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Critical global water questions
Jun 2022

Recent intense heatwaves in India and widespread US droughts have highlighted the need for a global approach to tackling chronic water shortages.

New research has now drawn together expert voices from across the globe to help address current and future water challenges.

Key areas identified include water scarcity, sanitation and climate dynamics. But the main concern is the way governments are equipped to deal with these challenges.

“One of the key issues raised was governance,” said report co-author Dr Alesia Ofori, a Research Fellow in Water and Sanitation Governance at Leeds’ School of Politics and International Studies.

“In the Global South, respondents are asking why they have to listen to the Global North. Those in the Global South know what the issues are, and they are calling for big changes in access to data so they can better prepare for extreme weather.”

Global water challenges

More than 400 respondents took part in the study, in which questions about global water challenges were submitted from countries across the globe including the UK, India, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Tanzania.

“A recurring theme was the call for water justice,” said Dr Ofori. “They want justice for the marginalized populations who suffer from the excess consumption and pollution of the rich.

“There is also a call for justice for the local and planetary ecosystems that have been despoiled through a failure of governance on a global level.”

The study, ‘The top 100 global water questions: results of a scoping exercise’, has been published in One Earth and includes co-authors from the Universities of York and Bradford, and Global Water Partnership Tanzania.

They want justice for the marginalised populations who suffer from the excess consumption and pollution of the rich.

Dr Alesia Ofori, School of Politics and International Studies

The research team collected more than 4,000 responses from the 400 respondents, which were then narrowed down to 100 crucial water questions facing the planet today.

The 100 questions were grouped under the themes of water and sanitation for human settlements; water and sanitation safety risk management; water security and scarcity; hydroclimate-ecosystem- Anthropocene dynamics; multi-level governance; and knowledge production.

According to the research team, water sector partnerships are needed on a global scale to inform government decision-making on water issues that range from household to planetary levels.

Governance failure

Co-author Professor Anna Mdee, also at Leeds’ School of Politics and International Studies, said: “The 100 top global water questions demonstrate a demand from the global water sector to address the consequences of human governance failure of water resources.

"These failures are evident on a daily basis across the planet – from ongoing droughts in the US to the catastrophic effects of heatwaves in India – and highlight the need for concerted efforts in interdisciplinary research and action.

“These 100 questions also highlight the importance of justice for marginalized human populations and the need for cooperation to ensure water and sanitation policies align with the current needs of individuals, populations at different scales.”

Co-author Dr Victor Kongo, from Global Water Partnership Tanzania, said: “This study provides a good platform for reflecting and internalizing our research trajectory – what we know, what we don’t know and what we urgently need to know.”


Physicists develop new type of camera to image quantum vortices for the first time
May 2022

Lancaster researchers have developed a camera-like device able to image mini whirlpools in quantum liquids for the first time ever.

Vortices form in stirred fluids, when water drains into a plughole and can also be seen in tornadoes and cyclones.

These vortices are unpredictable, unlike in quantum liquids where the vortices always have the same size due to quantum effects that only arise at very cold temperatures such as with the superfluid liquid helium-3.

The problem is that quantum vortices by their very nature are too small to be captured without tracer particles by a conventional camera – until now.

Physicists at Lancaster University led by Dr Theo Noble have developed a new type of camera which uses particle-like disturbances to take images of collections of vortices instead of light.

Their work is published in the journal Physical Review B.

The camera is a five-by-five array of pixels. Each of the 25 pixels is a millimetre-sized cylindrical cavity with a quartz tuning fork in the middle.

The team tested the camera on vortices created by a vibrating wire in a form of ultra cold helium.

Dr Theo Noble explains: “The experiment works like shining a torch on a shadow puppet. We then measure the shadows cast by quantum vortices across the camera.”

Even with its low number of pixels, the new camera uncovered that most vortices form above the vibrating wire instead of developing all around it.

The Head of the Ultra Low Temperature Laboratory at Lancaster University Dr Viktor Tsepelin said that this was not predicted by mathematical theories or numerical simulations.

Dr Tsepelin’s goal now is to build a 90-pixel camera with a high enough resolution to image the details of development and decay of carefully prepared collections of vortices. This ability to observe the dynamics of superfluid helium-3 will improve the understanding of the turbulent motion of quantum fluids and turbulence in general.

Dr Viktor Tsepelin said “It is exciting to see that our prototype is working. The high-resolution camera could also be used to image other topological defects existing in superfluid helium-3 allowing us to have a glimpse at an analogue of the Early Universe.”


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