Project vision

Pipe Dreams combined the skills of academics from multiple departments who collectively worked to better understand water distribution systems.


Safe, clean drinking water is the foundation of society. The buried infrastructure of our water distribution system consists of an extremely complicated mix of materials, pipe sizes, structures and appurtenances connected in a network, usually loops, developed in a piecemeal manner overtime. It acts as a dynamic physical, microbiological and chemical reactor, with a high surface area and highly variable residence times. A variety of major and interacting, physical, chemical and biological processes occur within that degrade the quality of drinking water as it is transported.


Pipe Dreams was a unique vision of the integration of skills across engineering, microbiological, chemical and computer science to better understand the complex physical, chemical and biological interactions that occur within water distribution systems and derive practical tools to describe and predict complex interactions between potable water and the deteriorating infrastructure of water distribution systems.

It achieved this through the establishment of an internationally leading, multidisciplinary centre of excellence in water distribution systems research to address all aspects of the continued delivery of clean, safe and wholesome potable water. Specifically, Pipe Dreams aimed to develop a suite of analysis and predictive tools to drive a paradigm shift in the way in which water distribution systems are operated, managed, rehabilitated and maintained for water quality with a move towards proactive management operating in near real-time.

Pipe ages of UK water distribution systems by length
Figure 1. Pipe ages of UK water distribution systems by length (data from UKWIR 2003). Note – older pipes may be underrepresented due to +60% more data of unknown age.


Without this Challenging Engineering research and its outputs, water quality failures are likely to become more common due to continued deterioration of ageing potable water infrastructure and the impacts of climate change, altering our water resources and aggravating the complexity of interactions and reactions occurring within distribution systems.

Pipe material of UK water distribution systems by length.
Pipe material of UK water distribution systems by length (data from UKWIR 2003).

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