Ruth Sylvester

Ruth Sylvester


I am a PhD student at the Water-WISER CDT. I hold an MSc with distinction in International Water and Sanitation Engineering from Loughborough University. My undergraduate degree is a Chemistry BSc from University College London. 

Research interests

I joined the Water-WISER CDT with an interest in social and political aspects of water and sanitation provision in low-income settings. As I learnt more about the body of international water and sanitation research, it became clear that sociopolitical aspects of services are under-researched globally, not only in low-income settings. My PhD is focused on the provision and use of water services in the context of England and Wales.

Water insecurity in high-income countries is a recognised problem, particularly in Northern America. Research refutes the ‘myth’ that water is readily available to all people residing in high-income countries. My PhD applies this concept to England and Wales, where a crucial element of access to water is household connection. Many groups of people do not enjoy a personal connection to services, such as canal boaters, travelling communities, those residing in institutions, and those experiencing homelessness.

People who do live in a household with a water connection may be restricted from accessing the service in ways which are meaningful to them. This situation can occur for a number of economic, social and political reasons, and is termed ‘vulnerability’ in the water industry. Examples of vulnerable households and household members include, low-income households, new-build houses without access to social tariffs, multiple-occupancy households, customers facing language barriers, and households with unequal gender relations and domestic abuse.

By the end of my research I aim to produce a conceptual map, enriched by lived experiences, representing what water insecurity looks like in England and Wales.


  • MSc International Water and Sanitation Engineering, Loughborough University
  • BSc Chemistry, University College London

Research groups and institutes

  • Water, Public Health and Environmental Engineering