PhD Researcher: Exploring Water Scarcity Governance Responses Across Different Societies

June 25, 2024
Location Wageningen
End date Mon 12 August 2024
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Your job

Are you passionate about researching social science dimensions of climate change and water scarcity? Do you want to explore how diverse communities and governance actors perceive and respond to the risks posed by hydroclimatic extremes? Then this PhD opportunity might be for you!

The Wageningen Centre for Sustainability Governance at Wageningen University is looking for a motivated PhD candidate to join our research team. Our focus is on understanding and managing the disruptions caused by extreme weather events, like severe droughts, which lead to water scarcity. This PhD project is part of a larger effort to learn how these extreme events affect different aspects of society, from government policies and services to everyday life.

As climate change intensifies, many parts of the world are facing severe water shortages, with some areas even approaching "Day Zero" scenarios where the water supply is nearly depleted. This issue varies widely depending on historical, political, and community contexts, affecting how different societies manage and respond to water scarcity. Despite the importance of this problem, we still have much to learn about how different communities and governing bodies perceive and tackle these challenges. This project aims to fill that gap by studying water scarcity across three cases with distinct development contexts and systems of governance (e.g. USA, South Africa, Kenya, Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, India). We aim to understand how different regions manage water risks and how provisioning systems and everyday practices are evolving in response.

Our study combines risk governance with social practice theories to explore how communities and institutions respond to water scarcity over time. By examining past, present, and future practices, we aim to uncover the meanings, arrangements, and actions that shape how societies deal with water shortages. This research will provide valuable insights into how different regions handle water scarcity, helping to identify challenges and potential solutions.

As a PhD candidate, you will conduct fieldwork across three sites that are facing the risk of water scarcity and running out of water supplies. Please note there is scope for choosing the specific case study sites based on research gaps in collaboration with the supervisors during the first year of the PhD.

  • Reviewing scientific literature and policy documents, including a large-scale inventory of cases;
  • Advancing conceptual thinking by linking risk governance and social practice theory;
  • Travelling for fieldwork to selected case studies;
  • Conducting stakeholder mapping, interviews, and surveys on risk perceptions, practices, and responses;
  • Examining how water risk governance practices are evolving across selected case studies and conducting comparative social scientific analysis of factors influencing this;
  • Working at the science-policy interface, including convening workshops;
  • Working in a dedicated team of social and environmental scientists;
  • Producing 3-4 academic publications and a PhD thesis.

Your qualities

You have:

  • A strong social science background, including a high interest/aptitude for conducting interdisciplinary sociological and policy analysis of environmental issues and governance practices across the fields of sociology and political science;
  • A high interest in social science research, and an ability to interact effectively with both academic and societal stakeholders;
  • A willingness to conduct fieldwork in different settings abroad;
  • Curiosity and motivation to address important real-world problems through rigorous academic inquiry.
You also possess:
  • A Master’s degree in a field relevant to environmental social sciences, including sociology, public administration, human geography, anthropology, urban studies, or other relevant social science disciplines;
  • Strong qualitative and quantitative research skills, preferably with experience in conducting and analysing interviews, observations and surveys;
  • Fluency in English (a minimum of CEFR C2 level).

You will work here
This interdisciplinary position offers a unique opportunity to be hosted by the two chair groups in the Wageningen Centre for Sustainability Governance (WCSG): the Public Administration and Policy Group (PAP) and the Environmental Policy Group (ENP) at Wageningen University. You will be based in both of these groups and will be co-supervised by Dr. Johanna Koehler (PAP) and Dr. Mary Greene (ENP) and will join the vibrant team of doctoral research groups at the WCSG.

We offer you

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • Partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,-  in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Johanna Koehler, Assistant Professor of Environmental Risk Governance via email: and Dr Mary Greene, Assistant Professor, Environmental Policy via email:

For more information about the procedure, please contact Noorien Abbas, corporate recruiter

Do you want to apply?
Please submit your CV and a cover / motivation letter that outlines how your experience and ambitions meet the job description and requirements.  We hope to schedule the first job interviews mid September 2024. This will be followed by a second and final round of interviews at the end of  September 2024."

This vacancy will be listed up to and including Monday, 12th  of August2024. We hope to schedule the first job interviews early/mid-September 2024.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch the video below to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.