News & Events
University of Sheffield Sustainability Competition
Water sustainability will be a critical issue for the future of the UK. This competition is open to Sheffield University students to develop ideas for sustainability that could be applied to the Spitalgate Heath Garden Village in Lincolnshire as part of a more sustainable way of living.
You can enter as an individual and be matched into a team or alternatively enter as a team of up to four students.
Your team’s solutions could be technological or social, be community wide or for a single house. The solution does not even need to exist at the moment, but should be feasible in the future.
Who knows you could be contributing to the future sustainability of local communities in the UK.
The competition is sponsored by Saint-Gobain PAM and is being run by the Sheffield Water Centre. Participation will qualify towards the Sheffield Graduate Award and the winning team will receive a prize of £1000.
In addition, the winning entry and possibly some of the shortlisted entries will be publicised on this website and in the local and national press. More information is included in the downloadable documents below.
To register your interest in entering click here:
Further information about the competition can be downloaded below:
Recent international visits
To build new and develop existing networks and partnerships our researchers have recently been on the following international trips.
Dr Vanessa Speight, Senior Research Fellow in Integrated Water Systems / Managing Director, TWENTY65 and Professor Joby Boxall, Chair Chair of Water Infrastructure Engineering (Department of Civil and Structural Engineering) attended the first international TWENTY65 Thought Leadership Club workshop on the future of water systems was held on 21 September 2016 in South Africa, jointly organised by the University of Cape Town.
The City of Cape Town hosted the workshop at the beautiful Kloofnek Water Treatment Plant, located part way up Table Mountain with a view over Camps Bay. More than 20 participants spanning academia, water utilities, regulators, researchers, consultants, and green entrepreneurship spent a day considering the current state of water services in South Africa, The challenges, opportunities and research needs to support a more sustainable water future for South Africa were discussed.
Some of the key issues revealed for South Africa echo those in the UK: highlighting the value of water to individuals and institutions to support continued investment in water service infrastructure and the need to develop and grow a supply chain to support water system improvements.
Future plans to work with the University of Cape Town and the workshop participants are underway.
Dr Matteo Rubinato, a Research Associate from the Pennine Water Group, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, has recently organised (September 2016) a joint workshop between the University of Sheffield and the University of Sichuan in Chengdu, China, to bring together scientists and engineers to examine the latest ideas and strategies to better manage river and urban flooding. Funded by the "Researcher Links Newton Fund" scheme organised by the British Council and the NSFC (Natural Science Foundation of China), the workshop has been crucial for identifying ways to better mitigate flood risk, especially in the context of Sichuan province.
Under this scheme, Dr Rubinato, helped by the two mentors, Professor Tait and Dr Nichols, recruited 12 Early Career Researchers based in UK, including some industrial partners, and 12 Early Career Researchers based in China. Participants spent part of the workshop trying to identify the knowledge gaps and developing future research ideas to be used for tackling the risk of river and urban flooding. The key workshop outcomes are outlined as follows:
- Policy and preparedness: through knowledge transfer and collaboration, a feasible joint project will focus on comparing the typical/best practice in UK and China, with a particular focus on Sponge Cities and UK SUDs, facilitating new guidelines for policy makers;
- Multi-Level Flood Management: another feasible joint project will focus on improving the accuracy of mitigation and adaptation strategies by providing an integrated modelling of hydrology, hydraulics and morphology across a range of scales from single pipe to full catchment;
- High-performance data driven modelling techniques for flow and quality: By providing additional datasets using novel experimental/field techniques, data infrastructure and high-technology sensors numerical models will be validated, benchmarked and enhanced to deliver models with lower computational time to improve flood prediction and warning systems.
Dr James Shucksmith, Senior Lecturer in Water Engineering (Department of Civil and Structural Engineering) attended a two day workshop (17th and 18th November 2016) to enhance UK and India contacts in the area of water quality and define areas for forthcoming funding calls. The workshops which was attended by 20 delegates included one day of presentations and discussions and one day of site visits to scope out potential new projects and collaborations.
|Sheffield Water Centre academic, Professor Vanessa Speight, discusses 'how to achieve sustainable clean water for everyone'||
First published in 'The Conversation'
The provision of clean, safe drinking water in much of the world is one of the most significant public health achievements of the past century – and one of the foundation stones of a healthy society. In the developed world, most people are able to take this service for granted and pay very little for it.
But even if there is not a large economic cost, a global environmental cost is being paid for the luxury of this service. Water systems extract large quantities of water from the environment, require energy, chemicals and infrastructure to treat and pump water to our houses, then require more energy and infrastructure to remove waste, treat it, and return some of that water to the environment complete with contaminants (at low levels, but still present).
In the UK, water services are based on legacy infrastructure systems; the country lives off Victorian engineering. These systems are ageing and deteriorating and will require unprecedented investment to be fit for the future. Therefore the country needs to re-imagine its water services to deliver water sustainably via systems that are affordable, adaptable and resilient.
Water security under threat
Global population growth is threatening the security of water supply and when coupled with the impacts of climate change, it is clear that our historical approach to the provision of water may not remain feasible. Increasingly stringent drinking water quality and environmental discharge standards protect us from pollutants but require increasingly complex and energy-consuming treatment. Leakage of water from ageing infrastructure wastes more of this precious resource, yet the costs of replacing that infrastructure seem insurmountable.
But will people want to install a device in their homes to create drinking water from, for example, rainwater in their neighbourhood pond? And what regulatory and policy frameworks would be required to enable this? There is a need for such devices to be engineered to be fail-safe to protect public health in the event of equipment malfunction.
Mobilisation of people could offer great transformative potential for our water systems. For example, engineering researchers are working to design treatment systems to remove fats, oils and grease from sewers before they cause major blockages, known as “fatbergs”. However, such technology would not be required if all users of the system jointly protected the infrastructure by disposing of fats in another way.
So the sustainable water systems of the future also need the disruptive innovation of collective mobilisation to deliver and support transformation. Energy-saving measures are being implemented throughout urban water systems including pumping at non-peak times and recovering heat from wastewater. But there is potential for a closer linkage between the water and energy systems by considering the synergies between distribution systems for both utilities.
The drive to install renewable energy is stressing the electric grid and distribution systems, which were not designed to handle the decentralised sources and variable inputs that characterise renewables such as solar and wind power. The opportunity exists for water systems, which operate at the neighbourhood level just like electricity networks, to be configured to act as energy storage systems to offset the variability in electric power generation to store heat or energy in the form of pressurised water. Research is ongoing to determine the full potential and optimal scales for such interactions between water and electric grids but could offer a way to optimise existing infrastructure for both utilities.
These examples give some insight into how technology will be essential to transform our current unsustainable systems to deliver adaptable and resilient water services across a range of futures and contexts. Large, centralised infrastructure may still be required in densely populated areas – in these situations disruptive solutions need to work with the existing systems because high population density does not allow for land-intensive solutions and legacy infrastructure is too expensive to just abandon.
Given the 50-to-100-year service life for water infrastructure, a change in philosophy is needed now to avoid another century of unsustainable water service. Such disruptive innovations, when combined in a way to suit each distinct context, could deliver sustainable water solutions for all – from megacities to remote rural communities, to the rapidly developing parts of the world.
Sesame workshop event: finding ways of promoting SME adaptation to flood risk
Please join us! The SESAME project has been researching ways to promote SME adaptation to flood risk. Further information about the project can be found at sesame.uk.com.
The team are hosting an interactive event to share the findings from the project in the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria, Sheffield on Monday 23 May 2016, 3.00-6.00pm. We will outline findings that have emerged around SME flood preparedness and key areas such as networks, facilities, insurance and social media.
At the workshop, you will find out about the different resources that the team have produced for SMEs to use to help them become more resilient to flooding. You will also have the opportunity to discuss these, their future use and development. These tools include
- draft guidance for SMEs on business continuity planning for flood risk
To participate, please REGISTER HERE. The event is free but registration is needed. Refreshments will be provided. Spaces will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Event: Sharing experiences on drinking water distribution across the North Sea
The University of Sheffield and KWR Watercycle Research Institute invite specialists from water companies from the UK and the Netherlands for a symposium with presentations and discussions on issues on the distribution of drinking water.
The symposium will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 19th of May 2016. A networking dinner will be organised on the evening of the 18th. The objective of this symposium will be exchanging knowledge on water distribution from both countries, learning from each other’s experiences and networking. The preliminary agenda is:
Wednesday 18th of May:
Thursday 19th of May:
Six sessions will be organised in two streams. Participants of the symposium are requested to select three workshops from the list below. The six most requested topics will be scheduled. The following topics for sessions are proposed:
1. Impact of regulation on water distribution: regulation verses non-regulation
Per topic session, at least one presentation from each country will be made, with extended time for discussion. The focus of the presentations should be on current developments/experiences and what are the country specific circumstances that drive those developments/experiences. Experts from water companies are asked to actively participate by giving a short presentation on a subject of interest that you would like to hear others’ views on and participating in discussions with your peers. Attendees from the University of Sheffield and KWR Watercycle Research Institute will join the discussion and share some thoughts on research accomplishments and remaining issues. The set-up of the workshops is roughly:
Venue: Edinburgh, hotel to be announced
Costs for the venue, food, drinks and preparation are estimated at £250/€300. Participants are requested to book travel and the hotel themselves. Arrangements will be made to obtain special rates for the hotel.
Sheffield Water Centre celebrates winning the EPSRC’s Grand Challenge for ‘Sustainable Water for all’ at the TWENTY65 Official Launch at Whitehall.
The evening meeting was opened by Kedar Pandya, Head of Engineering at EPSRC and was attended by key players from the Water Sector, including the Head of Sustainability for the GLA and the KTN Manager for Water, ARUP, Murphy Group and Water Utility companies from across the UK.
The research initiative which will see the University of Sheffield collaborate with five other universities on meeting the water challenges of the next 50 years was launched on Monday 25th January. Penny Chambers from Anglian Water commented that it was “an excellent event, great to have everyone in the same room and discussing our future.”
The ‘TWENTY65’ project is led by Sheffield Water Centre at the University of Sheffield, with the other five being Imperial College London, Newcastle University, University of Exeter, The University of Manchester and University of Reading. The project is backed by £3.9M in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). TWENTY65's tagline is ‘Tailored Water Solutions for Positive Impact’. It will seek to address the ‘grand challenge’ of providing sustainable water for all in the face of population growth, climate change, urbanisation and ageing infrastructure in the years to 2065. The project aims to provide thought leadership through a partnership approach between the universities, water utilities, trade associations and the supply chain.
Professor Joby Boxall, Professor of Water Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Sheffield and the Principal Investigator for the project, said that there was no silver bullet to addressing the grand challenges and the researchers would instead seek to identify a “basket of disruptive innovations” that could provide a tailored response to the challenges facing the water industry.
The launch event was followed up by a Thought Leadership Club workshop in which 26 academics and 45 industry attendees began developing 8 white papers alongside the innovation leads from the Water Utilities.
The challenges faced by the water sector are being met head on by the Future Water Association (FWA) as they announce a formal partnership with the Sheffield Water Centre at the University of Sheffield
Both organisations have a clear goal of future proofing the sector with innovative thinking and practical solutions and creating a formal partnership is the logical way forward to not only benefit the Future Water Associations’ members, but the water sector as whole.
Sheffield’s highly collaborative and innovative approach to meeting the challenges faced by the water sector over the coming years made them an obvious partner for the Future Water Association who are themselves dedicated to promoting innovation within the supply Chain. Alastair Moseley, Chair of the Association’s ‘Innovation Steering Group’ said “the leadership demonstrated by Sheffield in promotion of innovation and R&D in our sector led us to the firm conclusion that they were an organisation that we should be working with. Their recent grant award of £3.9m from the EPSRC for the development the TWENTY65 research consortium involving 6 universities and 26 companies further demonstrates their leading position in driving the future development of our sector.”
As part of this collaboration, the 120+ member companies of the Future Water Association will have the opportunity to participate in ‘Thought Leadership Clubs’. Launched in March 2015, these are multi-disciplinary consortiums working with innovators from a variety of industries and perspectives to find novel solutions for water challenges. This partnership will allow members to work closely with researchers and take advantage of the R&D facilities in Sheffield, an exciting opportunity as the Water Centre has ambitious plans to develop and extend these facilities to include a new pipe infrastructure facility comprising a containment chamber in which infrastructure elements (water pipes, sewer pipes/chambers) and their interaction with natural artefacts such as soil layers and voids can be studied.
Martyn Hopkinson, Chairman of the Future Water Association, commented “with the future challenges faced by our industry ever pressing, all stakeholders need to be even more innovative in their approach. The recent major flooding events have exacerbated these challenges and the opportunity for collaboration with academia, water companies and the supply chain is something the Future Water Association will embrace on behalf of our members and for the benefit of society as we seek to protect our most valuable resource for future generations.”
Professor Joby Boxall, University of Sheffield, stated “TWENTY65 is an exciting opportunity to take a radical look at what urban water systems could and should be. Working closely across the water sector will be key to generating a genuine shared vision for this”. Dr Vanessa Speight, University of Sheffield, added “we are excited to partner with the Future Water Association and their members to grow our collaboration with the water industry supply chain. These companies are the implementers of innovation and therefore are vital players in transforming our water systems to meet future challenges”.
Qinghai Province Environmental Protection Delegation visits Sheffield Water Centre academics
Building on the University’s strong relationship with China, 17 delegates from Qinghai Province visited the University of Sheffield today (29th Oct) with a view to future collaboration with Sheffield Water Centre, and other related research groups, on environmental protection and sustainability.
The province of Qinghai is one of the largest geographically in China but outside of the capital it remains largely underdeveloped. As its rich natural resources bring in growing investment and economic development, the People’s Government of Qinghai Province is looking to ensure policies and practices are managed in an environmentally sustainable manner, an area where the University of Sheffield has strong research expertise.
Lorraine Maltby (Professor of Environmental Biology, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences) who hosted the visit explained how "Qinghai Province faces the challenge of balancing economic development with environmental protection. Researchers at the University of Sheffield can help Qinghai Province address this challenge by applying our knowledge and expertise in natural resource management and restoration, pollution control and risk assessment, flooding, and the interactions between environmental quality, biodiversity and human well-being. Our research expertise in sustainable agriculture, energy production, climate change and grassland ecology are also highly relevant to the issues faced by Qinghai Province. We look forward to building on this visit and exploring possibilities for future collaboration."
Speaking at the end of the visit, Mr Sun (Qinghai Deputy Director, Office of Legislative Affairs, the People’s Government of Qinghai Provence) commented that “the research we have seen has been meaningful and helpful for us to understand and to allow us to collaborate in the future. The method used and scientific spirit is very inspiring and we thank you for this opportunity to view your work. We hope one day you can come to visit our high mountains, lakes and grasslands to provide further opportunities for partnerships.”
Recommended by the Chinese Embassy, the delegation visited the University to gather information how the UK approaches environmental protection and the sources of research expertise available, not just focusing on the science but also how the University is informing policy. During their visit the delegation heard talks from academics within the Sheffield Water Centre and also wider research groups.
Anglian Water and Sheffield University launch 3D printing trial
Anglian Water has become the first UK water company to explore the future of 3D printing technology. This was achieved through collaboration with The Sheffield Water Centre, an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Sheffield, dedicated to solving major challenges in the water sector.
An initial early test was carried out using a filter nozzle – a small but essential part of the water treatment process. Anglian Water’s Innovation team is now talking to its engineers to come up with a list of further essential parts for Sheffield’s team to work on. The team is also talking with the Dutch water company PWN which is using the technology to 3D print caps for fire hydrants which are regularly lost or broken.
Fionn Boyle, Anglian Water Innovation Technologist, said: “It’s early days but the potential for this technology in our industry is very exciting. You can foresee 3D printers being installed in our technicians’ vans in the future so that if they are out on a job and need a vital part they can simply download a file and print it out there and then. If we are in an emergency repair situation this could mean we can stop more leaks and return people’s water supplies much more quickly.”
Anglian Water has hundreds of plastic nozzles in the sand filter beds of its water treatment works, and replacing them can be a costly headache. “If one nozzle needs replacing then all the others in the same bed must be replaced at the same time to ensure even wear,” Fionn explains. “Also the original design may no longer be stocked by a manufacturer. But if we could simply scan in another nozzle and print out an individual replacement it would save time, money and also the carbon footprint of getting it shipped to us. There are hurdles to cross before 3D printing becomes widely used in the industry – including the patent issues associated with scanning and printing these parts. But it is essential we explore the possibilities now and learn about the potential pitfalls so that we can pave the way for it to be rolled out a few years down the line.”
Dr Kamran Mumtaz, Lecturer in Additive Manufacturing in the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, commented: “Additive Manufacturing offers significant benefits over traditional manufacturing methods, offering greater flexibility in addition to time and cost savings. More research is necessary to fully understand the scope of the technology in the water industry but the project with Anglian Water demonstrates the possibilities and potential to radically alter and improve operations, benefiting both the water companies and ultimately their customers.”
This project saw engineers in the University’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Structural Engineering working in partnership with Anglian Water to develop ways in which the emerging technology of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, could be used to produce vital parts more efficiently and at a lower cost.
Research to tackle ‘grand challenges’ for water sector gets £3.9m boost
A new £3.9million research project announced today [October 16], involving six universities and 26 companies from across the UK water sector, will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future.
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 – the Universities of Sheffield, Exeter, Manchester and Reading, Newcastle University and 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 ten 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 Joby Boxall, from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Director of Sheffield Water Centre, who will head the TWENTY 65 project, 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.”
Following the announcement, Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, said: “As a One Nation Government we are investing in world-class science and engineering across our country. We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and this £3.9 million investment will bring Sheffield’s researchers together with researchers across the nation to address some of the most pressing engineering challenges we face. This investment will help tackle our aging water infrastructure to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.”
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.
The project – led by the University of Sheffield – 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 Science Minister, Jo Johnson.
CENTAUR Project launched to alleviate the risk of urban flooding
The CENTAUR (Cost Effective Neural Technique to Alleviate Urban flood Risk) project launched on the 1st September, aiming to provide an innovative, cost effective, local autonomous sewer flow control system to reduce the risk or urban flooding.
The 3 year project, funded by Horizon 2020, will be led by Professor Simon Tait and a team at the University of Sheffield (Dr James Shucksmith, Dr Steve Mounce, Dr Will Shepherd & Dr Alma Schellart). Other partners on the project include Veolia Water Outsourcing, the University of Coimbra, Águas de Coimbra, EAWAG Aquatic Research, Steinhardt GmbH and Environmental Monitoring Solutions (EMS).
Sheffield Company, EMS, will be manufacturing the system together the German company, Steinhardt. CENTAUR will be a rapidly deployable solution which will utilise existing network storage capacity which is unused during times of storm events, thereby reducing the need for expensive new infrastructure. This innovative new technology will have a substantial impact on a large number of people currently at high risk of urban flooding.
Urban flooding is increasingly one of the most widespread and significant impacts of climate change. Increasingly frequent and severe urban flooding has the potential to severely impact the lives of thousands of people. In the EU water utilities and local authorities have finite resources to cope with increased urban flood risk. Resources are constrained by the current economic environment (less funding and staff) and also policies such as those to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate climate change.
Visit the EMS Website for full details on the innovative technology to be used.
For further information on this project please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 641931.
Leaky pipes allow contaminants into our drinking water
Leaking water pipes can allow potentially harmful contaminants into our drinking water, new research has shown.
The pressure in mains water pipes usually forces water out through leaks, preventing anything else from getting in. But when there is a significant pressure drop in a damaged section of pipe, water surrounding the pipe can be sucked in through the hole.
It had been assumed that only clean water from the leak would be sucked in, and that even if contaminants were sucked in these would simply be ejected once the pressure returned to normal. The new study has shown, however, that groundwater from around the pipe – which often contains harmful contaminants – can be sucked in, remain in the pipe and travel on through the network.
UK drinking water is tested for harmful contaminants and complies with the regulations over 99 percent of the time. But any failure is cause for concern, according to lead researcher Professor Joby Boxall.
Professor Joby Boxall says “Previous studies have shown that material around water pipes contains harmful contaminants, including viruses and bacteria from faeces, so anything sucked into the network through a leak is going to include things we don’t want to be drinking."
Read the full story here.
The study, by engineers at the University of Sheffield, is the first to prove conclusively that contaminants can enter pipes through leaks and be transported through the pipe network.