Work with Us

Northumbrian Water Group

Northumbrian Water

In a world first, a digital replica of Newcastle’s entire water infrastructure is being developed to allow real-time resilience testing, ensure a rapid response to events such as flooding and drought, and inform future investment decisions.

Newcastle University researchers are working in partnership with Northumbrian Water to develop this ‘digital twin’, similar to those used in manufacturing and Formula One. The technology has never before been applied to infrastructure across an entire city and 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, for example, engineers could use the model to pinpoint the best course of action to resolve the issue, provide real-time information to the city council and the fire brigade, and even predict which properties are likely to come under threat. That in turn will enable the authorities to act decisively, re-routing traffic away from affected areas and, if necessary, taking steps to protect homes and businesses.

Taking a longer-term view, the digital twin will also help Northumbrian Water decide where investment could alleviate the impact of climate change-related weather events and population change, and the anticipated longer, hotter summers.

Building the system is a complex project and at present a series of smaller digital twins are being introduced to replicate critical components on the network, such as water pumps and wastewater treatment works. Researchers are focusing their efforts on a set of common standards that will allow these models to work seamlessly 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 issues 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 also 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.”

Other projects with Northumbrian Water

BE:WISE | Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale

The largest wastewater treatment research facility in Europe, developing innovations for sustainable wastewater treatment. Funded by a £1.2 million grant from the EPSRC, and with funding from Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water, BE:WISE is an international centre of research excellence and demonstration for wastewater management technology. Find out more.

National Green Infrastructure Facility

The facility hosts urban water-vegetation-soils centred research in a unique, full-scale sustainable drainage context with dedicated laboratory space and state-of -the-art instrumentation and monitoring capabilities. Facilities comprise:

  • £10m investment into full-scale space for research in soil-vegetation-atmosphere interaction in the urban environment
  • 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
  • A 130m ‘extreme event’ swale enabling research and demonstration of leaky barriers for urban water attenuation
  • A 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