Socio-economic dimensions of water

Sheffield's research cluster on the socio-economic dimensions of water aims to use and develop a variety of social science disciplines and approaches to explore, understand and influence the operation and development of water management.


The common context for our work is an attempt to overcome the social-blindness of exclusively technical perspectives on water research, innovation, development, management and governance. Our work encompasses:

  • A concern with how different groups contribute to the governance of the natural, engineered and social water systems, with groups including:
    • water companies
    • local authorities
    • Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
    • agriculture
    • not-for-profit/community groups
    • campaigning organisations
    • academia
    • the general public.
  • A focus on the practices of influencing and being influenced by the public in relation to water governance and policy including outcomes processes and behaviour change campaigns
  • An interest in how water innovation and research is developed, understood and implemented (or not), with a particular focus on how different disciplines and different professions work and interact
  • A concern with how specific scientific concepts and calculative practices are employed to value water and to prioritise water-related investment choices and land uses.
  • Advancing and applying techniques to place economic values on water and the water environment;
  • Expertise in using socio-spatial data to contribute to engineering and natural science modelling, for example, in relation to runoff.

For enquiries about our work please contact Liz Sharp (

Cluster members

Recent projects

This research cluster is one of the many groups which make up the Sheffield Water Centre. The Sheffield Water Centre is dedicated to continuing The University of Sheffield's highly collaborative and innovative approach to solving major challenges in the water sector.

Deploying synthetic biology in the water industry

EPSRC funded project that explored the social context of technological developments for water and the ‘social feasibility’ of radical innovation for local and global water problems.

Drought Resilience and You (DRY)

This NERC funded project spans work on drought and water scarcity in a range of intersecting 'domains' including water supply, health, business, agriculture/horticulture, built environment, extractive industries and ecosystem services, within seven case-study catchments. It draws together researchers from the University of Sheffield and a number of other UK institutions.

Northumbrian Water Services- STREAM studentship

This project examines the outcome process in the UK water industry.

For information contact


Funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7 as part of larger project to help water utilities prepare for climate change, researchers worked closely with Dwr Cymru Welsh Water to develop an adaptation planning process to help water companies work with their employees and other stakeholders to plan climate change adaptation actions.

Adaptation Planning Process Guidance Manual (PDF, 885KB)

Royal Horticultural Society / Project Sunshine

CASE studentship on hydrological oscillations and impacts on garden / landscape plants and homeowners responses.


This interdisciplinary and multi-instiutional project is funded the EPSRC. It examines the impact of flooding upon Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) and future adaptation to flood risk.

URSULA (Urban Rivers and Sustainable Living Agendas)

The study of how different stakeholders interact in the re-development of a river corridor. Also the modelling of alternative river interventions and the form of related urban redevelopment proposals to identify their impact on development costs, values and viability.

More information on the project

VALUE (Valuing Attractive Landscapes in the Urban Economy), Interreg IVB NWE

The estimation of local residents’ willingness to pay for alternative forms of green and blue urban infrastructure


Visit the VALUE website

WES (Water, Environment & Society)

A series of seminars funded by ESRC and NERC that brought together sociologists, planners, hydrologists, ecologists and others to establish a research agenda to tackle water and society issues.

A world top-100 university

We're a world top-100 university renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of our research-led learning and teaching.