Sheffield expands to become the largest urban water research group in the UK

Posted: Friday 13th September 2013

The move will see The Pennine Water Group grow in research output and industry collaborations.

Established in 2001, the Pennine Water Group was an alliance between academics at the Universities of Bradford and Sheffield dedicated to urban water systems research. From the 1 September 2013 it is to become one group based at the University of Sheffield, making it the largest urban water research group in any UK University.Professor Joby Boxall from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield states ‘the Pennine Water Group has achieved great things, the most notable of which is successfully attaining an unprecedented third EPSRC Platform Grant, the only water research group to do so’. The PWG is an established leading authority in water and environmental sustainability due to the diversity and scope of activities. The Prediction and control of Discolouration in Distribution Systems (PODDS) project now entering its fifth phase started out small but has since grown into a consortium, jointly funded, helping industry find solutions and assisting the delivery service improvements. Unlike industry specialists who have to deal with the day to day problems; academics can step back and take a long-term look at the sector.

As the group grows it plans to identify areas of research that will directly benefit industry and its customers, “We are going to take the idealised, lab-based understanding and apply it in a practical way to help industry”.

The University already has an established strong position in water-related research; PWG member Professor Joby Boxall leads in a £1 million EPSRC research grant for Pipe Dreams, a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the aging water system in the UK. The University has also recently secured an EPSRC grant alongside six other universities for Assessing the Underworld, which looks at changing how street works are carried out and ways to improve underground asset management, this project spans across multiple disciplines across the university.

As the Pennine Water Group becomes exclusively based in Sheffield it will see the University substantially expand its capacity for research in the field. It will also enable increased interdisciplinary collaborations, not only amongst the existing group but also with other academics in Sheffield, particularly in social sciences. PWG members Professor Simon Tait and Dr Liz Sharp already work on the EU PREPARED project, developing new ways for water utilities and their staff to adapt to better cope with long term climate change.

Six academics from Bradford will move into three different University of Sheffield departments across two faculties and will include Professors Simon Tait and Kirill V. Horoshenkov. In addition to the six academics, there will be four research associates and five PhD students moving to Sheffield. They will also bring additional experimental facilities, which will be incorporated into laboratories at Sheffield into which the University is investing £0.5M. This comes on top of other recent investment in the university in water research facilities, with full size or scaled physical experimental equipment including:

- 600 metre long, 80mm diameter, temperature controlled pipeline for testing drinking water quality

- A 1/6 scale above/below ground urban flooding model

- An environmentally controlled annular flume to imitate water and sediment flow in sewers.

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