Water Security Network

Environmental Hazards, Resilient Communities and Emerging Infrastructures

Dr Sarah Ward

Alternative water supply, green infrastructure and sustainable drainage systems have a contribution to make to water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) and integrated urban water management (IUWM) challenges, especially in situations of environmental change or hazard (e.g. drought, flood, landslide). However, all too often social, cultural and societal norms, expectations and preferences are overlooked or underplayed when examining the human-infrastructure interactions associated with such systems, due to complex economics and politics of urban water governance. This applies in both developed and developing country contexts, where drivers for emerging technologies or infrastructures may be different, but solutions may be similar rather than identical, due to values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and the influence of existing infrastructures and systems of provision. There is much to be done to develop a systematic, multi-dimensional and cross-cultural approach to examining community resilience to environmental hazards through assessing human-infrastructure interactions and Dr Ward focuses on developing research to enhance the following interconnected themes:

  • Participatory technology evaluation for community resilience and sustainability transitions in the global north – locating people and place in the co-creation of emerging technologies and infrastructures.
  • Participatory technology assessment for community resilience and sustainable development in the global south – co-identifying new socio-cultural criteria to add social as well as ecological and technical value.
  • Engaged research approaches on health impacts, multi-agency responses and university-society partnerships.
  • Mainstreaming emerging technologies through socio-technical evaluation.

Applying deliberative, comparative and arts-based processes with local and global partnerships amongst companies, practitioners and local interest groups, the research aims to broaden and deepen representation of communities who will be future selectors, implementers and users of emerging technologies and infrastructures for their health, wealth and happiness. Through the co-production and sharing of more equitable, inclusive research across a diversity of world-wide case studies, the research supports fairer, more representative evidence collection to contribute to achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

  • Sarah’s publications are available here.