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Living with Water

Dr Jonathan Clarke

Module Leader

Option - First year only for GSD single honours
Term 1
10 weeks
10 x 1 hour lectures
10 x 1 hour seminars

Available to students outside GSD on application

Please note: The information on this page relates to the 2021-22 academic year.

Principal Aims

This interdisciplinary module will stimulate students to engage with a variety of contemporary issues surrounding sustainable management of water resources, explored through international case studies that extends conventional conceptions of social, environmental and economic sustainability. This lens also provides opportunities for further examination of the history, geo-politics, culture and governance frameworks that relate to water and sustainable development, as well as reflecting, evaluating and envisioning adaption strategies connecting to water and future climate change. In doing so, it draws from the University of Warwick’s wider expertise in this area and establishes a foundation of knowledge and analytical skills for other GSD modules.


Challenges around water represent many of the most urgent concerns for promoting global sustainable development. Clean water is a basic requirement for life; according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 844 million people lack basic access to clean drinking water and at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. It is anticipated that by 2030 global water demand will exceed current supply by 40 percent. Elsewhere, an excess of water is the primary concern; UN-HABITAT estimate that there are currently 1 billion people living on land vulnerable to flooding, and this is expected to rise to 2 billion by 2050. Recent years have also seen a dramatic increase in hydro-meteorological catastrophes, such as floods, storms and drought, which have increased exponentially between 1900 and 2005. The module will explore how these emerging concerns are exacerbated by a rising global population, development trends and a changing environment, before reflecting upon how we can formulate holistic solutions and pathways to a more sustainable future for living with water.


Such an approach is advanced through a varied programme of lectures, featuring guest speakers from diverse backgrounds and problem-based seminars that explore the emerging challenges through international case studies. An initial group project seeks to engage students in producing a collaborative ‘manifesto’ for addressing a global water problem, which in turn informs an individual research report that explores a global challenge and articulates a more sustainable future water policy.

Principal Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Describe the key global sustainable development challenges relating to water, from a variety of perspectives;
  • Critically appraise existing methods of water management, based upon evidence;
  • Research, analyse and evaluate emerging approaches to sustainable water management;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of water issues relating to the wider global challenges of sustainable development such as health, inequality and survival;
  • Articulate a sustainable policy pathway for addressing the key global water challenges in the future.

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Written communication – Providing a variety of written outputs, including a policy brief, aimed at communicating scientific advice to decision makers.
  • Oral communication – Presenting a manifesto, aimed at raising awareness of a particular topic to the general public.
  • Teamwork – Working cooperatively in groups to critically discuss and analyse the most pressing issues relating to the water, as the basis of an awareness campaign.


The syllabus follows 10 themes, which correspond to the weekly lecture and seminar activity. See below for examples of theme content.

Week 1 - Introduction: Water, Civilisation and the City

Week 2 - Sustainable Water Management

Week 3 - The Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Week 4 - Water Quality with Dr Sarah Cook (University of Nottingham)

Week 5 - Water Politics

Week 6 - Living without Water

Week 7 - A Flooded Future

Week 8 - Living with only Water with Dr Jessica Savage (GSD)

Week 9 - Water, Media and Culture with Professor Jo Garde-Hansen (CMPS)

Week 10 - Infrastructure, the Anthropocene and Adaptive Pathways


Seminar Participation (10%)

Individual Assessment Report (1200 words) (20%)

Group Presentation (20%)

Individual Research Report (2000 words) (50%)

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on this page.