My UKWIR

Sustainability research theme

Sustainability

UKWIR has collaborated closely with the Meteorological Office as well as the Environment Agency on the inputs into this programme area. This ensures climate change scenarios are provided in a format that the industry can easily assimilate. Research has looked into climate change impacts on the water company functions including the asset management planning process, the hydraulic design of sewerage systems and on river flows and groundwater recharge.

New areas being explored include, circular economy, natural capital and reducing carbon footprint.


Programme Lead(S)

Mark Williams

Climate Change
Scottish Water

 

Sub-categories



 

Projects


 

Carbon Accounting Workbook Update v12 March 2018

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

UKWIR's carbon accounting tool is a well respected workbook tool that has enabled the industry to consistently report and track operational carbon emissions for over 10 years.  It requires annual updates to accommodate changes in emission factors and to ensure the emission boundaries are consistent with both external guidance and to reflect the latest thinking in the industry.

 

Recently discussions at UKWIR have suggested that in future the tool may need to be managed and updated by companies separate from the UKWIR process.  To that end, this year's proposal includes a small provision to facilitate the transfer of this activity from UKWIR if that is the desired path.



 

Carbon, Sustainability, circular economy, natural capital, net positive....where are we and where should we be?

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

The UK Water Industry has always been spirited to promote sutainability and create a significant positive contribution to society. It has been continually discussing and working in areas to achieve it but there is no study which captures this achievement, positive impacts and ultimately the net contribution of the sector.

The Water industry has added expectations of government, regulators, NGOs and customers for a long term sustainable approach that will support society across the challenges of the coming decades. In particular, circular economy and natural capital are the latest areas that customer investment fora are increasingly seeking information on.

Thus this project will provide the evidence that the Water industry as a sector is socially, environmentally and financially responsible and help to map out the current position and further improvement that can be done.



 

Quantifying and reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions from waste and water treatment processes.

Project Status Project Commenced

The water industry is committed to reducing its carbon emissions and one of the ‘Big Questions’ posed by UKWIR to help inform the strategic programme of research is: How do we become carbon neutral by 2050? To achieve this, we must develop a better understanding of the greenhouse gas emissions that are specific to our treatment and disposal processes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from our treatment processes are the second highest driver of our industry carbon footprint after energy. As other elements of the industry footprint are reduced, the process emissions become more important. Currently, we are doing little to reduce this component of our footprint, because the science behind our understanding of these emissions and how to reduce them is poor.

Overall, industry Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are falling. Much of the reduction seen is as a result of lower emissions linked to grid electricity. This is partly because the UK grid mix is using less fossil fuels and partly because water companies are generating or procuring renewable energy directly. Historically around 70% of industry emissions have been linked to the use of grid electricity. As this becomes a lesser part of the total, the other elements of the industry footprint become more significant.



 

UKWIR Greenhouse Gas Emissions Workbook update V13 & V14

Project Status Project Commenced


 

Implementing ecosystem service and natural and social capital accounting approaches - testing & evaluation case study test of the tool

Project Status Project Commenced

No Further Information Available.



 

Implementing ecosystem service and natural and social capital accounting approaches Phase 1

Project Status Project Completed

The apparent benefits of ecosystem service and catchment level thinking are well trailed in examples from improved drinking water quality to flood attenuation and climate change resilience.

 

The key challenge is how we quantify and encapsulate these within a robust and credible appraisal that will be acceptable to quality and economic regulators.

 

Consideration of ecosystem services and natural capital accounting is increasingly highlighted by environmental regulators and stakeholders when making decisions, however there is a lack of clear understanding on what this means for the water sector. The focus on outcomes lends itself to wider thinking in setting out the multiple benefits from investment choices, which may extend beyond the immediate service, particularly when we think about how water catchments operate at a macro level.


Benefits and costs extend as much into Social and Human capital. A range of sustainable accounting techniques are being developed to support more effective risk management and decision making. The concept of Capitals is gaining increasing traction with policy makers and business leaders. This is the theory that effective management requires consideration of Natural, Social and Human Capitals, alongside the more traditional recognition of Financial and Manufactured Capitals. The Natural Capital Coalition, a growing consortium of international organisations, will publish the first Natural Capital Protocol in summer 2016. The Protocol will be the world’s first standardised framework for Natural Capital Assessment. Defra have recognised and shown support for this approach, for example renewing the Natural Capital Committee and committing to publish a long term Natural Capital Strategy.

 

Application of Natural and Social Capital assessment techniques in the water industry will enable companies to enhance risk management and decision making through quantification, and potentially monetisation, of a broad range of impact areas. Quantification and monetisation of natural and social impacts (positive and negative) is likely to support industry objectives for collaborative and innovative approaches including, for example, catchment management and storm water management.

 

By developing guidance and tools on the practical application of Natural and Social Capital Accounting, the water industry could demonstrate its leadership and inform external developments by Defra and others.

 

In 2015 project CL04 was commissioned to scope the key concerns on how Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) and Ecosystem Service Assessment (ESA) could be applied in the water sector. It was driven by the increasing interest of regulators and government, stakeholder expectations (NGOs), and explicit references to sustainable decision making in legislation such as WFD. Environmental change, and the value and resilience of systems also need to be considered, given the long term nature of our business.

 

This research recommended key steps in delivering catchment level case studies of NCA, utilising some of the frameworks that are being developed or are already available. From this we would propose to develop a workbook type tool to enable companies to demonstrate the capability to apply this thinking robustly to investment choices.

 

This would need to be a key engagement piece with regulators.

  



 

BQ How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050? Risk assessment of CIP data with respect to implications for drinking water sources

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

To determine whether any emerging contaminants, measured through the Chemical Investigation Programme, pose a potential risk to the quality of drinking water supplies.

Problem

The Chemical Investigation Programme (CIP) Phase 1 &2 has monitored a large number of chemicals that may be entering the aquatic environment from our wastewater treatment processes.  This data, however, has not been looked at in terms of the potential impacts on drinking water quality.

Impact

We currently do not know the impact that these chemicals have on raw water quality for sources located downstream of a waste water treatment works.

Project

This project is an enabler for future work to meet the outcome “An appropriate balance of risk with regards to substances of concern, their public health impact, and mitigation”. It is the first project in a series that will allow the Industry to demonstrate to its customers and other stakeholders, including regulators, that it keeps the upstream risks it faces under review as data becomes available.  Subsequent projects will look in more detail on issues such as treatability i.e. determine if the disinfection process for water containing these chemicals give rise to unwanted by-products of health concern or cause taste and odour issues.



 

Catchment Management for Water Quality & Quantity

Project Status Project Commenced

The drinking water and environmental regulators have stated that they see the main effort to improve water quality / quantity to be based at a catchment level. This will aid the minimisation of algae, pesticides and colour in the raw water sources which in turn will minimise issues water companies face from taste & odour contacts.

The previous UKWIR project, “Quantifying the benefits of Catchment Management” was undertaken over 5 years ago and the project “Catchment Management – how do we know its worked” was started in 2015/16 but put on hold indefinitely. Catchment management has gained traction since then with some companies making great progress. The time is right for a review of the evidence, for or against, catchment management.



 

Development and deployment of a multivariate decision support tool for the CIP catchment studies programme

Project Status Project Completed


 

Logistical Support and Co-ordination of the Delivery Phase of the National Chemical Investigations Programme 2015-2020

Project Status Project Commenced

No Further Information Available.



 

The National CIP - Logistical Support and Co-ordination of the delivery phase of CIP 2020-2021

Project Status Project Commenced


 

The National CIP 2020-2021 Chem 3, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Project Status Project Commenced

The Chemical Investigations Programme (CIP) is an ongoing research programme that addresses the likely implications of environmental legislation for the UK water industry. It is intended as a means of gaining a better understanding of the occurrence, behaviour and management of trace contaminants in the wastewater treatment process and in effluents and sludge. It is a monitoring programme of unprecedented scale and complexity and has been undertaken as a collaborative programme by water companies in England, Wales and Scotland and the respective national regulators.
As part of the third phase of CIP, this project will carry out a substantial programme of investigations into presence and changes in abundance of AMR genes through wastewater and sludge treatment processes.
The programme requires that sampling must be started no later than 1 April 2020 and completed by 31 March 2021, data reported by 31 May 2021 and the specialist contractor’s final report delivered and approved by 30 September 2021.



 

The National CIP 2020-2021 Chem 5, Microplastics

Project Status Project Commenced

Microplastics are plastic particles or fibres which are smaller than 5 mm and are categorised as either primary or secondary depending on whether they were specifically produced at that size or are produced from the abrasion or fragmentation of larger plastic items.
This microplastics investigation acknowledges that this is an area of cutting-edge research and is looking to build on the findings from the current UKWIR study EQ01A Sink to River – River to Tap – A review of potential risks from nanoparticles and microplastics (https://ukwir.org/view/$NvDnwfm!). The scope is therefore subject to the results of this study, as well as advances in the field of microplastics.
This study will require a specialist contractor to develop robust sampling and analysis methodologies, to collect samples from various media and consider sample volumes, blanks and the need for composite sampling. The contractor will also need the analytical capacity to cover the programme across the water companies involved.



 

The National CIP 2020-2021 Chem 7, Sludge chemical analysis

Project Status Project Commenced

The Chemical Investigations Programme (CIP) is an ongoing research programme that addresses the likely implications of environmental legislation for the UK water industry. It is intended as a means of gaining a better understanding of the occurrence, behaviour and management of trace contaminants in the wastewater treatment process and in effluents and sludge. It is a monitoring programme of unprecedented scale and complexity and has been undertaken as a collaborative programme by water companies in England, Wales and Scotland and the respective national regulators.



 

The National CIP 2020-2021 Chem12, Mechanisms of removal

Project Status Project Commenced

The Chemical Investigations Programme (CIP) is an ongoing research programme that addresses the likely implications of environmental legislation for the UK water industry. It is intended as a means of gaining a better understanding of the occurrence, behaviour and management of trace contaminants in the wastewater treatment process and in effluents and sludge. It is a monitoring programme of unprecedented scale and complexity and has been undertaken as a collaborative programme by water companies in England, Wales and Scotland and the respective national regulators.
A series of technology trials were carried out during the second phase of CIP, i.e. feasibility trials, (C2a), pilot trials (C2b), phosphorus removal processes (P1a), and phosphorus removal through chemical dosing optimisation trials (P1b). A number of P1 trials also had a chemical driver added, denoted by the suffix (c).
The C2 and P1(c) trials analysed the presence and removal of 74 chemical determinands in the influent and effluent of each process, grouped by; metals, priority substances & specific pollutants, sanitary determinands, steroids, and pharmaceuticals. The mechanisms of chemical removal were not studied at CIP2, leaving a number of unanswered questions, e.g.
· Are chemicals broken down or are they moved into sludge?
• Chemical removal by steel slag media – associated with elevated pH?
• Why do different installations of the same technology, e.g. sand filters, remove chemicals better than others?
• Ambiguities with tri-butyl tin feasibility & pilot plant trials data – can these be explained?
• Understanding of how chemicals are partitioned
• Optimisation of some technologies
As part of the third phase of CIP, this project will carry out a substantial programme of investigations into the removal and mechanism of removal of substances of interest through wastewater and sludge treatment processes. It is expected that this study will implement the guidance developed in UKWIR Project EQ01A232, Basis for a programme of chemical investigations to be carried out by the water industry during the AMP7 period (please click here).
The programme requires that sampling must be started no later than 1 April 2020 and completed by 31 March 2021, data reported by 31 May 2021, draft report by 30 September 2021 and the specialist contractor’s final report delivered and approved by 30 November 2021.



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