TWENTY65 Social Science of Water Network Event

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End Date


New knowledges and practices in the water sector: learning and sharing across the interpretive social sciences 

Water management is undergoing a transformation from being largely focused on technical problems and technical solutions, to an emphasis on collaboration with partners and publics as a means to identify priorities and to achieve change.  The shifting focus of water governance has made the work of the interpretive social science more relevant to the water sector than previously.  This one-day colloquium seeks to describe, explore and share the nature of this change, with an overall goal of helping to build a community of interpretive social scientists of water across the UK and beyond.
Outline of day:
We are proud to welcome Veronica Strang (University of Durham), anthropologist and author of the seminal interpretive text ‘the Meaning of Water’ (Strang, 2004) to open the colloquium.   Our proceedings will conclude with reflections on how interpretive social science of water (from the day) is contributing to social science and to policy.  The former reflections will be led by Jamie Linton (Université de Limoges), historical geographer of water and pioneer of ideas about hydro-social water management (Linton, 2014; Linton and Budds, 2014); while Carys Goodwin from OFWAT, will comment on the challenges and questions that the day has raised for policy.

Interpretive social science emphasises the various understandings and meanings that people have for a phenomena, for example, a water efficiency initiative.  ‘Interpretive social science’ overlaps with and is closely related to ‘critical’, ‘relational’ and ‘post-positivist’ social science.  The growing use of interpretive social science (and related approaches) is argued to be important in helping water managers to understand and work within the worlds of public engagement and policy-making (See Sharp, 2017: 19).


Linton, J, 2014, Modern Water and its discontents: a history of hydro-social renewal, WIREs Water 2014, 1:111–120. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1009
Linton J and Budds, J, 2014, Defining and mobilizing a relational-dialectical approach to water, Geoforum 57: 170-180
Sharp, L, 2017, Reconnecting People and Water: Public Engagement and Sustainable Water Management, London: Earthscan


Full Programme for the day



Arrival and Coffee


Welcome, logistics and introductions: Liz Sharp

9.50– 10.30

Veronica Strang, University of Durham

Meanings of water – looking backwards to move forwards

Chair:  Liz Sharp


Quick-fire talks

Chair: Emma Westling

An exploration of the meanings involved in community engagement in water governance in Scotland

Kirsty Holstead1,2, Shona Russell1, Kerry Waylen2

1 University of St Andrews, 2 The James Hutton Institute

Co-operative rainwater harvesting for flood resilience

Christine Sefton, University of Sheffield

Can priorities of communities be embedded into the design of rural wastewater services?

Grace Remmington1,2, Heather Smith1, Rowan Ellis2, Richard Allan2, Bruce Jefferson1

1Cranfield University, 2 The James Hutton Institute

Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA)

Helge Peters and Catharina Landström, University of Oxford

Community accounts of water in Malawi

James Bonner, University of Strathclyde

Turning practice theory into practical intervention

Karen Simpson, University of the West of England

Climate Justice and Flooding in the UK

Juliet De Little, University of Sheffield

Using discourse analysis to critically examine collaborative governance of Blue Green Infrastructure and the role of health agencies

Anna Kenyon, University of Sheffield

What are the key characteristics of Nature-based solutions?

Clair Cooper, University of Durham

Achieving sustainable transformation with industry 4.0: critical questions for water demand.

Claire Hoolohan, University of Manchester




Open Session 1: Methodological plurality: different ways of understanding people and water

Chair: Alison Browne


The Sources of the Nile. A podcast for action research on media, science and water diplomacy

Emanuele Fantini1, Emilie Buist2

1IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, 2TU Delft


Picturing water: Participatory visual methodologies for hydrosocial change

Jennifer Thompson, Durham University


Changes in household consumption during the extreme summer weather in 2018

Rob Lawson, Sarah Rogerson, Artesia Consulting




Open Session 2: Talking about water

Chair: Emma Westling


Influencing public and professional flood warning decision making: speaking the same language

Simon McCarthy1, Neil Blazey2, Jacqui Cotton3, Paul Cobbing4

1Middlesex University, 2Jacobs London, 3Environment Agency, 4National Flood Forum


Past Floods Matter: Cumbria’s community management of flooding


Leona Skelton1, John Morgan2

1Northumbria University, 2University of Manchester


‘Daylighting the hidden’: interdisciplinary reflections on theory and practice of storying drought.

Lindsey McEwen1, Liz Roberts1, Antonia Liguori2 and Mike Wilson2

1 University of the West of England, 2Loughborough University


Tea, cake and fruit


PANEL:  Jamie Linton, Université de Limoges and Carys Goodwin from OFWAT

Reflections on the contribution of contemporary interpretive social science for influencing water research and practice, followed by general discussion
Chair: Martina McGuinness


Close Liz Sharp


Context and registration process

This colloquium represents the third meeting of a loose network of social scientists carrying out work on water management in the UK.  As with previous events, the meeting is linked to the TWENTY65 project annual conference, see , and is organisationally a supplementary activity to the conference.

Participants can either register just for the colloquium or for the colloquium and the TWENTY65 conference.  The fees are:

£70 for the full day if not attending the TWENTY65 Conference,
£40 for the full day if also attending the TWENTY65 conference

£40 for the full day for student/early career researchers if not attending the TWENTY65 Conference
£25 for the full day for students/early researchers if also attending the TWENTY65 conference