Developing a drought narrative resource in a multi-stakeholder decision-making utility for drought risk management.

Project Funder: NERC, ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and AHRC

Lead Organisation: UWE Bristol

Project Duration: Four years

Project team/collaborators

  • Professor Lindsey McEwen, UWE Bristol
  • Dr Andrew Black, University of Dundee
  • Caitlin de Silvey, University of Exeter
  • Dr Tim Taylor and Dr Mathew White, University of Exeter Medical School
  • Dr Joanne Garde-Hansen, University of Warwick
  • Dr Ivan Grove, Harper Adams University
  • Dr Martina McGuinness, University of Sheffield Management School
  • Dr Adam Corner, University of Cardiff

Project aims

  • To explore how to integrate narrative methods and resources effectively into multi-stakeholder decision-making.
  • To quantify water resource availability, utilising a rainfall and drought risk gradient across N-S and W-E climatic gradients, in order to evaluate alternative management strategies for adaptation and mitigation of water shortages under present and future climate.
  • To explore the possible relationships and synergies between narrative enquiry and science communication in exchanging expert and lay science about drought risk and mitigation.
  • To develop new interdisciplinary and inter-professional insights into open research designs for drought risk management.

Project summary

This innovative interdisciplinary project aims to develop an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource or utility, which can be used in decision-making in drought risk management. To achieve this, we will bring together information from drought science and scenario-modelling (using mathematical models to forecast the impacts of drought) with stakeholder engagement and narrative storytelling.

While other drought impact studies have focused on mathematical modelling of drought risk, this project is very different. Our project will integrate arts, humanities and social science research methods, with hydrological, meteorological, agricultural and ecological science knowledge, through multi-partner collaboration.

Seven case study catchments (areas linked by a common water resource) in England, Wales and Scotland will be selected to reflect the hydrological, socio-economic and cultural contrasts in the UK. Study of drought impacts will take place at different scales - from small plot experiments to local catchment scale. Citizen science and stakeholder engagement with drought experiments in urban and rural areas will be used as stimuli for conversations about drought risk and its mitigation.

The project will:

  • investigate different stakeholder perceptions of when drought occurs and action is needed
  • examine how the amount of rainfall, water levels and temperature affect drought perception
  • explore the impact of policy decisions on drought management
  • consider water users' behaviours that lead to adverse drought impacts on people and ecosystems
  • evaluate water-use conflicts, synergies and trade-offs, drawing on previous drought experiences and community knowledge.

The project spans a range of sectors including water supply, health, business, agriculture/horticulture, built environment, extractive industries and ecosystem services, within seven case-study catchments.

Through a storytelling approach, scientists will exchange cutting edge science with different stakeholders in water resource management, and these stakeholders will, in turn, exchange their local knowledge and information about drought and its impacts on their activities. Stakeholders include those in: construction, gardeners and allotment holders, small and large businesses, local authorities, emergency planners, recreational water users, biodiversity managers, public health professionals - both physical and mental health, and local communities/public.

Project outcomes

Project outputs will include:

  • the decision-making support utility incorporating science-narrative resources
  • hydrological models for the seven case-study catchments
  • a social media web-platform to share project resources
  • a database of species responses/management options to mitigate drought/post-drought recovery at different scales
  • management guidelines on coping with drought/water scarcity at different scales.

Further information can be found via the DRY project.

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