Skip to main content

Northumbrian Water

We’ve worked collaboratively with Northumbrian Water (NWG) for over 25 years using shared facilities and delivering novel approaches to enhance water and wastewater treatments

Our relationship with Northumbrian Water (NWG) spans over 25 years using shared facilities and delivering novel approaches to enhance water and wastewater treatments, maximising the use of water, and advancing techniques to generate energy from water.

Our collaborative research, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, interns, post-doctorate, undergraduate programmes and summer placements also generate real-world solutions to water related issues. And our sponsorship of their annual innovation festival allows us to support innovative research sprints.


The overarching aim of our collaborative FairWater Project is to reduce household water consumption, particularly hot water, to help reduce bills for customers. It is a collaboration between Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water Group alongside industry partners National Energy Action, Procter & Gamble and Northern Gas Network and was awarded £3.8m over four years in Ofwat's £200million Water Breakthrough Challenge competition.

The project focuses on driving improved water efficiency at the task-based level – by reducing time, frequency and intensity of water consumption for given tasks. Where appropriate, the possibility of re-purposing water will be explored, provided it can be executed without major household re-plumbing.

Chris Jones, Research & Development Manager, Northumbrian Water Group said

“FairWater has been possible thanks to NWG’s longstanding and multi-disciplinary partnership with Newcastle University. The project involves teams across business, social science, computing, geospatial and, of course, water. The success of FairWater relies on the trust and understanding between our two organisations and builds on the strong relationships that both NWG and Newcastle University have with the other project partners, essential for coping with the uncertainty and risk inherent in cutting edge research and innovation. Our collaborative research is steered by NWG’s strategic ambition and the outcomes we aspire to for our customers and environment, focussed through NU’s lens of internationally leading science to deliver both local and global impact.”

Commercialisation of research into reduction of energy from water treatmeat

Jointly Newcastle University and Northumbria Water Group are at the forefront of Microbial Electrochemical Technology (MET) research and development. After years of pilot-testing and developing  the technology and IP, the team now aims to advance it further through commercialisation.

The resulting spin-out company, METzero can help wastewater treatment plants increase their capacity and reduce the energy costs of treatment whilst also reducing their carbon emissions. It is hoped that METzero can complement existing treatment technologies and help bring the sector closer to net zero.  Dr Pavlina Theodosiou, the academic how leading MetZero, was awarded a prestigious Enterprise Fellowship, by the Royal Academy of Engineering earlier this year, to support her as the company’s CEO.


Digital twin - 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.

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.

BE:WISe 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.

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