Supporting global sustainable development

Increasing environmental degradation, due to global population growth and climate change among other causes, was a major consideration in the formulation of the United Nations UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SUNRISE supported the realisation of the SDGs by improving livelihoods and wellbeing through research to:

  • reduce environmental risk
  • improve environmental quality
  • improve reliability of the supply of food, water and other natural resources

SUNRISE guide on sustainable water management - (December 2021)

A new book supported by the SUNRISE programme shows why and how emerging scientific knowledge and new technologies can support sustainable management and use of freshwater resources, aimed at water professionals and practitioners in India. The guide is available to download as a free PDF or e-book.

Programme summary

UKCEH applied its expertise to investigate and provide advice on flood and drought modelling and water management, improving air quality, reduced livestock disease, enhancing soil quality and the sustainability and resilience of smallhold farming systems.

A key challenge was to adapt and transfer existing environmental research methods and models, developed in the UK for relatively un-degraded and highly monitored systems, for effective use in degraded and data sparse contexts.

SUNRISE delivered its objectives through:

This aimed to address the challenge of understanding and predicting water dynamics in areas of incomplete and spatially diverse data, and so improve decision-making. (Lead scientist: Harry Dixon)

This filled a knowledge gap by attributing the main causes of degradation of air quality, water and soil systems and by determining the key factors that affect both rate and stability of recovery. (Lead scientist: Niall McNamara)

This investigated the factors limiting productivity and/or compromising the resilience of smallholder farming systems in and investigated new interventions to enable the local development of systems that are resilient to environmental change. (Lead scientist: Stephen Cavers)


SUNRISE directly contributed to the following SDGs by providing new understanding to inform and improve sustainable environmental management, at relevant scales in parts of Asia (including China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia) and parts of sub-Saharan Africa (including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi).

  • SDG1: No poverty
  • SDG2: Zero hunger
  • SDG3: Good health and well-being
  • SDG6: Clean water and sanitation
  • SDG7: Affordable and clean energy
  • SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG13: Climate Action
  • SDG15: Life on land

Chair, Programme Executive Board

Gwyn Rees, Science Area Head Water Resources


The four-year SUNRISE programme was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as part of a National Capability Long-Term Science - Official Development Assistance (LTS-ODA) Award and ran until [end] March 2021.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted on 25 September 2015 when countries came together with a unified commitment to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.