Professor Charles' research focuses on environmental health risks, using interdisciplinary approaches to analyse how we construct our understanding of environmental health risks, and how to communicate those risks to affect change. With her research team, which includes expertise in water quality, health and social sciences, and through partnerships with UNICEF and governments, she is leading work on drinking water quality and climate resilience that will help progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal for safe drinking water quality for all (SDG 6.1). Her work has been funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), World Health Organization, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and includes work in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Rwanda, and Uganda. Professor Charles undertook her PhD on a risk-based approach to management of decentralised wastewater treatment systems in Sydney's drinking water catchments in Australia. She joined the University of Oxford in 2013 having previously been a lecturer at the University of Surrey.
Professor of Environmental Health Risks
- Sloane Robinson Official Fellow in Environmental Change and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion, Reuben College
- Chair of the Oxford Water Network
- Academic Director, MSc and MPhil in Water Science, Policy and Management
- Member of the Economy and Society: Transformations and Justice research cluster
Professor Charles leads research across two international, interdisciplinary research programmes on water security. As co-director of the REACH: Improving water security for the poor programme, she is leading research on water security challenges in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya. On the GCRF Hub for Water security and sustainable development, she is leading research on water security and health. Across these programmes her research addresses two key areas:
Methodological development on how we conceptualise and measure risk. Water safety risks commonly focus on individual hazards, most frequently E. coli, overlooking the multiple risks to health. Professor Charles' team addresses how monitoring data shapes our understanding of health risks through advancing analysis of multiple risks, sampling biases and inherent variability, as well as how climatic events affect risk. In healthcare facilities, this includes research on environmental risks via water related to poor management of water systems and waste disposal, including antimicrobial resistance.
Pathways to integrate water safety into water supply. Where financial resources or capacity is low, water safety is often assumed to be provided by infrastructure design rather than being actively managed. As a result, water quality is often a limiting factor in achieving safely managed drinking water. Professor Charles' team has been working across different contexts on the opportunities and barriers to uptake of water safety into water supply delivery and management. With Fundifix, in Kenya, work has focused on embedding water safety in professional services management, including use of fit-for-purpose laboratories to support rural water safety, and is addressing water safety in schools. In Bangladesh, the SafePani model is demonstrating delivery of climate-resilient, safe water services for rural communities and schools with government and UNICEF.
Selected Research Projects
- GCRF Hub for Water security and sustainable development. Funded by UKRI; 2019-2024.
- REACH: Improving water security for the poor. Funded by FCDO; 2015-2024.
- The Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance. Funded by the Oxford Martin School. 2017 – 2020
- Earth Observation enabled decision support for Flood and Drought Resilience in Ethiopia and Kenya. Funded by UK Space Agency; 2016-2019.
- Gro for GooD: Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development. Funded by DFID/ESRC/NERC; 2015-2019.
- 3ksan: Catalysing self-sustaining sanitation chains in informal settlements, working in Kisumu (Kenya), Kigali (Rwanda) and Kampala (Uganda). Funded by the SPLASH Sanitation Programme; 2010-2014.
- Vision 2030: The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change technology projection study. Funded by WHO and DFID; 2008-2009.
- Migration of enteric viruses in deep aquifers: intergranular transport processes, sorption and survival. Funded by NERC; 2005-2007.
Professor Charles is the Academic Director for the MSc and MPhil in Water Science, Policy and Management, and leads the Water and Health module. She co-leads an elective on Health, Environment and Development, with Dr Proochista Ariana in the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health. She contributes to the MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine.
Current Graduate Research Students
Engaging men as allies to women's empowerment when implementing gender-based WASH interventions
Bangladesh's arsenic crisis: Navigating the complexities of the science-policy interface of water quality and health
Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)
Completed DPhil in 2022
Health Risk in Complex Adaptive Rural Water Systems
Completed DPhil in 2019
Achieving water security in a developing-country delta city: Challenges from a waterfront development project in Jakarta Bay
Completed DPhil in 2017
The Anti-Dam Protest Cycle: Evidence from Asia
Recent Graduate Research Students
Completed DPhil in 2015
|Demand-driven sustainable sanitation improvements in low-income informal settlements: a collective approach for East African cities (University of Surrey)|
- Birhanu, B., Kebede, S., Charles, K., Taye, M., Atlaw, A. and Birhane, M. (2021) Impact of Natural and Anthropogenic Stresses on Surface and Groundwater Supply Sources of the Upper Awash Sub-Basin, Central Ethiopia. Frontiers in Earth Science.
- Bussi, G., Whitehead, P.G., Jin, L., Taye, M.T., Dyer, E., Hirpa, F.A., Yimer, Y.A. and Charles, K.J. (2021) Impacts of Climate Change and Population Growth on River Nutrient Loads in a Data Scarce Region: The Upper Awash River (Ethiopia). Sustainability, 13(3). 1254.
- Charles, K.J., Greggio, E. (2021) Invited Perspective: Beyond National Water Quality Surveys: Improving Water Quality Surveillance to Achieve Safe Drinking Water for All (Sustainable Development Goal 6.1). Environ Health Perspect, 129(9).
- Charles, K.J., Howard, G., Villalobos, E., Gruber, J., Alam, S., Alamgir, A.S.M., et al. (2021) Infrastructure alone cannot ensure resilience to weather events in drinking water supplies. Science of The Total Environment, 151876.
- Dickin, S., Bisung, E., Nansi, J. and Charles, K. (2021) Empowerment in water, sanitation and hygiene index. World Development, 137. 105158.
- Ferguson, C.M., Charles, K.J. (2021) Improving Urban Water Resilience. J AWWA, 113(8-14).
- Grasham, C.F., Calow, R., Casey, V., Charles, K.J., de Wit, S., Dyer, E., Fullwood-Thomas, J., Hirons, M., Hope, R., Hoque, S.F., Jepson, W., Korzenevica, M., Murphy, R., Plastow, J., Ross, I., Ruiz-Apilánez, I., Schipper, E.L.F., Trevor, J., Walmsley, N. and Zaidi, H. (2021) Engaging with the politics of climate resilience towards clean water and sanitation for all. npj Clean Water, 4(42).
- Jin, L., Whitehead, P.G., Bussi, G., Hirpa, F., Teferi, M., Abebe, Y., Charles, K.J., (2021) Natural and anthropogenic sources of salinity in the Awash River and Lake Beseka (Ethiopia): Modelling impacts of climate change and lake-river interactions. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 36(100865).
- Kebede, S., Charles, K., Godfrey, S., MacDonald, A. and Taylor, R.G. (2021) Regional-scale interactions between groundwater and surface water under changing aridity: evidence from the River Awash Basin, Ethiopia. Hydrological Sciences Journal.
- Nowicki, S., deLaurent, Z.R., de Villiers, E.P., Githinji, G. and Charles, K.J. (2021) The utility of Escherichia coli as a contamination indicator for rural drinking water: Evidence from whole genome sequencing. Plos one, 16(1). e0245910.
- Nowicki, S., DeLaurent, Z.R., de Villiers, E.P., Githinji, G. and Charles, K.J. (2021) The utility of Escherichia coli as a contamination indicator for rural drinking water: Evidence from whole genome sequencing. PLoS One, 16(1).
- Charles, K.J., Nowicki, S. and Bartram, J.K. (2020) A framework for monitoring the safety of water services: from measurements to security. Npj Clean Water, 3. 36.
- Nowicki, S., Koehler, J. and Charles, K.J. (2020) Including water quality monitoring in rural water services: why safe water requires challenging the quantity versus quality dichotomy. npj Clean Water, 3. 14.
- Taye, M.T., Dyer, E., Charles, K.J. and Hirons, L.C. (2020) Potential predictability of the Ethiopian summer rains: understanding local variations and their implications for water management decisions. Science of The Total Environment. 142604.
- Grasham, C.F., Korzenevica, M. and Charles, K.J. (2019) On considering climate resilience in urban water security: a review of the vulnerability of the urban poor in sub‐Saharan Africa. WIREs Water.
- Kirchherr, J., Ahrenshop, M.P. and Charles, K. (2019) Resettlement lies: Suggestive evidence from 29 large dam projects. World Development, 114: 208-219.
- Nowicki, S., Lapworth, D.J., Ward, J.S.T., Thomson, P. and Charles, K. (2019) Tryptophan-like fluorescence as a measure of microbial contamination risk in groundwater. Science of The Total Environment, 646: 782-791.
- Octavianti, T. and Charles, K. (2019) De- and re-politicisation of water security as examined through the lens of the hydrosocial cycle: The case of Jakartaʼs sea wall plan. Water Alternatives, 12(3): 1017-1037.
- Borgomeo, E., Vadheim, B., Woldeyes, F.B., Alamirew, R., Tamru, S., Charles, K.J., Kebede, S. and Walker, O. (2018) The Distributional and Multi-Sectoral Impacts of Rainfall Shocks: Evidence From Computable General Equilibrium Modelling for the Awash Basin, Ethiopia. Ecological Economics, April 2018: 621-632.
- Fung, Z., Pomun, T., Charles, K.J. and Kirchherr, J. (2018) Mapping the social impacts of small dams: The case of Thailand’s Ing River basin. Ambio.
- Hylton, E. and Charles, K. (2018) Informal mechanisms to regularize informal settlements: Water services in São Paulo's favelas. Habitat International.
- Kirchherr, J. and Charles, K. (2018) Enhancing the sample diversity of snowball samples: Recommendations from a research project on anti-dam movements in Southeast Asia. PLoS One, 13(8).
- Octavianti, T. and Charles, K. (2018) Disaster Capitalism? Examining the Politicisation of Land Subsidence Crisis in Pushing Jakarta’s Seawall Megaproject. Water Alternatives, 11(2): 394-420.
- Octavianti, T. and Charles, K. (2018) The evolution of Jakarta’s flood policy over the past 400 years: The lock-in of infrastructural solutions. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space: 1-23.
- Whitehead, P.G., Bussi, G., Hossain, M.A., Dolk, M., Das, P., Comber, S., Peters, R., Charles, K.J., Hope, R., Hossain, S. (2018) Restoring water quality in the polluted Turag-Tongi-Balu river system, Dhaka: Modelling nutrient and total coliform intervention strategies. Science of The Total Environment, 631-632: 223-232.
- Kirchherr, J., Charles, K. and Walton, M. (2017) The interplay of activists and dam developers: the case of Myanmar’s mega-dams. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 33(1): 111-131. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Kirchherr, J., Matthews, N., Charles, K.J. and Walton, M.J. (2017) “Learning it the Hard Way”: Social safeguards norms in Chinese-led dam projects in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Energy Policy, 102: 529-539. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Kirchherr, J. and Charles, K. (2016) The Social Impacts of Dams: A New Framework for Scholarly Analysis. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 60: 99-114. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Kirchherr, J., Charles, K.J. and Walton, M.J. (2016) Multi-causal pathways of public opposition to dam projects in Asia: A fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA). Global Environmental Change, 41: 33-45. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Kirchherr, J., Disselhoff, T. and Charles, K. (2016) Safeguards, financing and employment in Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa: the case of Ghana’s Bui Dam. Waterlines, 35(1): 37-58. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Kirchherr, J., Pohlner, H. and Charles, K.J. (2016) Cleaning up the big muddy: A meta-synthesis of the research on the social impact of dams. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 60: 115-125. [Download Pre-Print Manuscript].
- Okurut, K., Kulabako, R.N., Abbott, P., Adogo, J.M., Chenoweth, J., Pedley, S., Tsinda, A. and Charles, K. (2015) Access to improved sanitation facilities in low-income informal settlements of East African cities. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, 5(1): 89-99.
- Okurut, K., Kulabako, R.N., Chenoweth, J. and Charles, K. (2015) Assessing demand for improved sustainable sanitation in low-income informal settlements of urban areas: a critical review. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 25(1): 81-95.
- Okurut, K. and Charles, K.J. (2014) Household demand for sanitation improvements in low-income informal settlements: A case of East African cities. Habitat International, 44: 332-338.
- Ahmed, A.E.S.I., Cavalli, G., Bushell, M.E., Wardell, J.N., Pedley, S., Charles, K. and Hay, J.N. (2013) Straw N-halamines: evaluation in single and multistage filtration systems. Carbohydrate Polymers, 92(2): 1934-1941.
- Tsinda, A., Abbott, P., Pedley, S., Charles, K., Adogo, J., Okurut, K. and Chenoweth, J. (2013) Challenges to achieving sustainable sanitation in informal settlements of Kigali, Rwanda. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(12): 6939-6954.
- Bartram, J., Charles, K., Evans, B., O'Hanlon, L. and Pedley, S. (2012) Commentary on community-led total sanitation and human rights: should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? Journal of Water and Health, 10(4): 499-503.
- Ahmed, A., Cavalli, G., Bushell, M., Wardell, J., Pedley, S., Charles, K. and Hay, J. (2011) New approach to produce water free of bacteria, viruses and halogen in a recyclable system. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77(3): 847-853.
- Howard, G., Charles, K., Pond, K., Brookshaw, A., Hossain, R. and Bartram, J. (2010) Securing 2020 vision for 2030: climate change and ensuring resilience in water and sanitation services. Journal of Water and Climate Change, 1(1): 2-16.
- Charles, K.J., Shore, J., Sellwood, J., Laverick, M., Hart, A. and Pedley, S. (2009) Assessment of the stability of human viruses and coliphage in groundwater by PCR and infectivity methods. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 106(6): 1827-1837.
- Ferguson, C., Charles, K. and Deere, D. (2009) Quantification of microbial sources in drinking-water catchments. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 39(1): 1-40.
- Charles, K.J., Souter, F.C., Baker, D.L., Davies, C.M., Schijven, J.F., Roser, D.J., Deere, D.A., Priscott, P.K. and Ashbolt, N.J. (2008) Fate and transport of viruses during sewage treatment in a mound system. Water Research, 42(12): 3047-3056.
- Charles, K.J., Nowicki, S., Thomson, P. and Bradley, D. (2019) Water and Health: A Dynamic, Enduring Challenge. Chapter 6 in, Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) Water Science, Policy, and Management: A Global Challenge. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 97-116. ISBN: 9781119520603.
- Charles, K.J., Octavianti, T., Hylton, E. and Remmington, G. (2019) Equity and Urban Water Security. Chapter 18 in, Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) Water Science, Policy, and Management: A Global Challenge. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 329-343. ISBN: 9781119520603.
- Charles, K. (2015) Climate Change. Chap. 35 in, Bartram, J. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Water and Health. Routledge. pp. 367-375. ISBN: 9781138910072.
- Charles, K. (2015) Water Safety Plans. Chap. 23 in, Bartram, J. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Water and Health. Routledge. pp. 245-252. ISBN: 9781138910072.
- Charles, K. and Pond, K. (2015) Drinking Water Quality Regulations. Chap. 44 in, Bartram, J. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Water and Health. Routledge. pp. 447-454. ISBN: 9781138910072.
- Charles, K.J., Pond, K. and Pedley, S. (2009) Vision 2030. The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change: Technology fact sheets. World Health Organization, Geneva.
- Charles, K.J., Pond, K., Pedley, S., Hossain, R. and Jacot-Guillarmod, F. (2009) Vision 2030. The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change: Technology projection study. World Health Organization, Geneva.