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Northumbrian Water

Digital Twins, low-carbon water treatment and student placements are all part of our work together.

A world first

A digital replica of Newcastle’s entire water infrastructure is being developed. This will allow real-time resilience testing. It will ensure a rapid response to events such as flooding and drought. And it will inform future investment decisions.

Newcastle University researchers are working in partnership with Northumbrian Water to develop this ‘digital twin’. It is technology used in manufacturing and Formula One. The technology has never before been applied to infrastructure across an entire city. It will help to prepare Newcastle for everything from flooding caused by burst water mains to the long-term impacts of climate change.

Digital twin

The digital twin will allow engineers to model the impact of thousands of potential scenarios and take preventative action where necessary. Equipment failure could be modelled in the digital world, for example, and contingency plans put in place long before it became a problem. But the computer model will also play a crucial role in dealing with any problems as they happen.

During a flooding event engineers could use the model to pinpoint the best course of action to resolve the issue. It could provide real-time information to the city council and emergency services. It could even predict which properties are likely to come under threat. It will enable the authorities to act decisively to protect homes and businesses.

Working together

Chris Jones, of Northumbrian Water, says: “We are interested in moving towards a city-scale digital twin because we are operating city and regional-scale infrastructure. If a short-term issue arises, or we are trying to improve long-term resilience, then we need to be able to predict either the impacts or the demands on the infrastructure.

“We are working with Newcastle University on this because they have the building blocks. They have the models which are the starting point and they have the skillset in the engineering and the computer science needed. The University is home to the National Innovation Centre for Data and the School of Computing, which are very strong on the co-modelling techniques that we need.”

We are working with Newcastle University on this because they have the building blocks. They have the models which are the starting point and they have the skillset in the engineering and in the computer science.

Chris Jones, R&D Manager, Northumbrian Water


Biological engineering: wastewater innovation at scale

By working together we have developed the largest wastewater treatment research facility in Europe.

BE:WISE is an international centre of research and demonstration for wastewater technology. Find out more.

Other projects with Northumbrian Water

National green infrastructure facility

Part of the Newcastle Helix innovation district, the facility is a full-scale space for research in soil-vegetation-atmosphere interaction.

The facility comprises:

  • urban water-vegetation-soils experiments
  • full-scale sustainable drainage swale
  • dedicated laboratory space
  • state-of -the-art instrumentation and monitoring capabilities.

Technical specification:

  • can hold 600m3 of water and is capable of handling 50mm of rainfall in one hour
  • large-scale, heavily instrumented lysimeters that allow unique trials of experimental SuDS specifications
  • 130m ‘extreme event’ swale enabling research and demonstration of leaky barriers for urban water attenuation
  • 100m ensemble of variably planted bioretention cells to investigate the influence of planting regime and management on hydrological performance
  • open monitoring data via an API hosted by the Urban Observatory
  • 50,000L rainwater harvesting tank to provide water for rainfall simulation

Student placements

Year-long placement opportunities are available exclusively to Newcastle University students across a wide range of Northumbrian Water's teams, including:

  • Asset Investment Team
  • Commercial Team
  • Customer
  • Developer Services
  • Information Services
  • Scientific Services
  • Strategic Planning & Economic Regulation
  • Wastewater
  • Water