Uta Wehn Dr.

Associate Professor of Water Innovation Studies


Dr. Uta Wehn is Associate Professor of Water Innovation Studies in the Integrated Water Systems and Governance Department at IHE Delft. She holds a BSc in Computer Science and she is also a trained social scientist with an MSc and PhD in Science and Technology Policy (Innovation Studies). She draws on almost 20 years of combined industrial, research and international development experience, with her research focusing on the role of knowledge and innovation for development, ICT-enabled citizen science and the social, policy and governance issues arising from innovations in the water sector and beyond. She has over 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals, international conference proceedings and book chapters in the areas of citizen science, data sharing, knowledge management and knowledge transfer, capacity development and innovation in the water sector. She currently leads the H2020 citizen science project ‘Ground Truth 2.0 – Environmental knowledge discovery’ (2016-2019) and she has a leading role in several other citizen science projects. She is also the Project Director of AfriAlliance: Africa-EU Innovation Alliance on Water and Climate (H2020, 2016-2021) and a member of several high level international initiatives, incl. the European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP Water) Steering Group and the OECD Water Governance Initiative where she has represented IHE Delft since the start of the initiative in 2013.

Uta Wehn is German and before coming to The Netherlands in 2001, she lived in New Zealand and for almost ten years in the United Kingdom with extended research-related stays in South Africa and Mexico. More recently, she has been actively involved in several interdisciplinary research and capacity development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Research Summary



Selected publications

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Ground Truth 2.0 – Environmental knowledge discovery of human sensed data (Project Director)

Citizen observatories enable citizens (and not just scientists and professionals) to collect and share data about the environment. Ground Truth 2.0 will strengthen the feedback-loop in the information chain: from citizen-based data collection to knowledge sharing for joint decision-making and cooperative planning. The overall objectives of Ground Truth 2.0 are to implement sustainable citizen observatories for the demonstration of their societal and economic benefits, and the global market uptake of the Ground Truth 2.0 concept and enabling technologies. The project uses a trans-disciplinary approach  which consists of a multi-actor innovation process to combine the social dimensions of citizen observatories with enabling technologies so that their customisation and deployment is tailored to the envisaged societal and economic impacts of the respective observatories. It focuses on environmental indicators in urban and rural areas related to spatial planning issues, with a specific focus on flora and fauna as well as water availability and water quality for land and natural resources management. This is supported by an innovative web-based service for worldwide mapping and updating of land use. The demonstration cases (4 EU and 2 African) cover the full 'spectrum’ of citizen-sensed data usage and citizen engagement, and therefore allow testing and validating of the concept and technologies, and evaluation of their impacts under a range of conditions. The Ground Truth 2.0 consortium consists of 14 partners, from industry, SME, NGO, government, research and academia. (Funding: H2020, 2016-2019).

AfriAlliance - Afri-EU Innovation Alliance for Water and Climate (Project Director)

The main objective of AfriAlliance is for African and European stakeholders to work together in the areas of water innovation, research, policy, and capacity development to prepare Africa for future Climate Change challenges. There are many but fragmented initiatives and networks in place, therefore AfriAlliance will not create new but will consolidate existing networks of scientists, decision makers, practitioners, citizens and other key stakeholders into an effective, problem-focused knowledge sharing mechanism via an overall coordination platform: the Africa-EU Innovation Alliance for Water and Climate. AfriAlliance will support them in identifying appropriate social innovation and technological solutions for key water and climate change challenges. AfriAlliance will take Africa-EU cooperation in this field to a practical level by sharing (non)technological innovation for local challenges, thus also identifying and boosting sustainable market and investment opportunities. Demand-driven, problem-focused Action Groups will share knowledge between the identified stakeholders and networks at all scales to effectively identify and address vulnerabilities. We will make extensive use of existing/emerging communication channels and events (EU/African platforms, conferences, social media) to streamline Climate Change issues into water-related networks to raise awareness about their impacts and propose adaptation measures. AfriAlliance will re-enforce and valorise Water and Climate Change research and social innovation (R&I) cooperation between Africa and Europe through a mix of forward-looking and bottom-up innovation and road mapping techniques. The project will identify demands, opportunities, and constraints at different levels and develop strategic advice (short term demand-driven R&I outlook and long term R&I agenda) for improving Africa-EU collaboration. This will help policy makers to create a consistent approach to bilateral cooperation between Africa and the EU in the field of innovation for water and climate. (Funding: H2020, 2016-2021).

National Strategies for Water Sector Capacity Development (Project Leader)

In the face of increasing challenges, water resources management relies on strong human, organisational and institutional capacity, yet this is lacking in many developing countries and, in practice, it remains challenging to strengthen knowledge and capacity across the board, in multiple government institutions, civil society, the private sector and knowledge institutes. One of the main outcomes of recent events held at IHE Delft (5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development) taking stock of the situation was a call for ‘national strategies for water sector capacity development’. Such strategies can help to ensure that the knowledge and capacity to maintain water services and water resources are strengthened in a synchronized and sustained manner where they are needed – locally - and that new investments avoid the failures of the past resulting in a patch work of uncoordinated CD efforts or too often focusing on infrastructure alone. Some countries have already embarked on developing and implementing such strategies while others are only at the beginning, deliberating their necessity. In this project, IHE Delft is supporting the national processes of developing or implementing strategies targeted at water sector capacity development in three countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America: Indonesia, Uganda and Colombia. Uta Wehn is leading this Action Research and Capacity Development project which aims to support these strategizing processes, to provide opportunities for the three countries to learn from each other, and to produce guidance material on how national CD strategies can successfully be developed and implemented (Funding: DGIS, 2014-2015).

BEWOP (Boosting Effectiveness in Water Operator Partnerships) (Activity Leader)

BEWOP (Boosting Effectiveness in Water Operator Partnerships) is a 5-year research and outreach initiative aimed at boosting the effectiveness of WOPs (Water Operator Partnerships) around the world. BEWOP, launched in September 2013, is a collaboration between IHE Delft and UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnership Alliance (GWOPA), the organization leading the global WOPs movement. BEWOP aims to address a potential paradox of the WOPs approach: operators are uniquely placed to share their experience and technical expertise with their peers, yet they sometimes lack the didactical capacity to effectively transfer their knowledge and the ability to manage the partnership process. The goal of BEWOP is to strengthen knowledge transfer and change processes in WOPs in order to maximize the potential for operational improvements of water operators. Uta Wehn leads the activity on Knowledge Management between and within water operators. More information about the project can be found here.

WeSenseIt Citizen Observatories of Water (WP Leader)

In order to harness environmental data and knowledge to effectively and efficiently manage water resources, the WeSenseIt project developed citizen observatories of water. The key aspect of WeSenseIt is the direct involvement of user communities in the data collection process: WeSenseIt enables citizen involvement by collecting data via an innovative combination of easy-to-use sensors and monitoring technologies as well as harnessing citizens collective intelligence, i.e. the information, experience and knowledge embodied within individuals and communities. The citizen observatory of water were tested and validated in three case studies in water management in collaboration with water management and civil protection agencies in the UK, the Netherlands and Italy. These case studies cover the entire hydrologic cycle with a major focus on variables responsible for flood and drought occurrences. (Funding: EC FP7, 2012-2016). In the WeSenseIt project, Uta Wehn lead the Governance and Social Innovation work package and she was the Deputy Scientific Director, with a special focus on innovation.

The Dynamics of Water Sector Knowledge and Capacity Development (Lead Organiser)

In the face of rising challenges for, and mixed experiences with, water sector capacity development, the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development held in May 2013 addressed: Who is taking the lead in knowledge and capacity development across sectors, disciplines and other boundaries so it can be leveraged to become more effective and efficient? To explore this issue in-depth in specific national contexts, country case studies were undertaken in Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Indonesia and Uganda. They served as a basis for analysing and learning from the approaches that have been taken by various stakeholders in their efforts to develop high quality, relevant and sustainable capacity for the well-functioning of the water sector. These insights informed the debate during the Symposium with empirical evidence, eliciting both, success stories as well as struggles and barriers (Funding: DGIS, 2011-2013).


Chittagong Water Supply & Sewerage Authority - Utility Modernization Umbrella Consultancy Strengthening the capacity of CWASA in the operation and maintenance of water utility services and supporting the modernisation of its operational structure, systems and process. IHE Delft contribution: Capacity Development and Training Plan and Utility Maturity Score Card (Funding: International Development Association (IDA) and Republic of Bangladesh, 2015-2017).

SUSWAS (Public Private Partnership for increased Access to Sustainable Water services in Rwanda). The project focusses on five main goals, namely i) Reducing Non-Revenue Water; ii) Increased efficiency of a water treatment plant; iii) Access to safe water for 50.000 people in peri-urban ( low income) areas in Kigali; iv) Improved sustainable functionality of rural water infrastructure; and v) An internal training center established at WASAC & staff educated (Funding: Sustainable Water Fund, 2013-2017).

Capacity Development for Performance Improvement of water utilities in secondary urban centers in East Africa. The project aims at improving the operational performance of three East African utilities (Rift Valley Water Services Board (RVWSB) Kenya, Electricity, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) Rwanda, Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Company (DAWASCO) Tanzania) and strengthening the capacity development skills of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) Uganda in the three thematic areas of governance and management, revenue enhancement and services provision to the poor (Funding: ACP-EU Water Facility Programme, 2011-2015).

MRC module-based competency framework for IWRM Support to the Mekong River Commission for developing a module-based IWRM Competency Framework. This framework aims (1) to familiarize the MRC Secretariat, NMCs, Line Agencies and related stakeholders with updated concepts and definitions about IWRM, Transboundary IWRM, competencies, knowledge and capacity development, (2) understand which core Transboundary IWRM competencies are necessary to develop in the MRC context, (3) obtain tools to analyze the current competencies, and (4) identify required competencies for recruitment of staff, career development paths and capacity needs assessments. (Funding: Mekong River Commission, 2012).



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