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Towards Hydrocitizenship – Bath Spa University

Towards Hyrdocitizenship

The Hydrocitizenship project ran from 2014 to 2017 and investigated ways in which communities live with each other and their environment in relation to water in a range of UK neighbourhoods.


​This three year project investigated, and made creative contributions to, the ways in which citizens and communities live with each other and their environment in relation to water in a range of UK neighbourhoods. The research asked a series of questions about what communities are, how they function, and the role of environmental (water) assets and issues in the coming together of communities, conflicts within and between communities, and progress to interconnected community and environmental resilience.

The project ran from 2014 -2017; more information can be found on the project website which has been preserved for posterity.


Find out more about the terms used in the vision of the project below:


The term hydrocitizenship has been adopted in reference to the more established notion of “ecological citizenship” which sees transformations in how society works at individual and collective levels as essential if we are to generate more meaningful, ecologically sustainable forms of society.

In our project, we put this idea to work within the contemporary contexts of individual and community engagements with water.


Water is a fundamental resource for society, and at present a range of challenging water issues face communities in the UK and internationally.

These include concerns over flooding, sea level rise, climate change, drought and supply security, water quality, biodiversity and landscape quality, access for recreation, water and energy (e.g. fracking), effective urban drainage, and waste management.

Towards Hydrocitizenship joins a growing body of academic and policy initiatives which seek to address local hydrospheres (interconnected water flows and exchanges) holistically, in ways which address these interdependent issues on catchment and systems based scales.


Community, although a now much challenged and questioned term, remains a key way in thinking about how society can function effectively in social, cultural and economic terms. This is reflected in the range of recent research that has been supported by the UK Government’s Connected Communities initiative (funders of this project).

In relation to communities we ask, what does it do to the ways in which we imagine communities, and to the ways in which they imagine themselves, if local water-related environmental issues (both assets and conflicts) are brought more fully into local public consciousness?

Can addressing environmental issues through local groups help develop relations within communities and between communities?

Can narratives of past and current relationships between people, and people and water, help generate new narratives – new relationships?


The core approaches within the project are arts and humanities disciplines and practices, (history, theatre studies, film making, narrative studies, cultural geography, landscape studies) which are intergraded with a range of social science disciplines (planning, environmental geography, community studies) and methods (ethnography and participatory action research).

The research process will see arts and social enterprise consultants, community partners, and other water/community stakeholders taking full part in the project in four case study areas in Wales and England (Borth; Bristol; Lee Valley, London; and Shipley).

Case studies

The case study teams will also exchange and integrate skills, methods, experiences and findings into an overarching synthesis. This synthesis will address the questions set out above and provide a reflexive analysis of how creative and participatory arts and humanities centred interdisciplinary research can be done effectively and with legacy.


During the project’s three-year timeframe, the overall academic team of 15 researchers from 9 universities will work with the arts practitioners and community groups to refine and advance participatory research practices and outputs.

The exact form and direction of these activities will be the outcome of local, collaborative working. The interdisciplinary team will work across all case study sites in order to magnify impacts and ensure that the research is relevant in a range of disciplines and policy arenas.

Case studies

The case studies were in Bristol, Lee Valley (London), Borth and Tal-y-bont (Mid Wales), and Shipley (Bradford). Each case study was being conducted by a local team of academics, artists, community activists, and selected community partners ranging from small community groups to larger organisations charged with aspects of regeneration and community resilience.


Water City Bristol is a collection of creative conversations about water and communities - people and their diverse relationships with water and environment in Bristol. Our aims are to connect with existing organisations, groups and individuals with an interest in water relationships, either through involvement with rivers or with the floating harbour, and the 'tidescapes' of Bristol. In addition we are interested in thinking more broadly about water relationships in the city through considering access to water (for recreation and for drinking); sewerage and water provision; and hidden water courses, histories and futures of water in the city.

Lee Valley (London)

The River Lee/Valley is London’s second river, 26 miles long, comprising a system of canals/locks, reservoirs and an historic resident & industrial community and rich ecosystem. We aim to investigate and contribute to understanding the diverse relationships between people and water in the Lee Valley through creative conversations with community partners and individuals, and by facilitating, encouraging and producing creative interventions and outputs that help explore these complex inter-relationships.

Cymerau (Mid Wales)

Communities in and around Borth and Tal-y-bont, are warmly invited to take part in 'Cymerau'.

This is a project about water in all its aspects. It asks a simple question: What does ‘water’ mean to us, as communities and individuals?

We want to start conversations about water. Locally, we want to understand what is important to people and who would like to be involved in expressing this creatively with professional artists and makers. We hope that this attention will not only increase understanding but inform and inspire actions (outside of this project) that respond to the issues raised.

Shipley (Yorkshire)

Multi-Story Water is a celebration of the waterways in the Shipley area – the River Aire, Bradford Beck, and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It explores local people’s relationships with the water environment — the pleasures it brings, the memories it holds, the risks it poses, and our responsibilities for it. Building on conversations with and among local people, the project seeks to express these themes creatively, and to identify possibilities for future action.


Lee Valley (London)
  • Professor Andrew Church, University of Brighton
  • Professor Neil Ravenscroft, University of Brighton
  • Professor Graeme Evans, Middlesex University
  • Dr Ozlem Edizel, Middlesex University
  • Dr Johanne Orchard Webb, University of Brighton
Borth & Tal-y-bont (Mid-Wales)
  • Sara Penrhyn Jones, Aberystwyth University
  • Dr Alexandra Plows, Bangor University
  • Dr Tom Payne, Aberystwyth University
  • Professor Stephen Bottoms, The University of Manchester
  • Maggie Roe, Newcastle University
  • Lyze Dudley, The University of Manchester

Success Story: Hidden Tidescapes (Bristol)

Academic lead: Professor Owain Jones

This theme picks up on previous work on tides and tidal landscapes and draws on the fact that Bristol has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, as well as many issues related to tidal landscapes, power, biodiversity, infrastructure and flooding.  

Initiated by NOVA artists, in 2015, project team members partnered with My Future - My Choice, the Desperate Men Theatre Company and Rough Glory Films to collectively form an initiative called Bristol Loves Tides. The initial idea was co-developed with members of the project team, and funding was awarded to the project by Bristol Green Capital 2015

The tidal project theme of Water City Bristol is exploring many methods of fostering communication and community development across tidal landscapes, working with local community groups including Friends of the Avon New Cut, and the Lamplighter's Marsh Group.

[Taken from the Water City Bristol website]


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