Flow modelling for deculverting urban rivers

The historic conversion of historic streams to combined sewers in Philadelphia.

Project background

Many urban rivers have been hidden from view in culverts, some of which date back centuries.  However, there is a growing movement towards the uncovering, or ‘daylighting’ of these rivers, exposing them to view once more and making them focal points within urban environments.

This PhD, currently being undertaken by postgraduate student Adam Broadhead, builds on and continues the work of the URSULA project.  Adam is exploring the issues surrounding the 'daylighting' of underground urban rivers. Flow modelling will be used to investigate the potential of deculverting to benefit a number of areas:

  • Flood risk management
  • Ecology and river habitats
  • Sewage systems and wastewater treatment
  • Urban regeneration

This research is identifying and quantifying extraneous clean water from culverted streams and springs in a combined sewer system, using Sheffield as a case study.

Key findings

Evidence suggests clean water from culverted streams and springs is entering the combined sewer system, increasing wastewater treatment costs and sewer flooding due to loss of capacity. There may be environmental, social and economic benefits of deculverting to separate the clean water from the sewer system and restore urban watercourses.

A map showing the deculverting study area
© Crown Copyright/database right 2011. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. River layer kindly licensed from the Environment Agency.

Additional details

Acknowledgements: Prof. David Lerner and Dr Rachel Horn. This PhD is being carried out with support from Yorkshire Water.


There are no publications currently associated with this project.

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