Trialling a drought narrative resource as a multi-stakeholder decision-making tool in drought risk management

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: University of Exeter Medical School


This innovative interdisciplinary project aims to develop an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource 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 previous drought impact studies have often focused on using mathematical modelling, this project is very different. The 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 plot experiments in urban and rural areas will be used as stimuli for conversations about drought risk and its mitigation.
The project will: (i) investigate different stakeholder perceptions of when drought occurs and action is needed; (ii) examine how water level and temperature affect drought perception; (iii) explore the impact of policy decisions on drought management; (iv) consider water users' behaviours which lead to adverse drought impacts on people and ecosystems and; (v) 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 7 case-study catchments. Through a storytelling approach, scientists will exchange cutting edge science with different drought stakeholders, and these stakeholders will, in turn, exchange their knowledge. 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.
The stakeholder meetings will capture various data including:
- different stakeholder perceptions of drought and its causes
- local knowledge around drought onset and strategies for mitigation (e.g. attitudes to water saving, responses to reduced water availability)
- insights into how to live with drought and increase individual/community drought resilience
- the impact of alternating floods and droughts

The information will be shared within, and between, stakeholder groups in the case-studies and beyond using social media. This information will be analysed, and integrated with drought science to develop an innovative web-based decision-making utility. These data will feedback into the drought modelling and future scenario building with a view to exploring a variety of policy options. This will help ascertain present and future water resources availability, focusing on past, present and future drought periods across N-S and W-E climatic gradients. The project will be as far as possible be 'open science' - maintaining open, real-time access to research questions, data, results, methodologies, narratives, publications and other outputs via the project website, updated as the project progresses.
Project outputs will include: the decision-making support utility incorporating science-narrative resources; hydrological models for the 7 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, and management guidelines on coping with drought/water scarcity at different scales.

Planned Impact

This research will have high impact in theoretical, policy and practical terms in local/national/international contexts. In policy terms, drought is now one of the major risks facing the UK. The project aims to mitigate drought impacts, and through a new innovative multi-stakeholder decision-making utility, to make different stakeholders more resilient to drought risk and drought events.
The project's impact strategy is driven and strengthened by the engaged nature of the research process. Key target groups/beneficiaries within, and beyond, those immediately engaged within the project have been identified. These include: stakeholders working at local and regional levels in different domains (health and wellbeing, urban design/built environment, agriculture/horticulture, utilities, government, business, tourism and ecosystem services) to manage the impacts of drought and water scarcity in the 7 case-study catchments; educational organisations (formal/informal); wider inter-professional groups in the UK with interests/concerns in drought risk management/mitigation of impacts, including communities and the general public.
Developing organisational stakeholders and communities that are resilient to living with drought risk and water scarcity, and resilient to future drought is of the highest priority. A multi-stakeholder shared recognition of drought risk, and a developing attitude of coping/living with flood events, are vital components of drought risk planning/resilience. This research will make a significant contribution to drought policy discourses and practices in the way it brings different stakeholder drought narratives into thinking about and developing drought resilience.
The interdisciplinary and narrative based research methods are designed to enhance and dovetail with the impact strategy giving opportunities for new and innovative approaches to achieving impact. This integrates: how mesocosms and social media tools can engage new/different audiences, and how the inclusion of lay voices and narrative data might incentivise the policy process. Policy makers have to balance all these competing interests - so, rather than handing policymakers the science, the project supplies 'the whole data package'. For further detail on beneficiaries, benefits and methods, see the Pathways to impact document. These include:
- Project partners and stakeholders working at local and regional levels in different domains (water supply, health and wellbeing, urban design/built environment, agriculture/forestry, government, business, tourism and ecosystem services) and the policy/governance communities (Environment Agency, SEPA, National Resources Wales and local/regional/national levels)
- General public and communities (e.g. Local Resilience Forums with responsibilities for community lead adaptation planning)
- Scientists and artists working as part of different professional organisations (e.g. environmental regulators/wildlife conservation)
- Individuals and collectives of creative practitioners and cultural activists whose work focuses on related environmental and sustainability issues
- Educational organisations (schools, further/higher education but also less formal learning).
The case-study based research design will identify 7 catchments with a wide range of physical/socio-economic-cultural characteristics that will form a platform for wider stakeholder engagement across the UK. The project will have an integrated dissemination/impact strategy that targets different stakeholders for awareness, information and action for behaviour change. Impact will be delivered by on-going dialogue/exchange; a culture of co-production of knowledge, and working with key organisational gatekeepers/ communities in catchments and beyond. Impact strategies will include website/social media; open access research outputs for end users; participatory activities (seminars, workshops, conference) and a science-storytelling e-workbook for schools.


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Description The global literature on drought and health highlights a variety of health effects for people in developing countries where certain prevailing social, economic and environmental conditions increase their vulnerability especially with climate change. Despite increased focus on climate change, relatively less is known about the health-drought impacts in the developed country context. In the UK, where climate change-related risk of water shortages has been identified as a key area for action, there is need for better understanding of drought-health linkages. This paper assesses people's narratives of drought on health and well-being in the UK using a source-receptor-impact framing. Stakeholder narratives indicate that drought can present perceived health and well-being effects through reduced water quantity, water quality, compromised hygiene and sanitation, food security, and air quality. Heatwave associated with drought was also identified as a source of health effects through heat and wildfire, and drought-related vectors. Drought was viewed as potentially attributing both negative and positive effects for physical and mental health, with emphasis on mental health. Health impacts were often complex and cross-sectoral in nature indicating the need for a management approach across several sectors that targets drought and health in risk assessment and adaptation planning processes. Two recurring themes in the UK narratives were the health consequences of drought for 'at-risk' groups and the need to target them, and that drought in a changing climate presented potential health implications for at-risk groups.
Exploitation Route Greater insights into the way the UK public perceive the potential health risks (and benefits) of climate change including the growing drought risk could support potential communicating strategies but also health-related service preparedness.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

Description Blog post for Drought Risk and You project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog for the DRY website on the Health domain
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Engaged research in water systems science & engineering - 14-06-17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact An overview of three different projects Post Doc Sarah Ward has been working on in order to show integration across different research projects. Again the aim was to recruit interviews for the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Peninsula Public Health Network, CPD event on Climate Change and Health 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A CPD event to inform local health practitioners of potential health impacts of climate change - and subsequent demands on health services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Presentation of DRY at the 'Water Health Partnership Wales Annual Event', Thursday 20th July 2017 - Sarah Ward (Post-Doc) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The main aim was to introduce the project to potentially interested stakeholders to help us recruit interviewees to inform the stakeholder utility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Society for Risk Analysis Europe (Maastricht Conference) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation on using the eDPSEEA model for health risks from drought
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015