Research to tackle ‘grand challenges’ for water sector gets £3.9m boost #ukcric #ibuild

Picture1A new £3.9million research project involving Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future.

The project will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change.

The project is part of the £21 million ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), announced today by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson who said: “We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and this £21 million investment will bring together the nation’s researchers to address some of the most pressing engineering challenges we face.

“From ground-breaking work with robotics to advanced air-flow simulators, this investment will help tackle our aging water infrastructure and air pollution in cities to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.”

Named TWENTY 65 (Tailored Water to ENsure sustainabiliTY beyond 2065), the project will ensure flexible and adaptive water systems by developing multiple solutions and technologies that can be ‘tailored’ to suit specific circumstances. The academic partners – led by Sheffield University and involving Newcastle, Exeter, Manchester and Reading Universities as well as Imperial College London – will undertake research across eight technical themes, focusing on demand-based technologies, social practices, water energy systems to minimise carbon emissions and the use of robotic autonomous systems for infrastructure inspection and repair.

The project will also create a Hub involving Northumbrian Water and nine other water companies, their supply chain and academic researchers to encourage shared idea generation, strategic roadmapping, networking, innovation stimulation and research leadership.

This combination of multi-disciplinary academic research and collaborative work with the UK water sector will enable the TWENTY 65 project team to lead UK and international transformation in the sustainable supply of safe water.

Professor Richard Dawson said: “We are delighted to be part of this consortium that will work to ensure there is enough water, for all, for ever. Newcastle are leading work that will develop new computer modelling tools to study the long term pressures on water, to enable development of integrated solutions to tackle future water challenges. This builds on Newcastle’s recent multi-million pound award in the 2015 Budget to develop new surface water flood management research facilities as part of their involvement in the UKCRIC programme.”

Chris Jones, Northumbrian Water’s Research and Development Manager said: “We believe it is important to work with universities to develop innovative solutions to challenges the water industry faces now and in the future.

“We are already collaborating with Newcastle University in many areas including research into low-carbon and energy efficient treatment processes and processes that work better in low temperatures; the recovery of valuable by-products from wastewater; gene sequencing to help improve bathing water quality and reducing flooding from sewers.

“Future focus will help us to improve the quality and appearance of our customers’ drinking water and to reduce leakage.

“Being part of this project will afford us even greater access to innovative ideas and stimulate our own innovation agenda and activities.

“The TWENTY 65 Hub will stimulate collaboration with a wide range of companies and academics, and enable quicker conversion of research ideas to implementation, clearly supporting our vision to be the national leader of sustainable water and wastewater services.”

Professor Joby Boxall, Director of Sheffield Water Centre and overall project lead, said: “Water supply is the foundation of society, but a service we are privileged to be able to take for granted in the UK. There is no single solution to the sustainable supply of safe clean water for the future. Our vision is that by 2065, collaborative innovation has generated a water sector that is delivering sustainable tailored water solutions that positively impact on public health, the environment, the economy and society.

“New approaches and models for collaborative working across the water sector are an essential part of the project. We have support pledged from over 50 partners and will be looking to get more organisations on board.”

“This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity to take a long-term view of how we can develop and implement technology to deliver transformative change.”

The project was developed in response to an EPSRC call in early 2015 which set out four Engineering Grand Challenges, developed through a two day event involving academics from many disciplines, representatives from industry and government.



New book: Managing #coasts in the third millennium @TyndallCentre @NCLSustainable @SotonEngEnv #springer

Robert Nicholls, CESER director Richard Dawson, and Sophie Day launch a new book, Broad Scale Coastal Simulation: New Techniques to Understand and Manage Shorelines in the Third Millennium, that reports in full, for the first time, on the Tyndall Coastal Simulator.

Coastal scientists, engineers and policy makers around the world are increasingly recognising the challenge of sustainable coastal management in the third millennium. Long-term geomorphological, climatic and socio-economic changes are influencing coastal systems at unprecedented spatial scales and over extended timeframes – with profound implications for people, coastal infrastructure and settlements, biodiversity, ecosystem services and governance of the coastal zone. Coastal researchers and decision-makers are presently ill-equipped to deal with the problems emerging from multiple drivers of change across multiple coastal sectors. This reflects that the coast is a linked system, and any change in one area or sector may influence the impacts for other areas or sectors.

An integrated systems based approach that seeks to represent the interactions between different issues within the coastal zone is fundamental to understanding the impact of global change on coastlines and to assist the sustainable management of our shorelines over the twenty-first century. In 2000, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, an interdisciplinary consortium of engineers, scientists and social scientists, was established in the UK. This provided a unique platform to develop a coastal research programme with a major focus on an integrated assessment – known as the Tyndall Coastal Simulator. An earlier synthesis paper from this research by Dawson et al. (2009) won the Lloyd’s Science of Risk Research Prize for Climate Change in 2012.

Unlike other coastal books, this his book is not a handbook for design, nor is it a compendium of methods that cover every aspect of coastal systems or a compilation of case studies with differing aims. Rather it is a perspective on integrated assessment as applied to coastal problems, which represents a topic where there is an important gap in the literature.  Whilst each chapter can be read in isolation, each chapter also contributes to the wider integrated assessment. Throughout the book, the process of integrating information on the different environmental, social and economic dimensions of coastal management.

Taking a systems perspective of the natural, physical and social environment at a scale that is relevant to livelihoods and the economy has enabled the Tyndall Centre tea to analyse how the coastal system as a whole might evolve in a changing physical and socioeconomic environment. The application of the Tyndall Coastal Simulator to North Norfolk, UK, demonstrates that it is now feasible to explore long-term integrated projections of coastal processes such as geomorphology, flood risk and land use change, greatly increasing the evidence base available for coastal management decisions. Moreover, the methods and integrated assessment framework are transferable to other coastal areas.

The integrated assessment highlights a number of the opportunities, challenges and trade-offs and the need for a long-term perspective on coastal policy in order to allow adaptation to coastal change to occur, for example, the difficulties faced by coastal managers, who in reducing the risk of erosion may actually enhance flood risk (or the cost and viability of mitigating this risk) at sites within the same coastal system. Such results were captured within the Tyndall Coastal Simulator interface allowing the technical results to be accessible to a wide range of stakeholders.

It is now clear that the management of any coastline and the governance structures upon which that management depends need to reflect the connectivity between the various coastal features that comprise the natural and human coastal system and consequential trade-offs in management policy. Furthermore, the Norfolk analysis relates the technical aspects of coastal change to the present, and often emotive, debate around long-term shoreline management – in particular it strengthens the argument for a change in the widespread historic management approach of increasing lengths of “hold the line” towards allowing as much of the coastline as possible to return to a more natural and dynamic configuration, including the associated sediment supply from eroding coasts. Inevitably, this raises a number of fundamental questions from stakeholders, which we have explored through using results from the Tyndall Coastal Simulator, about how to address the concerns of directly and indirectly affected landowners and householders to facilitate this fundamental change in management approach.

More generally, the book shows the great potential for coastal stakeholders to develop improved understanding of coastal futures and for decisions to be based on a stronger evidence base. However, the work exposed the magnitude of many uncertainties about coastal futures.  Although the broadscale coastal simulation of the type presented here can provide a rich evidence base, in the context of adaptation it should be regularly reassessed, debated and reviewed as part of an ongoing process to reflect improving knowledge and changing priorities. Thus, the Tyndall Coastal Simulator and tools like it have the potential to provide a platform for the longer-term adaptation process.