Big question

BQ5 - How will we deliver an environmentally sustainable wastewater service that meets customer and regulator expectations 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:

  • Developing a resilient wastewater service that has the ability to cope with the impacts of growth and climate change
  • Develop sustainable treatment technologies
  • Maintain and protect biosolids quality
  • Play our part in controlling any emerging substances of concern to the environment

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  



BQ05-A04-What price effluent disinfection?.

Project Status - Project Completed

Pressure is mounting for the establishment of inland bathing waters and for the 'right to swim in all waters'. The conventional approach to achieving standards for faecal indicators organisms in receiving waters is disinfection of effluents - usually with UV. Equally, one of the possible responses to the perceived risk posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARBs) in effluent might also be to provide disinfection. This project will assume some scenarios and develop possible national costs, both for totex and carbon

Projects coming soon.


BQ05-F04 Pollution Inventory estimator tool - update.

Project Status - Project Commenced

Sewerage providers across the UK are still expected to report on substances released to the environment under the '(European) Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (e-PRTR)’ and as adopted by devolved administrations. An estimating tool to facilitate ease of making these returns (the alternative being an expensive and comprehensive monitoring programme) was developed as has been used with EA, SEPA & NRW agreement for many years. It was, however, developed to run on earlier Microsoft software and the program has failed to run successfully in the many companies that have adopted Office 365. The estimating process can be achieved 'manually' but is time and labour-intensive.

This proposal is two-fold - a first phase to modify the software as necessary to run reliably in the Office 365 environment; and if appropriate, a second phase to review the default values held in the estimator against more recent monitoring data such as derived from CIP. 


Wastewater Briefings & Alerts - continuation of service.

Project Status - Project Commenced


BQ05-H04-Microbial standards and wastewater - what next? (a slightly less-than-big question).

Project Status - Project Completed

Category - Bathing waters

Water companies are facing a 'perfect storm': After a wet winter, storm overflows are very high on the political agenda; Wild swimmers expect better protection, and pressure mounts for more inland bathing waters; the Covid-19 pandemic has generated massive interest, not just in pathogen surveillance but in the 'risk' attached to discharges, both continuous and intermittent; there remains interest in revising standards for bathing and shellfish waters, to recognise pathogens rather than indicators; qPCR is now a routine approach for detecting the signal of any organism; the spread of antimicrobial resistance through wastewater and biosolids, although unproven in scale, also sits high on the agenda; reuse schemes are a larger part of water resource management, be it for potable or agricultural use; and the microbial quality of biosolids will always be of concern to stakeholders and regulators.

Do we understand this evolving framework and how should we respond? We are, after all, primarily concerned with the protection of public health - is gaining a better understanding of this an area we should be more active in promoting? How would we respond if challenged to reduce the perceived 'risk'? Do we even know if there is a 'risk'?