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Academic Profile

Dr Charles is an environmental engineer by training, who leads an interdisciplinary research team on water security. Her work addresses the challenge of providing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all, with a focus on risk-based approaches in developing countries to improve health outcomes for all. Her work has been funded by the Department for International Development, World Health Organization, UK Research Councils (NERC/ESRC), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and includes work in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Dr 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.

Current Research

Dr Charles' research encompasses a range of cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding and improving water security for the poor. She is active in research in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Charles is the co-director of the REACH: Improving water security for the poor programme, which addresses water security challenges in Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. Her work addresses two main areas, delivering evidence to challenge current knowledge and improve policy and implementation, which are expanded on below.

How should we monitor water quality, and communicate results, to affect improvements in environmental and drinking water quality?

New technologies are emerging that can help us understand water quality risks in different ways. For that data to generate improvements in water quality, it needs to help provide information to a person who understands the representation of risk presented, and has the will and capacity to implement changes. My work explores how different forms of communication of water quality results to managers at all levels can influence their decision-making.

How can diverse (trans-)disciplinary perspectives of risk inform our development of water security risk science to deliver more appropriate metrics?

The concept of risk is central to public health and water security science, but it is often interpreted through the lens of a single discipline. Through my work I am exploring the interdisciplinary approaches to water security at the basin scale and in urban areas. In the Awash basin, Ethiopia, I am bringing together different disciplinary approaches to risk to support the development of climate and hydrological metrics that integrate the vulnerabilities and capacity of the exposed populations. This draws on collaborations with UNICEF, WHO, government, and community members. This builds on my research on the impact of climatic variability on health, facilitating development of more climate resilient WASH services.

Selected Research Projects


Dr Charles coordinates and teaches the Water and Health module for the MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management with Professor David Bradley. She leads an elective on Health, Environment and Development, in collaboration 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

Saskia Nowicki

Health Risk in Complex Adaptive Rural Water Systems

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Thanti Octavianti
Completed DPhil in 2019

Achieving water security in a developing-country delta city: Challenges from a waterfront development project in Jakarta Bay

Julian Kirchherr
Completed DPhil in 2017

The Anti-Dam Protest Cycle: Evidence from Asia

Recent Graduate Research Students

Kenan Okurut
Completed DPhil in 2015
Demand-driven sustainable sanitation improvements in low-income informal settlements: a collective approach for East African cities (University of Surrey)

Selected Publications

  • View Dr Katrina Charles's ORCID profile
  • View Dr Katrina Charles's Scopus profile
  • View Dr Katrina Charles's ResearchGate profile
  • View Dr Katrina Charles's Academia.edu profile
  • View Dr Katrina Charles's Google Scholar profile
  • View Dr Katrina Charles's ResearcherID profile

Journal Articles

Book Chapters