Dr David Werner
Reader Environmental Systems Modelling


I'm a Swiss citizen who joined the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University in 2004. I have a degree in Environmental Sciences from ETH in Zurich. My work experiences outside academia includes the writing of an inventory of natural habitats for a Swiss community, internships at the Water Supply Works of Zurich and at the Paul Scherrer Institute, and employment in an environmental consultancy.


As PhD student I have investigated groundwater pollution risks for small fuel spills retained in the unsaturated zone, and in this context I have studied the effects of fuel additives such as MTBE or ethanol, and the spreading of fuel vapours in the subsurface by diffusion. This work, which identified MTBE as a significant groundwater pollution risk and recommended ethanol as a less problematic substitute, is cited in US EPA regulatory support documents for selected contaminants from the second drinking water contaminant candidate list, and also on its underground storage tanks website. In 2005, the US congress removed the oxygenate requirement for refined fuels and instituted a renewable fuel standard. In response, refiners made a wholesale switch removing MTBE and instead blending fuel with ethanol.
As postdoc at Stanford University I have initiated the development and experimental verification of a multi-scale, interdisciplinary modelling framework which supports the design of sediment remediation with strong sorbents like activated carbon. This novel sediment or soil remediation technology reduces uptake of persistent organic pollutants at the bottom of the aquatic or terrestrial food-chains. Over the past ten years, the use of sorbent amendment for in-situ sediment remediation has rapidly progressed from the first bench-scale technology trials to the first full-scale application. My related work is cited in a 2013 Directive of the US EPA's Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, and in a 2015 US EPA commissioned Focused Feasibility Study for a Superfund Site near Richmond, California.
As academic at Newcastle University I am now studying the complex inter-linkages between the sorption and biodegradation of organic compounds in the natural environment and in engineered treatment systems like water filters. I have also an interest in building-scale water infrastructures and am involved in the design of a monitoring scheme for the University's new Urban Science Building. I enjoy international research collaboration with scientists from around the globe.

Roles and Responsibilities

I'm a Reader in Environmental Systems Modelling. I'm the Environmental Engineering MSc Degree Programme Director. I also sits on the PG student staff committee and the CIV Eng Board of Studies. 


Docteur es Sciences (Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne)

Dipl. Umweltnaturwissenschafter (Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule in Zuerich)


Member of the American Chemical Society, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy  

Previous Positions and Industrial Collaborations

Postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University (2002-2004)
Environmental Consultant for UCW in Rafz, Switzerland (1998-1999)

My consulting experience includes writing technical reports, proprietary data review for the agrochemical industry and noise pollution modelling (for a railroad overpass in Zurich, Switzerland).

I have hosted a visiting researcher from Nihon Nohyaku Co. Ltd in my laboratory and was the academic partner for knowledge transfer schemes with Enviresearch Ltd and Geneius Laboratories Ltd. I am co-investigator on a grant led by Professor Luthy at Stanford University sponsored by Chevron Co. I have a STREAM studentship with Scottish Water.

Honours and Awards

Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Scientists
Prize of the Chorafas Foundation in the category sustainable development for the PhD thesis at EPFL
Willy Studer Prize for the diploma at ETHZ


Swiss German

Research Interests

I am fundamentally interested in the working of all processes determining the pollutant fate in the natural environment and environmental engineering systems such as water treatment plants. I have developed and experimentally verified multi-scale and multi-disciplinary modelling tools to support in situ remediation of soils and sediments with activated carbon or biochar to reduce mass transfer of persistent organic pollutants into the aqueous or terrestrial food-chain. At the micro-scale these models integrate diffusion-limited mass transfer, sorption of organic compounds, and interactions of these physicochemical processes with biological processes such as the pollutant biodegradation by dynamic populations of microorganisms. At the macroscale the models account for geochemical heterogeneity and the resulting heterogeneity in the distribution of chemicals and pollutant degrading microorganisms. The modelling templates are applicable to any porous medium, for instance sand and GAC filters in water treatment works, or stormwater biofilters. I am increasingly also interested in modelling and monitoring the actual performance of building-scale water infrastructures in order to make them more sustainable.

Postgraduate Supervision

Current students:

Mr George Mangse, Ms Alero Arenyeka, Ms Maria Valdivia-Garcia, Mr Onotasamiderhi Igun, Mr Badruddeen Sani

Previous students:

Dr Khaled M. Bushnaf, Dr Abdulmagid E. Ali, Dr Sarah E. Hale, Dr Nayrah Khandani Ahranjani, Dr Ying Luo  

Esteem Indicators

I lead a Global Innovation Partnership connecting Newcastle University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the United States, IIT Dehli and CSIR-NEERI in India and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil. I also lead the STREAM-ReNUWIt network which connects Newcastle University, Cranfield University, Sheffield University, Imperial College London and the Universityof Exeter in the United Kingdom with Stanford University, the University of California at Berkely, the Colorado School of Mines and New Mexico State University in the United States. Previously, I was the leader for the International Network for Sediment Research (INSR) which connected Newcastle University with Stanford University and the University of Maryland in the United States, Peking University in China, the Institute of Technology and Applied Sciences in Cuba, the University of Tuebingen in Germany, the University of Eastern Finland and the University of East Anglia. I was editor for a special issue of the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology on "Sorption and Transport" and member of the Scientific Steering Committee for SIDISA Milano 2012. I am member of the 4th International Symposium on sediment remediation (I2SM 2014) taking place in Ferrara, Northern Italy.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons and gasoline additives (MTBE, ethanol, biodiesel), activated carbon, biochar, synthesis of novel sorbent materials, drinking water treatment, pollutant fate and transport modelling.


Active grants:

GLOBAL INNOVATION PARTNERSHIP (British Council): To Investigate, Restore & Protect the Urban Water Environment

COLLABORATION WITH CHINA (RAEng): Environmental Remediation Applications of Iron/Carbon Composite Sorbent Materials.  

IN-GROUND (NERC): Inexpensive monitoring of groundwater pollution in urban African Districts. 

MERMAID-ITN (European Commission): Microbial Resource Management and Engineering in the Urban Water Cycle. 

CONNECT (EPSRC): Connecting the UK Industrial Doctorate Centre for the Water Sector (STREAM) with the US Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt).

STREAM Studentship (EPSRC & Scottish Water): THM - from formation pre-cursors to management strategies.

Undergraduate Teaching

CEG2101 Water and Wastewater Treatment (Module leader)

CEG3303 Computational Engineering Analysis

Postgraduate Teaching

CEG8405 Air Pollution

CEG8106 Groundwater Contamination and Remediation

CEG8503 Hydrosystems Processes and Management 

CEG8199 MSc Project and Dissertation in Environmental Engineering