Aberystwyth University, in partnership with eight other UK universities, has been awarded a grant worth £1.5 million which will help communities, individuals and policy-makers better understand water issues such as flood risk, drought risk, access to water, supply and waste system security in a creative way.
Water has severely affected Wales over the last week and indeed over the last two years, with the extreme storm surges and flooding in many areas most notably in Talybont in June 2012.
One in six properties (600,000 people in 375,000 properties) in Wales are at risk of flooding and the annual economic risk to residential and business properties is estimated at £200m a year.
Entitled ‘Hydrocitizenship: Connecting communities with and through responses to interdependent, multiple water issues’, the project will run for three years starting in March 2014.
It aims to promote the integration of knowledge and expertise across a range of relevant disciplines in a way which may affect ideas and policy-making at a local and national level.
The four large scale case studies will consider community-water issues in Talybont and Borth, Bristol, Lee Valley (London) and Shipley in Bradford.
Sara Penrhyn Jones, a lecturer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies will oversee the work from Aberystwyth University.
Sara explains, “The main aim of this work is to share and collaborate expertise in this field in order to better understand and communicate issues around water with communities so that people are more informed of the water issues affecting their area. We will do this by using arts-based methods to encourage vitally important public dialogue."
"The recent spectacular weather in the UK and in my own hometown, Aberystwyth, has forcibly reminded us of the dangers of sea-level rise and flooding, and so this project feels particularly timely. Talking to locals, there is an appetite for knowledge and further discussion around these challenges."
“The Welsh Government directly invests in the region of £40 million in flood and coastal erosion risk management annually and has cited the importance of communication with the public as a key priority”, she added.
Sara was appointed in 2011 under the sponsorship of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which promotes Welsh medium higher education.
Dr Ioan Matthews, Chief Executive of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, said, "I congratulate Sara on being selected as one of ten academics across Britain to be part of such a key project and wish her well in working with residents of Talybont and Borth. The project is extremely timely and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of the research in three years’ time.''
Each case study will be coordinated by a local academic team which will involve working with artists, community activists and selected community partners ranging from small community groups to larger organisations charged with aspects of regeneration and community resilience.
Anyone with an interest in being involved should contact Sara Penrhyn Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org