Meet Alethea Walker

Academic and Industrial affiliations: Newcastle University and Stantec working in partnership with Northumbrian Water 
Title of research project: Promoting High Quality Green Infrastructure and the delivery of Multiple Benefits through Improved Connectivity, Maintenance Regimes and Vegetation Specification

Green Infrastructure can be defined as an interconnected network of greenspace that provides multiple benefits within socio-economic and environmental contexts, it is threatened by climate change and the constrains of the urban landscape around it. The importance of connectivity between Green Infrastructure components and the surrounding landscape in relation to functionality will be considered along with issues such as access. Experiments will provide an assessment of the performance of different vegetative species and their response to drought and flood conditions, allowing for recommendations related to longevity and resilience. Lastly, this research will aim to address the concern surrounding the current structures (or lack thereof) for the management and maintenance of Green Infrastructure incorporated into new and existing developments. 
The research will primarily focus on the performance of Green Infrastructure in relation to stormwater management; encompassing Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). The investigation will focus on a local perspective, using case studies from the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the work of Northumbrian Water Limited. Experiments will be carried out at the National Green Infrastructure Facility

Meet Daniel Ruth

Academic and Industrial affiliations: Cranfield University and Scottish Water
Title of research project: Rapid process optimisation procedures and process selection methods for natural organic matter removal from drinking water.

Natural organic material (NOM) is commonly found in water sources and leads to increased colour and turbidity and can cause taste and odour issues in drinking water. The presence of NOM in water during disinfection can also lead to the formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs), some of which have been linked to negative human health impacts.  It is therefore vital to reduce the amount of NOM present in the drinking water to reduce these effects. The bulk of NOM is generally removed in the coagulation stage where a positively charged coagulant is added to the water which neutralises the negatively charged NOM. This allows for the NOM to flocculate together and be removed more easily.  Currently, the methods we use to monitor water quality are unable to effectively account for the rapid changes in NOM that can occur. This can lead to process deterioration. More advanced characterisation tools can have long lag times between analysis and coagulant dosing and the results from the analysis can have varying recovery rates.
The aim of this project is to determine the optimal parameters to measure to allow for more informed coagulation treatment. The coagulation process is directly related to the charge of the organic matter. Therefore, measurements such as charge density and zeta potential may provide the information needed for this process. These analysis tools will then be integrated into control systems at a live drinking water treatment works (WTWs) to allow for real-time monitoring and control as the water character changes. It is the ambition to use this data to develop artificial intelligence algorithms that will correlate the data with coagulant information and final water quality to determine the optimum coagulant dose. This will improve the resilience of the water treatment process, ensuring it is reactive to any changes in the water occurring in the future.

Meet Rowan Pearce

Academic and Industrial affiliations: Cranfield University, Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Scottish Water and Thames Water
Title of research project: Delivering a Resilient Approach to Tertiary Phosphorus Removal from Wastewater

Phosphorus is widely considered to be the limiting nutrient in freshwater systems and therefore the main contaminant of concern regarding eutrophication.  Wastewater treatment plant discharges are a key point source of phosphorus, and therefore subject to regulation.  To maintain good ecological status of rivers in line with the water framework directive, discharge consents are being lowered in many cases to below 1 mg/L TP (total phosphorus), and potentially as low as 0.1 mg/L TP.  Current understanding and operational methods of standard treatment processes employed are insufficient to consistently achieve these targets in a sustainable and affordable manner.  
Historically, phosphorus within wastewater has been characterised by a divide into “soluble” and “particulate” fractions based upon passage or retention respectively through a 0.45μm filter, and then into fractions of reactivity based upon digestion steps prior to addition to a molybdenum blue reagent.  Standard treatment processes have been shown to target SRP, the most common fraction in wastewater, but to have a much lower effectiveness in targeting other fractions of phosphorus present in wastewater.  While this has not been an issue when targeting consents above 1 mg/L, when subject to tighter consents removal of the more recalcitrant fractions becomes necessary.   
There is currently very little data available on processes to remove these fractions, and indeed these fractions are currently seldom reported at all in wastewater treatment literature.  Generating data on removal efficiencies for these non SRP fractions will be vital for gaining an understanding in how to optimize processes to allow for their removal to allow for the meeting of tightening TP consents in future.  The project will focus on generating this data and optimizing processes to allow for the meeting of these tight consents in a way that is environmentally and fiscally sustainable. 

Meet Christos Iliadis

Host: Newcastle University
Title of research project: Improved flood modelling for the built environment and infrastructure – Achieving urban flood resilience through hydrodynamic models 
Supervisors: Dr. Vassilis Glenis & Prof Chris G. Kilsby

The extent and severity of the damage caused by urban floods is a product of both the intensity and duration of the rainfall and its interaction with the complex flowpaths of a city, on the surface and below ground. There is a great need to understand and improve how hydrodynamic models can represent urban features and be used to manage flood risk in the built environment. The current methods are currently blocked by the lack of a realistic approach to represent buildings in hydraulic models. Resilience Flood Protection planning in cities is the major topic due to climate change and the increase of the urbanization. This project will focus on urban flood modelling, the realistic representation of urban features in flood models, the reduction of damages from floods, new methods to increase the resilience of buildings, the path to blue-green infrastructure, and the definition of the water flow path in urban areas.
The main aim is to understand and improve how hydrodynamic models can represent urban features and be used to manage flood risk in the built environment.
The outcomes will be:

  • The most appropriate and realistic representation of urban features into the hydrodynamic models.
  • The Resilience Protection of buildings against flooding, and the reduction of damage inside them.
Image: The water flow path of the historic river Pandon Burn at Newcastle Upon Tyne for 60-min rainfall event with 100 years return period

The image shows 5 flood maps in central Newcastle upon Tyne derived from two different approaches for the representation of urban features: a) the Building Block (BB) approach and b) the ‘Stubby Building’ (SB) approach. The BB approach is shown in figure 1 and the SB approach is shown in figure 2. The differences between the two approaches are evident when zooming in on the Merz Court Building (Newcastle University) as shown in figures 3 (BB) and 4 (SB). The results from the SB approach show that the Merz Court Building is flooded, and this is not correct. Figure 5 shows the flow paths using the SB approach and the flooded building are coloured in red.

Meet Killian Gleeson

Academic and Industrial affiliations: University of Sheffield & Siemens
Title of research project: Decoding Distribution Data

Water utilities are increasingly turning to wireless sensor networks to assess water quality within drinking water distribution systems yet little knowledge exist regarding how to extract information from these data sets. Through analysing multiple real-world DWDS data sets, this project aims to undertake a thorough investigation of what value can be extracted from these data sets in order to decode the data and transform it into actionable information that can inform about asset and water condition.

Meet Clervie Genevois

Academic and Industrial affiliations: The University of Sheffield and DCWW Welsh Water
Title of research project: Service Reservoir Integrity

Service Reservoirs (SRs) are critical infrastructures within Drinking Water Distribution Systems (DWDS) and are known to contribute to the degradation of drinking water from treatment to tap. Maintenance of SRs is currently carried out on purely time-based schedules but this approach is not ideal: inspections and cleaning could be carried out when unnecessary, resulting in higher maintenance costs, or failures could run for a long time prior to intervention and cause further issues downstream the DWDS. Consequently, there is a need to move beyond time-based maintenance and towards a more efficient preventative system.  This research aims to address the knowledge gaps in assessing SR performance and identifying the root causes of failures, generating information to inform proactive asset maintenance. The starting steps in developing this project have been to review the main problems affecting SRs and their causes, investigating real time monitoring technologies and analysing historical microbial data collected at a case study. First results suggest that analysing time series of bacteria concentration, counting significant peaks at both the inlet and outlet, can serve as a basic assessment of SR performance; however, this project aims to go beyond only bacteriological water quality to understand the big picture of SR performance. To reach this objective, future steps will be to explore multiple physical, chemical, and microbial parameters to collectively indicate performance and condition of SRs. 

Meet Dimitris Athanasopoulos-Tseles

Academic and Industrial affiliations: Cranfield University & Severn Trent Water
Title of research project: Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment

An unintended consequence of biological wastewater treatment is the emission of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Further, natural and induced biological activity in biosolids also results in further emissions such that wastewater treatment works contains a number of point sources where greenhouse gases will be emitted. Current approaches to qualify such levels are based on static emission rates that do not reflect changes in operation or control that may reduce the total quantity of GHGs emitted. 
The most direct and effective way to eliminate, or at least reduce, scope 1 emissions is to utilise abiotic processes for the treatment of wastewater. However, the efficacy and practicality of doing so is unclear, especially framed against the fact that the majority of the existing infrastructure is based around biological processes which inherently emit GHG. Accordingly, there is a need to establish both (a) future flowsheets that can deliver operational carbon neutrality to ensure future development work is focused towards the right technologies, and (b) establish bases to reduce GHG emissions from existing infrastructure, so that emissions can be minimized.