Photo of Dr Sarah Ward

Dr Sarah Ward

Senior Research Fellow


Visit personal website »

Sarah is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Water Systems. Her research uses mixed methods to examine empirical and socio-technical aspects of sustainability and resilience in relation to water systems, including alternative water supply systems (AWSS). Her past and ongoing work on rainwater harvesting (RWH) has contributed to the present direction of travel of technological innovation in the UK RWH sector, as well as receiving international attention from RWH and AWSS communities. At present her research includes: (i) real-world assessment of demonstration-scale RWH technologies; (ii) application of network analysis techniques to assess resilience; and (iii) integrating approaches from the engineering, environmental and social sciences within a water systems context.

For a number of projects, Sarah has also produced consultation responses, which influence policy development in the water and environmental sector. Her work embeds contemporary public engagement theory and practice and she recently co-produced and delivered a programme of research-grounded knowledge exchange 'business assists' to SMEs in the South West of England, focusing on climate change impacts. Sarah is also commercially active and is a social entrepreneur, establishing ‘RainShare’ in 2014 to enable publics to become more proactive in managing water (roof runoff) in their community spaces. She is interested in exploring the potential socio-technical contribution of organisational and community-based action to water system resilience and sustainability.

Sarah is currently working on three projects:

Safe and SuRe - Centre for Water Systems - Sarah is Researcher-CoI on this EPSRC project, which aims to develop a new paradigm for water management focusing on reliability ('safe'), resilience and sustainability ('SuRe'). Latest paper here.

Drought Risk and You (DRY) - European Centre for Environment & Human Health  - Sarah is a researcher on this UWE-led NERC-DWS-funded project that aims to weave drought science and drought narratives together to produce a utility to support decision-making.

SINBaD - Sustainable Infrastructure Needs Basic Data - Sarah is PI on this EPSRC GCRF-funded project exploring inclusive growth through an examination of the accessibility of hydrometric data, water resource models and decision making tools across developed and developing countries for planning under future scenarios. The project uses a convergent-divergent Delphi approach with an expert panel across partner organisations in the UK, Jamaica and Ghana.

Sarah is also affiliated to the Climate Change and Su­stainable Futures (CCSF) core theme. She is currently supervising the following doctoral candidates:

Peter Melville-Shreeve - Rainwater harvesting in the wild

Kimberly Bryan - A Socio-technical systems approach to sustainable and resilient household and community water management

Miguel Headley - Reliability, resilience and sustainability of Caribbean water supply systems

Sarah Bunney - Multi-agency approaches to emergency planning in the water sector


Previously, Sarah led/worked on the following EU-CIP, ERDF, JISC and EPSRC projects:

  • RainSafe - EU Eco-innovation project conducting international multi-scale testing a of new rainwater treatment device
  • Centre for Business and Climate Solutions - read our case study on the NCCPE website here


Sarah completed an MRes in Science and Technology Studies and released an essay compilation of this work entitled 'Reflections of a Water Professional: Essays in the Philosophy of Engineering', which can be downloaded here. Her dissertation, entitled "Challenging niche management theory using personal practitioner reflections on the rainwater harvesting innovation space: making a case for safe, sustainable and resilient (SuRe) niche governance" has been translated into a paper in Water Journal.

Sarah completed her doctoral thesis in 2010, entitled:

"Rainwater harvesting in the UK: a strategic framework to enable transition from novel to mainstream", which can be downloaded from here.

A 'plain English' report of the main findings of the thesis ('RWH in the UK-Thinking Outside the Tank') and other documents can be downloaded from here: CWS Downloads

Prior to ­this, Sarah worked at Thames Water Utilities Ltd (2001-2006).