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Marking 70 years of water research

Water research at the University is transforming people’s lives right here in the North East and across the world.

Our experts are leading the way in research to manage water pollution, treat wastewater, help communities prepare for extreme floods and droughts caused by the climate emergency, safeguard the world's river deltas and provide clean drinking water for all.

Collaborating with industry leaders, academics, policy makers and communities around the world, our engineers and scientists are contributing to industrial and policy solutions that are making a real difference and ensuring water sustainability and security for the future.

This week, the University has hosted a major international water conference to mark 70 years of water research.

Richard Dawson, Professor of Earth Systems, said:

"Newcastle University has been at the forefront of water research for the past seven decades.

"Our teams are developing solutions for water challenges globally, bringing together experts in water engineering, energy, health and sanitation to ensure that water is managed and used in a sustainable way. We inform policy at an international scale for water governance and sanitation, catchment management and resilience to climate change."

In collaboration with Northumbrian Water, experts here have built the world's first pilot-scale bio-electro-chemical system that produces hydrogen from wastewater at ambient temperature. Based at a sewage treatment works in Newcastle, this type of wastewater reactor is able to acclimate to wastewater temperatures, and sustain wastewater treatment through periods of cold.

  • Also with Northumbrian Water, in Birtley we have developed BEWISe, an international centre of research excellence and demonstration for wastewater treatment technology, using billions of microorganisms to treat wastewater.
  • In partnership with the Environment Agency, we developed the UK's first operational, large-scale passive mine water treatment scheme. The treatment scheme at Force Crag, outside Keswick in Cumbria is cleaning up a 6-mile stretch of river, preventing up to a tonne of metals, including zinc, cadmium and lead, from entering Bassenthwaite Lake each year.​
  • Working with our partners such as ARUP, Northumbrian Water and Newcastle City Council, we are leaders in blue-green cities, with Newcastle being a blue-green infrastructure demonstration city. Newcastle is pioneering blue-green approaches to reduce flood risks and implement sustainable drainage systems, which are monitored and tested by the National Green Infrastructure Facility in Newcastle Helix.
  • Along with innovating digital twin technology, we are also national experts in flood modelling, analysis and visualisation that predicts flooding in large-scale urban areas across infrastructure interdependencies, such as transport, energy, ICT, wastewater and water supply. We work with the natural landscape in rural areas in collaboration with Defra, the EA, and local rural organisations, to reduce pollution and flooding, such as the 'Kerplunk' system – a 60m 'ladder' of criss-crossing logs carefully pinned into the banks of Slaty Sike, one of the tributaries of Haltwhistle Burn. This and other rural and urban catchment projects are making a difference for we store, slow and filter water in the landscape throughout the country, and adapt to climate change.

Seventy ​years of water research is just the start in creating a sustainable future for water in the North East and throughout the world.

70 years of water research - researchers at BEWISe Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale
Researchers at BEWISe

published on: 24 January 2020