Let's talk about water

Whetting appetites for Bath's water research

Special WIRC PhD Colloquium

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📥  Water and Public Health, Water Management, Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience, WIRC @ Bath, WISE CDT

At this special WIRC colloquium, we are exicted to introduce Mr Qiang Chen and Miss Olivia Cooke, both PhD students at the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, University of Bath.

Thursday 16th February 2017 at 1.15pm

Room 4.8, Chancellor's Building, University of Bath (Location and maps)

Development and application of a novel PIC method to Fluid-structure interactions

Qiang ChenQiang Chen

PhD Research Programme in Civil Engineering, University of Bath

With increasing computing power, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling has been considerably developed in many research areas. This work is motivated by developing a hybrid method for numerical modelling of fluid-structure interaction in the coastal and offshore engineering environment. In particular, this is based on the Particle-In-Cell (PIC) method where both particles and grid are utilised. While the particles are used for tracking free surfaces and solving the nonlinear advection term of the Navier-Stokers equations in a Lagrangian manner, the underlying grid is employed for solving the rest non-advection parts in an Eulerian sense. The idea being that the method should have both the flexibility and efficiency from pure Lagrangian methods (based on particles) and Eulerian methods (based on grid), respectively, with a reasonable accuracy.

Qiang obtained his Master Degree at Dalian University of Technology, China. He is now a PhD student of Dr Jun Zang at the WEIR research unit.


Assessment and mitigation of storm runoff loads from an informal settlement (slum)

Olivia CookeOlivia Cooke

PhD Research Programme in Civil Engineering, University of Bath

One of the biggest global health problems today is that posed by urban conditions, most significantly in informal settlements. Within informal settlements, the lack of infrastructure including sanitation and sewage facilities can generate serious problems for health and the environment. Stormwater runoff influences these issues and it is necessary to understand the processes and characteristics of runoff to mitigate health risks from it. The aim of this PhD is to develop a scientific theory which determines how stormwater runoff, quality and quantity, is influenced by human and environmental factors, focussing on the case study of the informal settlement Enkanini, located in South Africa.

Olivia is a PhD Student on the WISE CDT based at the University of Bath in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. She is part of both the Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience (WEIR) research group and the Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC). Olivia studied Geography under an Open Scholarship at Aberystwyth University and gained a First Class (Honours) BSc. During her third year, Olivia studied for a term at UNIS in Svalbard in the Arctic. Her post-graduate study was a Master of Research in The Science of Natural Hazards at the University of Bristol. Fieldwork included studying the natural hazards in Guatemala, followed by research in Ecuador for her dissertation on volcano risk at Cotopaxi Volcano. Olivia is currently in her second year of her PhD.

Olivia's supervisors are Dr Lee Bryant, Dr Thomas Kjeldsen and Dr Wesaal Khan (Stellenbosch University)


Towards an integrated approach to water for cities

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📥  Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience, WIRC @ Bath

Hope you had a very nice break and all the best for the new year! WIRC would like to welcome Martin Shouler, Associate Director at Arup, to give us some insight information on integrated approach to water for cities.



Martin Shouler, Associate Director, Arup

BSc (Hons) Physics with Applied Physics
MSc Environmental Design and Engineering

Thursday 19th January 2017 at 1.15pm

Room 3.19, 4 East, University of Bath (Location and maps)

In Martin’s colloquium, he will reflect on the development of modern water systems in and around buildings and how they fit in the wider urban context. He will make the argument we need to consider water in a more integrated manner and how we might look to nature for inspiration.

Water plays an essential part in the life of our cities. It is required to provide our basic needs for drinking water and sanitation, for industry and commerce and plays an important part in our health and well-being. Water is both an enabler for allowing cities to work and can also present a risk in the form of flooding and drought. We are facing problems caused by both too little and too much water. As well as climate change, this is being exacerbated by population growth and urbanization. In addition, for many cities, existing urban water infrastructure is often at or approaching its maximum capacity.

In the ancient world, large cities begun to develop aqueducts and river-based sewerage systems to support their development. Growing understanding of waterborne diseases and the introduction of the water flushed closet led to the provision of a centralised water supply and wastewater treatment models which have served us well for over 100 years. As many of these ageing systems are now reaching capacity, new models for water systems are presenting themselves. There is a growing understanding of the need to deliver smarter, better, cheaper, more resilient and environmentally sensitive water and wastewater systems.

The increasing demand placed on our water infrastructure has meant traditional centralized infrastructure may not be adequate to satisfy our urban needs in an economic manner. Decentralization of water infrastructure has grown extensively as a viable solution including non-potable water from sources such as greywater, rainwater and stormwater harvesting where policies are trending towards a more rational use with integrated systems.

In our congested cities, access to blue and green spaces, as well as contributing to the management and control of water, can provide multiple health benefits. These range from reduced exposure to pollution and high urban temperatures through to improved mental well-being and providing opportunities for recreational use and wildlife habitats. Integrating these spaces with transport routes provide safe and appealing cycling, walking and running routes to allow citizens to travel more simply.

Water for buildings

When considering water demand for cities, much of it is related to buildings. Adequate water supply and drainage systems are a necessity for the safeguarding of the health and hygiene of building users; if they fail there can be serious health and safety consequences.

The design of our water systems are rightly influenced by regulations, codes and standards. But regulations, codes and standards do not always keep pace with how water needs to be managed, the influence of changing demands and needs of citizens as well as climate change. We need up-to-date data and decision support tools.

The need for robust data to drive engineering

Much of the design data underpinning these codes was collated in the 1970s. However, water appliances and patterns of use have changed dramatically since then. New water appliances have appeared and others have become more efficient. If the codes are followed, it is likely that hot and cold water systems will be oversized (and therefore not as economical) which can also lead to other costs such as increased space take, increased energy and water use as well as lower throughput of water and the water quality issues that brings.

Resource efficient building designs often incorporate water re-use systems such as rainwater harvesting, greywater and blackwater reuse, alongside standard drinking water provision. Hot and cold water distribution systems need to be designed to operate safely and hygienically with a range of demands placed upon them. Hot water temperature needs to be regulated to control bacterial growth whilst avoiding potential scalding.

Once buildings and their water systems are considered holistically with the infrastructure that serve them, we are able to apply new thinking to find ways to enhance their overall resilience. Good modelling and robust data is required to provide evidence base to drive new solutions.

Looking forward: towards a circular economy for water

Nature provides us many clues as to how we should manage water in an integrated way. We are all familiar with the basic premise of the water cycle. However, much of our water man-made water systems are linear in nature: running from catchment basin through to use through to discharge and eventually to the sea. For many contexts, a linear model does not allow for optimisation. For example, a circular approach can allow for value to be extracted from a wastewater stream so that resource flows can be enhanced.

Depending on the scale, perhaps a better approach is to circulate water in closed loops. In this model, water can reused, better maintaining its value. Closed loop systems can operate at the ‘unit’ (for example, process or building) scale, at development (or campus) scale or at the bigger ‘city’ scale.

Taking a systems approach, we are beginning to better understand the role that water plays in the ‘circular economy’.

Martin Shouler is the Global Environmental Services Engineering and Public Health Engineering Skills Leader at the international engineering consultancy Arup. Martin works on water and related projects across both Building Engineering and Infrastructure.
Martin started his career at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), spending 15 years in the Environment Division, ultimately leading the Public Health Engineering and Water Team. Amongst other things, he was involved in undertaking research and consultancy to support building regulations, water regulations and assisted in the development of the sustainability assessment method BREEAM. On leaving BRE, Martin joined Arup as head of Public Health Engineering for London.

In 2003, Martin became the founding Chairman of the Society of Public Health Engineers (SoPHE) which is the professional organisation for public health engineers in the UK and across the globe. He also served as an advisor to the Environment Agency with a special interest covering the water and construction industries.

Martin has extensive experience in the field of Water Engineering having been involved in a wide range of major projects, in design, research and consultancy across the world. Particular expertise includes water supply, sanitation, sewerage, water conservation and efficiency, water quality, water treatment, wastewater engineering, and infrastructure services. In addition, he has a keen interest in sustainability particularly related to minimising water use and energy associated with its use. He was a member of the Expert Group advising the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on the revision of water related Building Regulations. In addition, he is a member of British Standards Institution (BSI) committees responsible for a number of water sector standards and has been involved in the development many British and European standards.

Martin is responsible for Arup’s partnership with WRc on a new water innovation service – Venturi helping to accelerate the adoption of novel solutions in the water sector.

Martin is a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Plumbers and serves on their Admissions and Technical Committees.


Assessing the element of surprise of record-breaking flood events

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📥  Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience, WIRC @ Bath

This month WIRC @ Bath is exploring the breadth of water research being undertaken at the University of Bath.

Title: Assessing the element of surprise of record-breaking flood events

Speaker: Dr Thomas Kjeldsen

28896 Dr Thomas Kjeldsen. Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Faculty of Engineering Staff Portraits 3 Feb 2016. Client: Beth Jones - Faculty of Engineering

When: Thursday 15 December 2016 at 1.15pm

Where: Room 3.6, Chancellors' Building, University of Bath

Abstract: The occurrence of record-breaking flood events continuous to cause damage and disruption despite significant investments in flood defences, suggesting that these events are in some sense surprising.  This study develops a new statistical test to help assess if a flood event can be considered surprising or not.  The test statistic is derived from annual maximum series (AMS) of extreme events, and Monte Carlo simulations were used to derive critical values for a range of significance levels based on a Generalized Logistic distribution.  The method is tested on a national dataset of past events from the United Kingdom, and is found to correctly identify recent large event that have been identified elsewhere as causing a significant change in UK flood management policy.  No temporal trend in the frequency or magnitude of surprising events was identified, and no link could be established between the occurrences of surprising events and large-scale drivers.


Shale Oil and Gas and its Impact on the Water Industry – The Truths, Myths and Legends

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📥  WIRC @ Bath

We are very excited to invite you to this event, shared with CIWEM and PIG. Please register early via the IOW website.



Time: 5.30pm, Thursday 23rd November 2016

Venue: Room 4.1, Chancellor's Building, University of Bath (Location and maps)


Join the Institute of Water South West Area as we investigate Shale Oil and Gas Exploration with RSKW Ltd.

RSKW has advised water and energy companies internationally on issues relating to shale oil and gas extraction - from geological, groundwater and general environmental perspectives, as well as delivering guidance on strategic risk management. RSKW are part of a European and US consortium currently mid-way through the delivery of a €2.7 million project, researching the environmental aspects of Shale Gas operations. The project - known as SHEER (SHale gas Exploration and Exploitation induced Risks) is funded through the HORIZON 2020 programme. The project outputs will inform the legislation for and regulation of Unconventional Oil and Gas across the whole of Europe.

Water management and shale oil and gas - Andrew Gunning of RSKW Ltd will address the truths, myths and legends surrounding exploration for shale oil and gas. Initially developed in the US, this was an emergent phenomenon which resulted in a rapid increase in onshore drilling using the evolving techniques of horizontal drilling and ‘fracking’. This presentation draws on experience gained from project work for UK water companies and the EU SHEER project, in assessing risks to drinking water aquifers, the regulations in place to mitigate those risks and areas where further investigation is required.

Kindly hosted by the University of Bath, this event will also provide an opportunity to hear about WIRC @ Bath and the WISE CDT.



Predicting future change in water flows and quality in urbanising catchments

📥  Other

We are very happy to be able to invite Dr Michael Hutchins from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) to host the first Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering (ACE) Seminar and WIRC Colloquium on Thursday 17th November 2016. Mike will discuss "Predicting future change in water flows and quality in urbanising catchments".
Mike is a Senior Water Quality Modeller at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Wallingford). His research has focused mainly on two areas, diffuse pollution and in-river processes, and understanding their effects in large river basins. He studies phytoplankton and dissolved oxygen dynamics using river quality models. The majority of his research is focused towards providing support to policies implementing legislation under the Water Framework Directive. More recently he has been leading a NERC Changing Water Cycle project “Changes in urbanisation and its effects on water quantity and quality from local to regional scale” (POLL-CURB).

Despite substantial improvements in the recent past brought about by investment in treatment of sewage and industrial wastes, and various incentives and regulations to reduce diffuse pollution, water resources in the UK are facing considerable future pressures. For example, previous modelling work in the River Thames suggests incidence of “undesirable” water quality will become more frequent in the future. Furthermore, these predictions were made without considering the impact of population growth. Here, we present a combination of approaches to evaluate impacts of urbanisation on water resources in the 9948 km2 Thames basin. Empirical analysis of two years of monitoring data in intensely monitored sub-catchments reveal the degree to which spatial variability of hydrological and water quality response can be explained by indices of impervious area. Statistical detection and attribution techniques are used to assess long-term river data, and these highlight strong signals of urban growth after climate variability is accounted for. High-resolution continuous monitoring puts the extreme periods of storm conditions in winter 2013-14 in the context of annual cycles of water quality. We illustrate how the high-resolution monitoring programme is used to simulate river hydrochemistry, and in particular to indicate how far downstream of urban areas the influence of those areas persist. At the basin scale, analysis of satellite imagery reveals landuse changes since the mid-1980s, signals used to train cellular automata models which then are employed for predictive purposes under different scenarios of urban development. We show how parametrically-parsimonious models of hydrology, sediment delivery and water quality are driven by the future landuse data to refine the existing predictions of future change in water resources across the whole Thames basin..

For more information, please contact Dr Danielle Wain.


World Tsunami Awareness day

📥  WIRC @ Bath

Dr Philippe Blondel, an Associate at the WIRC @ Bath, is featured in the recent International Business Times (IBT) news for the World Tsunami Awareness Day, 5th November 2016. He told IBT that "increased international efforts are necessary to map oceans. Indeed, as we map the seabed we discover more and more risky seismic areas as well as areas that have a potential of landslide. In theory, we know have completely mapped the ocean floor, but these maps are not completely accurate".

Dr Philippe Blondel's research interests include

  • marine acoustics
  • seabed and habitat mapping
  • ambient noise underwater
  • marine renewable energies
  • innovative imaging tool



The Value of Global Sensitivity Analysis for Diagnostic Evaluation and Uncertainty Quantification in Environmental Modelling

📥  Other

Come and join us for the next WIRC Colloquium on 15th September 2016 by Professor Thorsten Wagener, University of Bristol.

Thorsten Wagener

Thursday 15 September 2016 at 1.15pm

Room 8 West 2.5, University of Bath

Computer models are a cornerstone of scientific exploration and practical decision-making in engineering, environmental science, ecology and earth systems modelling. Our group develops tools, theory and guidance for the use of Global Sensitivity Analysis (GSA) to analyse such computer models. I will present examples of how GSA can be used for (1) the diagnostic evaluation of hydrological models – how can we improve our model structures? (2) For understanding future landslide risk – how can we provide useful guidance for decision makers in the presence of unknown uncertainties? And (3) for quantifying the space-time varying uncertainty in flood inundation modelling – how can we understand the complex interactions of different sources of uncertainty? These examples highlight the variety of uses for GSA in the context of building and using models across a wide range of application areas.

The examples shown have been implemented using the SAFE Toolbox that integrates key GSA methods in a single environment. Free Matlab and R versions of the SAFE Toolbox for Global Sensitivity Analysis are available.

Co-authors: Francesca Pianosi, Fanny Sarrazin, Susana Almeida, Liz Holcombe


Bioprocesses, biopolymers and biosensors: delivering new solutions to environmental problems through and understanding of microbial systems

📥  Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience, WIRC @ Bath

By Dr Thomas Seviour, MIChemE CEng, SCELCE, NTU (Singapore)


Thursday 23th June at 1.15pm
Room 2.01, Building 1 West, University of Bath

Abstract: Cells mediate interactions with the environment through their membranes and extracellular matrices, which comprise a range of biopolymers that facilitate key extracellular processes. These interfaces can be exploited to increase stability, yield and throughput in Bioprocesses, particularly in areas of waste treatment and biofuel production. The Biopolymers that make up the matrix are themselves very valuable and renewable resources. Agents to monitor extracellular processes present as attractive Biosensors for a range of biofilm-mediated maladies. This seminar will discuss how an understanding of microbial systems can be used to deliver new solutions to a range of complex environmental problems, by increasing yield and stability of Bioprocesses, promoting the solubilisation and recovery of Biopolymers, and developing Biosensors for use in diagnostics.

Biography: Dr Thomas Seviour is a Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University. He worked previously as a wastewater process engineer and engineering consultant, but has since changed tact and now applies himself to elucidating the biological chemistry of microbial systems, with a particular focus on biointerfaces such as the the exopolymeric matrix. He remains motivated by a desire to translate this knowledge to real world solutions for a range of various environmental problems.


Chemistry and Water: Challenges & Solutions in a Changing World

📥  Water Resources, Water Treatment, Water, Environment and Infrastructure Resilience, WIRC @ Bath

We are all aware of the breadth of issues that we face as a planet when it comes to securing sustainable water supplies in the future. Global changes in climate, land use and demographics mean that there will be different pressures on water availability and quality and these have the potential to affect human health and the environment. Whilst some challenges are long-standing, such as ensuring adequate sanitation for all, we also face emerging issues, in the form of new pollutants, such as hormones and pharmaceuticals.

Last year in Leipzig, leading scientists from China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA met at the 6th Chemical Sciences in Society Symposium (CS3) to discuss how chemistry could contribute to future global water security. The meeting is part of an ongoing series that brings together leading scientists from these nations, with the support of their national chemical societies and national funding bodies to discuss the role of the chemical sciences in different global challenges.

The discussions from the meeting have been captured in the recently launched white paper Chemistry and Water: Challenges and Solutions in Changing World, which highlights the future research directions, collaborations and policies that are needed to ensure global water needs can be met in the future. The discussion at the meeting encompassed wide range of issues, including  the link between water, the environment and human health, the need for ever-evolving detection methods, improved water treatment techniques and the opportunities presented for recovering valuable materials from water.

A number of themes emerged from discussions across all areas, such as the need for chemists to work alongside other disciplines, such as engineering, ecology and epidemiology and the importance of continual international knowledge exchange and collaboration.  The white paper also makes more detailed recommendations for research directions in the different themes of environment and health, detection, treatment and recovery of materials and includes case studies on how water challenges are being tackled in each nation.


AI-Based Detection and Location of Events in Smart Water Networks

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📥  Other

Professor Zolan Kapelan from the University of Exeter will deliver a presentation on "AI-Based Detection and Location of Events in Smart Water Networks" at the next WIRC Colloquium.

Water leakage is a major issue in water supply and distribution systems in the UK and worldwide. In the UK alone, approximately 20% of the water that enters distribution systems is lost. This talk focuses on the presentation of a specific new technology that enables detection and location of pipe burst/leaks and other events (such as equipment failures) by analysing pressure and flow sensor data coming from the pipe network. The new technology makes use of several Artificial Intelligence based data analytics which are able to extract useful information from large quantities of observed data, raise suitable alarms and locate events in near real-time. Elements of this technology were built recently into the Event Recognition System, a commercial system that is now used companywide in one of the largest UK water utilities. The talk will conclude with a brief overview of other smart water technologies currently developed by the speaker.

More information can be found on WIRC events page.