Water Management & Protection Prize - 8th Award


Dr. Jim W. Hall and Dr. Edoardo Borgomeo (Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford).

Dr. Hall and Dr. Borgomeo have developed and applied a new risk-based framework to assess water security and plan water supply infrastructure in times of climate change. Their innovations include a simulation-based method for analysing the risk to public water supplies under non-stationary climate conditions, a new non-parametric technique for generating synthetic streamflow sequences for water resources systems assessments, a new method for simulating the impact of unprecedented droughts on public water supplies, and a process for identifying water security investments that meet an acceptable level of water-related risk. Their methods assist water managers in planning investments and policies to cope with the risks confronting their water systems. This has made them one of the most influential groups providing engineering and scientific advice for water resources planning and adaptation to climate risks in the UK and globally.

Winner Profiles

Dr. Jim W. Hall

Dr. Hall is Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks, fellow of Linacre College and a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Engineering Science in the University of Oxford.


• 2011 - MA by proclamation University of Oxford
• 1999 - PhD, “Uncertainty Management for Coastal Defence Systems” University of Bristol
• 1998 - Postgraduate Certificate in Engineering Management, Joint Board for Engineering Management
• 1990 - BEng in Civil Engineering, 1st class honours. University of Bristol

Selected Awards:

2016 - Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize
2013 - Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize
2004 - Robert Alfred Carr Prize, Institution of Civil Engineers
2001 - George Stephenson Medal, Institution of Civil Engineers
2001 - Frederick Palmer Prize, Institution of Civil Engineers



Dr. Edoardo Borgomeo

Dr. Borgomeo is advisor at the International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


• 2015 - PhD in Water Resources Management, University of Oxford
• 2012 - MSci, Environmental Geoscience, Imperial College London

Selected Awards:

2012 - Bennett H. Brough medal for excellence in mine surveying, Imperial College, London
2011 - Royal School of Mines Association Medal for the best essay on environmental issues in Earth Sciences

Acceptance Speech

unhq300x300 Honourable Secretary-General, Your Royal Highness, honoured colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

It’s a great honor and inspiration to be awarded the 2018 Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz international prize for water management and protection.

First of all, I would like to thank the members of the jury and prize organizing committee for making this event possible and for recognizing our work.

Faced with pressures from rising populations, competing demands, water scarcity, climate change and limited budgets, water managers find it increasingly difficult to identify investments to cost-effectively secure water supplies.

We argue that in order to tackle these growing challenges water managers need to think about their job as a job of managing risks and not just water.

However, casting water management as risk management in a rapidly changing world is not an easy task. It means accounting for multiple and often competing needs for water, including agriculture, industry and people, and not forgetting the need to sustain the aquatic environment. These difficult trade-offs need to be navigated in a world of increasing uncertainty. Our approach to addressing these problems, like many hydrologists before us, is based on simulation modelling; so our work has built on that legacy to shown how climate, hydrological and water resource system models can be used to assess risks in uncertain changing conditions and identify strategies to manage risks affordably and fairly for different water users. The risk-based framework provides an explicit means of addressing the variability that is intrinsic to hydrological, ecological and socio-economic systems.

After having developed the framework, we applied it to London’s water supply system, to understand whether or not the city is likely to experience water shortages in the future. Britain is not a country one would think of as being particularly water scarce, but growing population and demand in the south-east of the country, and growing evidence of climate change now means that these risks are being taken very seriously… and rightly so: Our research shows that if no action is taken the city is indeed set to experience more frequent and severe water shortages in the future. Our research also shows that aggressive demand management to reduce consumption and losses in the distribution system is a priority to be implemented immediately. But reducing leaks may not be enough, and investments to augment supplies will be needed in the future. This work would have not been possible without the financial support from Thames Water and England’s environment agency, and the intellectual engagement of members of these organizations Dr Glenn Watts, Dr Chris Lambert and Dr Keith Colqouhun. In carrying out this part of the work, we also benefited from the collaboration with Dr Mohammad Mortazavi-Naeini, Dr Michael O’Sullivan and Dr Tim Watson, whose support we gratefully acknowledge.

-- Professor Jim W.Hall


unhq300x300 Honourable Secretary-General, Your Royal Highness, honoured colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Our argument is that water managers need to manage risks. Yet, there are risks that we cannot estimate with the information we have today. The climate is changing past familiar bounds. We don’t know how severe future droughts will be or how frequently extreme storms will strike. This means that future water availability and needs will be significantly different from anything we imagined when we first built our water supply systems.

Given this level of uncertainty, we argue that our strategies to secure supplies not only need to make sense from a risk reduction and cost-effectiveness point of view, but also from a robustness point of view. Focusing on robustness means focusing on strategies that work reasonably well across a wide range of plausible scenarios, rather than being optimal over a narrow set of conditions.

Focusing on robustness also means accepting the unpredictability of some of the processes affecting our water supplies, and build infrastructure and choose investments that are cost-effective at reducing risks that we can calculate, but that can also handle the unpredictability we cannot estimate.

To help water managers find robust strategies, we applied the ever-expanding computing power at our disposal to analyze and visualize thousands to millions plausible scenarios of the future. We focused on scenarios of unprecedented drought and tested the performance of current and planned water supply infrastructure against thousands of drought events that were longer and more severe than historical droughts.

In the same way that a chemist synthesizes new molecules in the laboratory, we created synthetic droughts with advanced statistical and computational methods. Then we used simulation modelling to explore under which of these drought conditions water resources plans missed their targets. We applied this approach to help water managers in London identify and choose robust water supply strategies- in other words, strategies that give us security of supply across a range of unprecedented drought scenarios.

To carry out this work, we collaborated with Dr Chris Farmer from Oxford’s Mathematical Institute and Dr Stefan Hochrainer and Professor Georg Pflug from the International Institute for Applied System Analysis, whose intellectual contributions we gratefully acknowledge.

Our work on risk-based water resources planning has been developed and applied in England, but is, if anything, even more applicable in other parts of the world where the risks of water scarcity and climate change are greater. By providing a clear and transparent way of presenting evidence to inform decisions, we have used our framework to help water managers around the world identify investments to respond to pressing water scarcity challenges. More importantly, we have demonstrated that uncertainty about how much the climate is changing is not a reason to delay preparing for the harmful impacts of climate change. To conclude, let me thank again the members of the jury and prize organizing committee for making this event possible and for recognizing our work and let me thank my mentor Jim for opening the doors of water research to me.

-- Dr. Edoardo Borgomeo

Winning Work

[1] Hall, J.W. and Borgomeo, E. Risk-based principles for defining and managing water security, Phil. Trans. Royal Society, A 371 (2013): 20120407.

[2] Borgomeo, E., Hall, J.W., Fung, F., Watts, G., Colquhoun, K. and Lambert, C. Risk based water resources planning, incorporating probabilistic non-stationary climate uncertainties. Water Resources Research, 50 (2014): 6850–6873.

[3] Borgomeo, E., Farmer, C.L. and Hall, J.W. Numerical rivers: a synthetic streamflow generator for water resources vulnerability assessments, Water Resources Research, 51 (2015): 5382– 5405.

[4] Borgomeo, E., Pflug, G., Hall, J.W. and Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Assessing water resource system vulnerability to unprecedented hydrological drought using copulas to characterize drought duration and deficit, Water Resources Research, 51 (2015), 8927–8948.

[5] Borgomeo, E., Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O’Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W. and Watson, T. Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2) (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018164.

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