News & Events

Targeting water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in pastoralist populations in the Afar region of Ethiopia

Targeting water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in pastoralist populations in the Afar region of Ethiopia

This is an article by Lucy Whitley, Cranfield University, United Kingdom, in the Global Water Forum

Around the world, large numbers of people face structural and environmental barriers to accessing safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. Among these populations at risk are many of the 200 million pastoralists whose lifestyles and extreme environmental settings challenge conventional approaches to WASH. Lucy Whitley and colleagues recently surveyed individuals and households from pastoralist communities in the Afar region in north eastern Ethiopia. They found that that low levels of access to WASH infrastructure are further compounded by risky behaviours related to water containment, storage and transportation. Here she discusses the findings of their survey and how these challenges might be addressed.

Read more here

What do we really know about the impacts of climate change on sanitation

What do we really know about the impacts of climate change on sanitation

This blog post is by Leonie Hyde-Smith, a PhD student on the WaterWiser CDT programme.

Effective sanitation systems are crucial for public and environmental health, particularly in densely populated urban areas. It is widely accepted that the impacts of climate change will stress the effective functioning of urban sanitation systems. But is there sufficient evidence for this claim?

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Poop! What’s it like to live without a toilet?’

Poop! What’s it like to live without a toilet?’

On Saturday 7th May, Water-WISER students Karl Jones, Hannah Ritchie and Lais Dos Santos took part in the Be Curious festival of science at Leeds. This is an annual event where the University of Leeds opens up to over 1000 members of the public (mainly families with small children) to come and get hands-on with science. It’s an inspiring celebration of public engagement with hundreds of activities on offer.

Visitors to Water-WISER had to hook poo out of a tub of water, while learning all about hand washing and research into water purification. The game was really hard, even for adults! Luckily all the children kept a laser focus on removing all the poo, patiently waiting their turn and with hardly a tantrum in sight!

Kenya fieldwork – monitoring the interaction of sand dams with the sub-surface

Kenya fieldwork – monitoring the interaction of sand dams with the sub-surface

From Hannah Ritchie PhD student Cranfield University, Water WISER CDT

My PhD project is based on sand dams: small, concrete structures constructed across ephemeral streams, behind which sand accumulates, in which water is stored from the rainy season for use in the dry season. I am exploring the causes and impacts of lateral, longitudinal, and vertical losses of the water stored in sand dams to the sub-surface environment.

In 2022, I spent two months in Southeast Kenya in the short dry season (January – March), working on three dams being constructed that season and three mature dams. A lot of my time was spent collecting geophysical data, which we used to image the subsurface up to 25-30m deep, and data to constrain the geophysics, such as topography, water levels, rock depth, and soil profiles.

The geophysical method chosen was Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), as we wanted to image the sub-surface saturation and any fracturing in the bedrock. We conducted four profiles at each site, three parallel to the dam wall and one perpendicular, using dipole-dipole and gradient arrays.
I also collected empirical data on loss pathways at the mature dams. I assessed 12 different criteria, including vegetation health, number of trees, ponding downstream of the wall, scouring of the wall, and erosion. This information will be used to score each dam on its level of potential loss and will be compared to the geophysical data, and later to remotely sensed data to assess the causes and impact of loss from the dams.

Chevin Challenge Event April 2022

Chevin Challenge Event April 2022

This year’s Challenge Event took place at the Chevin Country Park Hotel near Leeds. Postponed from January due to the Omicron covid variant surge in infections, the event was intended to bring everyone together in person for presentations skills training and networking.
The event started on the first evening with a team-building short walk to Surprise View on Otley Chevin – a traditional photo opportunity for CDT groups.

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Award: Mariam Zaqout

Award: Mariam Zaqout

Mariam Zaqout, a CDT-aligned student, won the Water @ Leeds Spring Award, an impressive achievement as this is open to several hundred researchers. She also won ‘Best Paper’ at the 2021 WaterAid Research Awards for the paper Sustainable sanitation jobs: prospects for enhancing the livelihoods of pit-emptiers in Bangladesh (2021), Third World Quarterly.

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SAFAD charity work: Hannah Ritchie and Lucy Whitley

SAFAD charity work: Hannah Ritchie and Lucy Whitley

We have been running (treasurer and president) Cranfield’s international development charity (SAFAD) this year – a charity that aims to relieve poverty by promoting appropriate development, community participation and capacity building. SAFAD sends Cranfield students with technical skills obtained from their MSc degrees to work with local organisations on new and existing projects amongst the WASH, environmental engineering, agricultural and management sectors. The volunteers, in turn, gain practical experience through their work.

Diversity in WASH study

Diversity in WASH study

Professor Barbara Evans (director of the Water-WISER CDT) put Ruth Sylvester Georgia Hales in contact with Kimberly Worsham, founder and director of FLUSH, an American sanitation and hygiene education, advocacy, and consultancy organisation. Kim needed extra help with data collection: demographic data on 1472 global sanitation leaders across 105 organisations. The resulting paper was published in Sage’s Environmental Health insights journal in July 2021 and the work has been presented via poster at the Colorado WASH Symposium in March 2021 and via presentation at the WEDC conference in September 2021.

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IUG Gaza Collaboration

IUG Gaza Collaboration

Across the three universities, several Water-WISER and aligned PhD students formed a working group focused on discussing and dismantling the inequalities that exist between global north and south WASH researchers. Mariam Zaqout, a Palestinian researcher in the final year of her PhD at Leeds and a CDT-aligned student, initiated a meeting between the Islamic University of Gaza wherein students across all four universities were able to introduce themselves and their research topics to one another.

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Challenge Event 2021

Challenge Event 2021

On 22-25 June 2021, students and staff from the Water-WISER CDT gathered at Cranfield University for our first in-person event since the pandemic began.

The ‘Challenge Event’ normally focuses on activities designed to give students skills in problem-solving, team working and networking, in a variety of outdoor settings. The annual event brings together the full cohort of students from each university – Leeds, Loughborough, Cranfield.

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Water-WISER CDT activities during the COVID pandemic

Water-WISER CDT activities during the COVID pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic occurred halfway through the first year of the CDT, so this prevented in-person events and activities from going ahead. However, the network of staff and students has been working effectively online and the following activities took place:

  • Research Skills Week April 2020 – an extensive programme of advanced skills training
  • Summer Skills Workshops 2020 – a bespoke series of workshops developed in response to the COVID lockdown by the CDT academic team
  • Inductions for new students Sept 2020
  • Research Skills Week Jan 2021
  • Summer Skills Workshops 2021

We are hoping to hold our first in-person ‘Challenge Event’ in more than a year, in June 2021, at Cranfield University campus and local area, including team-building problem-solving activities and research presentations. Crossing fingers that it goes ahead!

Paper Submission

Paper Submission

Congratulations to Hannah Ritchie! Hannah is our first Water-WISER CDT student to submit a paper (within her second year of study on the CDT programme). Hannah’s paper “Sand dams as a potential solution to rural water security in drylands: Existing research and future opportunities” will be published in the Journal Frontiers in Water, section Water and Climate. Hannah is currently on a prestigious internship at the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) working on water resource issues.

Challenge Week 2020

Challenge Week 2020

The Water-WISER CDT Challenge Week 2020 took place in Youlgreave in the Peak District, 7-10 January 2020, involving all Water-WISER CDT students, aligned PhD students, the Water-WISER CDT academic management team and a selection of industry representatives and experts.

This annual event is designed as a cohort-building activity for the CDT students, as well as a networking experience.

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