Big question

How do we remove more carbon than we emit by 2050?




We are currently working on the approach to answering this Big Question, and more information will be given here soon.

The areas that this Big Question covers includes:

  • Establish where and how we can store energy
  • Optimise energy generation and address energy waste
  • Seek out novel materials to use in construction and rehabilitation

Once we understand where the gaps are, we will produce a route map – this is a plan as to how we will answer our Big Question.

The route map will have a number of key elements. At the top will be our Big Question and then we will look to see what Outcomes we need from the research programme -if we can achieve all these outcomes we can answer the Big Question. This is the stage we are currently at for this Big Question.

The next stage will be to think about the key benefits we want the research projects to deliver to meet these outcomes.

Following this, we will plan the research projects to help deliver the benefits.


See All Projects  


Projects coming soon.

Projects coming soon.

Projects coming soon.


Calculating wholelife / totex carbon

Project Status - Expressions of Interest

Projects coming soon.


Climate change adaptation - a common framework

Project Status - Expressions of Interest

The water sector needs a common position on climate change risk and the measures it will take to adapt.



We know that disruption from climate change has far reaching effects across the environment, the economy and society. Changing rainfall patterns and temperature, as well as more frequent weather extremes mean that our water systems are at the front line for resilience to climate change. The need to adapt touches on all areas of our work, for example: customers service resilience expectations; the capacity and condition of physical assets; regulation (quality and economic alike), planning and investment; all aspects of our water and wastewater services; and the resilience of energy supplies and the wider supply chain.


A number of wider factors point to the need for a step change in our approach:

  • the UK hosting the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) places the spotlight more firmly on climate change risk, as well as decarbonisation, in the UK.
  • the National Infrastructure Commission's call for government to set resilience standards, for industry to apply stress tests; and for regulators to support investment
  • investors aligning themselves with the Task Force on Climate Related Disclosures which expects consistency in how organisations understand and adapt to climate-related risks.
  • the Public Accounts Committee's recent report highlighting very serious water supply risks, and concern about investment planning involving regulators, DEFRA and companies.
  • Defra stating in the second National Adaptation Program that it will strengthen the WRMP guidance to improve consistency in how water companies consider climate change


What have and what we need


Previous UKWIIR research has put us in a good position in terms of underpinning evidence and technical tools to assist adaptation work e.g. water resource planning, rainfall intensity for drainage planning. This has included the incorporation of UK climate projections (most recently UKCP18) to reinforce modelling etc.


However, we do not have a common, overarching framework for adaptation work by the water sector that responds to the international, national and sectoral drivers outlined above and also enables climate adaptation issue to be considered consistently across the Big Questions. Such as framework could include:

  • a common high level goal for galvanising adaptation action - akin to a Big Question
  • a common view of what resilience means to us; how we will measure success;
  • a consistent position on the climate scenarios are we using i.e. what future states are we planning for?
  • explanation of how we can invest in long term adaptation within regulatory periods.
  • evidence that adaptation is integrated into our asset, service and investment planning framework.

In essence, we have good science, tools and understanding within the sector; but common goals, methods and metrics would help make a better case for investment in climate resilience.

Research needs

Much of what is described above involves gathering existing work and knowledge together. However there are some specific knowledge gaps which would benefit from joint research. Namely:

  • what climate scenarios should we be working to, for planning and investment purposes? What is the view of our regulators and the wider climate adaptation community on this?
  • linked to this, would we need to act differently to be resilient with 4 deg C warming (possible), compared with 2 deg C warming (very likely)
  • what climate resilience standards to utilities elsewhere in the world work to?
  • what methods of public engagement should we use to build understanding and support