Towards hydrocitizenship. Connecting communities with and through responses to interdependent, multiple water issues


Principal Investigator: Owain Jones Bath Spa University
Co-investigators: Lindsey McEwen, University of the West of England; Michael Buser, University of the West of England; Stephen Bottoms, University of Manchester; Andrew Church, University of Brighton;Neil Ravenscroft, University of Brighton; Peter Coates, University of Bristol; Graeme Evans, University of Middlesex; Sara Penrhyn Jones, University of Aberystwyth; Alex Plows; University of Bangor; Maggie Roe; University of Newcastle
Collaborators: Shelagh Hourahane, Creu-Ad; Bristol, Nova (Antony Lyons and Iain Biggs); Lee Valley, Simon Read and Lorraine Leeson; Shipley, Canal Connections (Trevor Roberts).
Duration: From 2014

This 3 year project will investigate, and make creative contributions to, the ways in which citizens and communities live with each other and their environment in relation to water in a range of UK neighbourhoods. The research asks a series of questions about what communities are, how they function, and the role of environmental (water) assets and issues in the coming together of communities, conflicts within and between communities, and progress to interconnected community and environmental resilience. Towards hydrocitizenship will generate initiatives and outputs including practical interventions in local landscapes, new community-environment orientated art works, and critical reflection on the nature of citizenship and community when they are re-imagined from ecological perspectives. Water is a fundamental resource for society, and at present a range of challenging water issues face communities in the UK and internationally. These include concerns over flooding, sea level rise, climate change, drought and supply security, water quality, biodiversity and landscape quality, access for recreation, water and energy (e.g. fracking), effective urban drainage, and waste management. Community, although a now much challenged and questioned term, remains a key way in thinking about how society can function effectively in social, cultural and economic terms. In relation to communities we ask, what does it do to the ways in which we imagine communities, and to the ways in which they imagine themselves, if local water-related environmental issues (both assets and conflicts) are are brought more fully into local public consciousness? Can addressing environmental issues through local groups help develop relations within communities and between communities? Can narratives of past and current relationships between people, and people and water, help generate new narratives – new relationships? The core approaches within the project are arts and humanities disciplines and practices, (history, theatre studies, film making, narrative studies, cultural geography, landscape studies) which are intergraded with a range of social science disciplines (planning, environmental geography, community studies) and methods (ethnography and participatory action research). The research process will see arts and social enterprise consultants, community partners, and other water/community stakeholders taking full part in the project in four case study areas in Wales and England (Borth; Bristol; Lee Valley, London; and Shipley). During the project’s three-year timeframe, the overall academic team of 15 researchers from 9 universities will work with the arts practitioners and community groups to refine and advance participatory research practices and outputs. The exact form and direction of these activities will be the outcome of local, collaborative working. The interdisciplinary team will work across all case study sites in order to magnify impacts and ensure that the research is relevant in a range of disciplines and policy arenas.