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Changing Water Cycle

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Changes in the hydrological cycle as a consequence of climate and land use drivers are expected to play a central role in governing a vast range of environmental impacts. At the same time, predictions of water-related variables show very high uncertainty; for example, as shown in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4).

The Changing Water Cycle programme will develop an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system, improving predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes.

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Changes in the hydrological cycle as a consequence of climate and land use drivers are expected to play a central role in governing a vast range of environmental impacts. At the same time, predictions of water-related variables show very high uncertainty: for example, as shown in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report (IPCC AR4).

The Changing Water Cycle programme will develop an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system, improving predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes.

The programme will work to understand how local to regional scale hydrological and biogeochemical processes are responding and will respond to changing climate and land use, together with their consequent impacts on the sustainable use of soil and water and investigate the consequences of the changing water cycle for water-related natural hazards, including floods and droughts, improving prediction and mitigation of these hazards.

This programme will address the urgent needs to understand the changes taking place now; predict changes that will take place over the next few decades; and, through the Living With Environmental Change programme (LWEC), work with partners to build resilience, mitigate problems, and develop adaptive solutions. It will have global dimensions and dimensions that focus specifically on the UK/European region and certain overseas regions. The location of the overseas regions will be determined in consultation with potential partners.

Aims and objectives

The programme will foster interdisciplinary research that links applied water resources issues seamlessly to fundamental climate system science. The high level science goals are:

  1. To develop an integrated, quantitative understanding of the changes taking place in the global water cycle, involving all components of the earth system - the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and geosphere, cryosphere and biosphere.
  2. To improve predictions for the next few decades of regional precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, hydrological storage and fluxes, focusing on the requirement to quantify and narrow the uncertainty in predictions.
  3. To understand how local to regional scale hydrological and biogeochemical processes are responding and will respond to changing climate and land use, together with their consequent impacts on the sustainable use of soil and water.
  4. To understand the consequences of the changing water cycle for water-related natural hazards, including floods and droughts, and to improve prediction and mitigation of these hazards.

The Changing Water Cycle programme directly relates to delivery of the NERC strategy (in particular climate system, sustainable use of natural resources and natural hazards science themes) and the UK Government's strategic goals with respect to the adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change.

Timing

2009 - 2015

Can I apply for a grant?

No further funding rounds are planned for this programme.

Budget

It is proposed that this research programme will run initially for four years with NERC funding of £10·1m (£5m from the Climate System theme, £2·3m from the Natural Hazards theme, £2·8m from the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources theme).

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded applications - external link

Science Management Team

A joint Science Management Team (SMT), comprising of representatives from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the British Geological Survey, has been appointed for the Changing Water Cycle and Storm Risk Mitigation programmes.

The SMT will be responsible for the day-to-day management and co-ordination of the programme, working closely with the Programme Administrator based in Swindon Office.

The SMT comprises:

  • Professor Graham Leeks, head of science co-ordination
  • Dr Rob Ward, deputy head of science co-ordination
  • Dr Daren Gooddy, programme management co-ordinator
  • Dr Lucy Ball, programme management co-ordinator

Changing Water Cycle Writing Group

The Writing Group that worked to define the science plan for the Changing Water Cycle programme, and supported the development of the implementation plan and announcement of opportunity, comprised:

  • Professor Nigel Arnell (Chair)
  • Dr Ann Calver
  • Dr David Hannah
  • Dr Richard Harding
  • Professor Phil Haygarth
  • Professor Joseph Holden
  • Dr Simon Josey
  • Dr Sean Milton
  • Professor Denis Peach
  • Professor Simon Tett
  • Professor Pier Luigi Vidale

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

Implementation plan (PDF, 170KB)

Science plan (PDF, 585KB)

Water Related Research Landscape in India - external link
This report, undertaken by ValueNotes on behalf of Research Councils UK, presents an overview of the funding structures and emerging themes, strengths and weaknesses in water research in India.