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Rural Water Security

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The MDT Fellowship on Rural Water Security is focused on understanding water security challenges in Scotland and the potential for community action and social innovation. 

The fellowship is developed by Dr Diana Valero in close collaboration with Dr. Rowan Ellis.

Scotland’s water security is affected by the changing climate and the adopted mitigation and adaptation strategies, requiring the transformation of the provision of water. In many rural communities, this responsibility relies not only on Scottish Water and the broader water sector but critically on the owners and users of private water supplies, whose access to water might be challenged in specific ways. Within this context, this fellowship aims to enhance the understanding of water security-related challenges and opportunities in rural Scotland with particular attention to the social dimensions of WS and ultimately to inform future policies and community and sectoral initiatives. This aim is underpinned by two main lines of research: (1) understanding the challenges and opportunities for WS action in Scotland, and (2) understanding the configuration of social practices around WS in rural areas and the opportunities for transformation (e.g.  social innovation).

The research programme is organised in mini-projects that combine conventional and co-produced research oriented to advance theory and support transformative action. The programme includes the following lines of work:

  • Understanding water security in Scotland:

    • Documentary research and narrative analysis of water security narratives in Scotland. This study explores the public narratives articulated by the main players in the governance of water in Scotland regarding the access to appropriate water in terms of quantity, quality, reliability, and affordability, using a framework based on the storytelling components of public and policy narratives. The aim is to identify what are the water-security-related issues that are being considered and rebuild the storytelling around them in order to understand how the action taken is framed and communicated. First results were presented in May 2022 at the workshop “Living Sustainably with Water: and interdisciplinary Challenge. Water and value workshop” organised by the University of Glasgow.

    • Development of a shared vision for the future of rural water security co-produced with rural stakeholders, currently in progress. This study is aimed to better understand the medium and long-term aspirations for water security in rural Scotland in the context of climate change-related challenges. The outcome will be a grounded vision for the future water provision in rural Scotland and a set of guidelines on the changes and steps identified to make it possible. The research builds on the views and aspirations of key stakeholders on water-related services and rural communities in rural Scotland and existing evidence on community participation in rural water services and community-led water services delivery models, seeking to provide insights on how communities might transform, adapt, or gain resilience regarding water security.

  • Understanding water insecurity in Scotland, focusing on rural areas of Scotland with a significant number of people relying on private water supplies:

    • An in-depth case study looking into the impacts of Storm Arwen in Aberdeenshire is currently in progress. This study seeks to better understand the impacts of Storm Arwen in the provision and access to water and the lived experiences of water insecurity following the impacts of the storm Arwen (end of November 2021) that left many households in rural Aberdeenshire without running water (linked in most cases to power outages). The research builds on the views and first-hand experiences of key stakeholders and rural dwellers whose water supplies were affected by the Storm. These views are collected through qualitative interviews and trawling of social media posts.

  • Social innovation and engagement of communities in water services:

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.