for the management and governance of the water and sanitation sector. These implications are evident in Latin America and the Caribbean due to existing challenges the region faces in accessing water and sanitation services. In spite of significant advances, around 65 million people in the LAC region currently lack appropriate access to water and soap to wash their hands—one of the most basic measures to prevent the spread of disease. Furthermore, social and economic vulnerabilities have exacerbated the effects of the pandemic in the region, particularly among those living in poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic thus requires the mobilization of frameworks such as the human rights to water and sanitation, specifically considering the region’s realities. This paper provides a review of some of the challenges currently faced in the region and advances a series of recommendations for enhancing access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The importance of effective governance, management and communication strategies in the water provisioning sector is highlighted in the context of the pandemic, and the role of science and research for adequate decision making is emphasized.
Empinotti, V. L., Budds, J., Jepson, W., Millington, N., Ferrara, L. N., Geere, J-A., Grandisoli, E., Gutierres Arteiro Da Paz, M., Peregrina Puga, B., Macedo Alves, E., Cawood, S., Jacobi, P. R., Uehara Kinjo, V., Lampis, A., Moretti, R., Octavianti, T., Periotto, N., Quinn, R., Quintslr, S., ... Wahby, N. (2021). Advancing urban water security: The urbanization of water-society relations and entry-points for political engagement. Water International, 46(6), 956-968. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2021.1937901
Paper Abstract: We seek to advance a critical and relational concept of urban water security that theorizes urban processes in relation to the hydro-social dynamics that produce experiences of water securities and insecurities at multiple scales. Our intention is to set out an analytical framework that both examines the social relations that underpin water insecurity and goes beyond the urban as merely the context in which water provision and risk take place. We seek to mobilize this concept to envision meaningful water policies and hydro-social practices to enhance social equity and empowerment for urban communities.
Macedo Alves, E., Geere, J-A., Gutierres Arteiro Da Paz, M., Jacobi, P. R., Grandisoli, E., & Sullaiman, S. (2021). Water security in two megacities: observations on public actions during 2020 in São Paulo and London. Water International, 46(6), 883-899. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2021.1970376
Paper Abstract: This paper discusses water security and wellbeing within a public health perspective and focuses on urban areas with high population density. It analyses access to safe water and the multiple challenges to water security in two megacities: São Paulo and London, comparing differences and similarities. It illustrates how water security and health are related to Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6): universal and equitable access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, and SDG3: healthy lives and well-being for all, focusing on the problem exacerbated by the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, during 2020