Saskia Nowicki

Postdoctoral Researcher in Drinking-Water Safety

Co-chair of the Oxford Water Network

Academic Profile

Dr Nowicki works with the REACH water security programme and the Water Programme of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. She is co-chair of the Oxford Water Network and she contributes to graduate teaching and supervision at SoGE.

As a social-ecological systems researcher, Dr Nowicki applies an interdisciplinary approach to research, drawing on training in earth systems and aquatic ecology (BSc 2008-12), water science, policy and management (MSc 2015-16), and systems thinking applied to water-related health risks (DPhil 2017-21). Her doctoral research identified leverage points for systemic change to reduce health risk from unsafe drinking water supply. This work informed feedback to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF for recent policy and guideline developments and is the foundation for Nowicki’s ongoing work on safe water service delivery.

Dr Nowicki is building a portfolio of solution-focused research that cuts across the natural, social, and health sciences to respond to long-standing and emerging water quality risks. She works collaboratively with interdisciplinary research teams and with partners beyond academia to co-produce insight that supports just transitions for healthy freshwater ecosystems and equitable safe water service delivery. 

Current Research

Dr Nowicki does research to support the development of policy for water quality risk management that advances health equity and ecosystem integrity.

With water demand and pollution risks compounding as climate change intensifies the water cycle, contaminated waters pose severe risks for people and ecosystems globally. One in four people lack sustained access to safe water and strong inequalities persist, including through systemic exclusions in higher-income countries. Contaminated water is also driving biodiversity decline, with a quarter of critically endangered species living in freshwater habitats. Yet, there is insufficient policy attention to water quality challenges, even in instruments that focus explicitly on drinking water services, biodiversity restoration, energy sector transformation, climate change adaptation, etc.

To manage the compound risks of water insecurity, there is a pressing need for analysis that reconciles models of ideal water management decision-making with actual decision-making. Dr Nowicki’s research cuts across academic disciplines (and quantitative and qualitative methods) to explore the systemic links between water quality data and multi-sectoral decision-making. With systems thinking and collaboration central in her approach, Nowicki’s research has three key intersecting themes:
1.    Innovation for water quality risk assessment: This research progresses understandings of water quality risk assessment and treatment approaches, with a view to both technical and institutional effectiveness. 

2.    Leveraging data for social-ecological transformation: Using insights from behavioural science and systems mapping, this research seeks to understand the role of information feedbacks in changing human-environment interactions. 

3.    Reducing inequalities in water quality risk: This research responds to the sustainable development commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ and the imperative of all research to follow ethical principles. 


More information about Dr Nowicki’s current projects can be found on her website.  

Selected Publications

Nowicki, S., Birhanu, B., Tanui, F., Sule, M., Charles, K., Olago, D. and Kebede, S. (2023) Science of The Total Environment, 904.
1537188 - Water chemistry poses health risks as reliance on ...
Nowicki, S., Bukachi, S., Hoque, S., Katuva, J., Musyoka, M., Sammy, M., Mwaniki, M., Omia, D., Wambua, F. and Charles, K. (2022) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(1).
1231834 - Fear, efficacy, and environmental health risk repo...
Nowicki, S., deLaurent, Z., de Villiers, E., Githinji, G. and Charles, K. (2021) PLoS One, 16(1).
1158517 - The utility of Escherichia coli as a contamination...
Charles, K., Nowicki, S. and Bartram, J. (2020) npj Clean Water, 3.
1127076 - A framework for monitoring the safety of water ser...
Nowicki, S., Koehler, J. and Charles, K. (2020) npj Clean Water, 3(1).
1100820 - Including water quality monitoring in rural water ...
Charles, K., Nowicki, S., Thomson, P. and Bradley, D. (2019) in Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge, pp. 97–116.
1218229 - Water and health: A dynamic, enduring challenge
Johnstone, D., Nowicki, S., Narayan, A. and Sinha, R. (2019) in Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge, pp. 291–307.
1546634 - Wastewater: From a toxin to a valuable resource
Nowicki, S., Lapworth, D., Ward, J., Thomson, P. and Charles, K. (2018) Science of the Total Environment, 646, pp. 782–791.
891180 - Tryptophan-like fluorescence as a measure of micro...
Laauwen, M. and Nowicki, S. (no date) ACS ES&T Water [Preprint].