Wastewater research theme

Wastewater

This extensive programme area includes research on diffuse pollution, environmental impacts, treatment processes, intermittent discharges, monitoring and odour controls, collection systems and intelligence gathering, bathing waters, combined sewer overflows and effluent quality. There is a comprehensive investigation into combined sewer overflows and a series of projects carried out under the heading Priority Hazardous Substances.

This programme will also support the 21st century drainage programme led by Water UK.


Programme Lead(S)

Howard Brett

Wastewater
Thames Water Limited

Laura Shudall

Sewage Sludge
United Utilities Water Limited

 

Sub-categories



 

Projects


 

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.



 

Energy from sewers

Project Status Project Completed

There have been numerous studies, both in the UK and Worldwide, on the benefits of using sewage flow to recover usable heat via heat exchangers and heat pumps. There a number of technologies already developed to recover heat from sewers and there are a growing number of installations in Europe & North America. There is already one example of sewer heat recovery in the UK which uses Scottish Water sewers to provide heat to Borders College in Galashiels. A number of other water companies have been approached about similar projects.

With the continued support for decarbonised renewable heat through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme it is likely that this market for sewer heat will continue to grow. This growing market poses three questions for the water compnaies:
1) What are the risks to the sewerage system or waste water treatment works from these heat recovery systems/technologies? Will some types of systems cause blockages or reduce sewer capacity? What will be the impact of reduced temperature of sewage on our treatment processes?
2) What are the legal implications for sewer heat recovery? In systems where flow leaves the sewer whose responsibility is it and are any additional permits required?
3) What is the overall scale of the opportunity for heat recovery and other forms of energy generation from sewers, both in terms of renewable generation capacity and additional income?

Currently every water company will be approaching this differently leading to possible duplication of effort and inconsistency of approach which could eventually lead to a challenge being made by those involved to Ofwat or the Government. Answering these 3 questions would help to provide a level of consistency across all water companies and a clear indication of the water industry's expectations to those  companies looking to exploit the opportunity of sewer heat recovery.



 

When is ‘surface water removal’ the most cost beneficial solution?

Project Status Project Commenced

Removing surface water from foul or combined sewers offers a number of benefits, both in terms of reducing operational expenditure and flows (and subsequent flooding and spill frequency), as well as offering wider community benefits.

There is an increasing appetite across the water industry to consider and deliver such interventions to help manage a range of drivers, but this appetite is not matched by an in depth understanding of the scenarios and catchment characteristics that make surface water removal options more cost beneficial than traditional engineering solutions.



 

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Project Status Project Completed

Increased Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) remains a concern for both Governments and water companies alike. AMR bacteria have been found downstream of Wastewater Treatment Works’ (WwTW) discharges in rivers and in the marine environment. It seems likely that this is not solely due to the discharge of antibiotic residues in effluent (although these may contribute to some lesser extent) but more simply, to the release of bacteria that are already resistant, or the release of genetic material containing antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) which are then incorporated by environmental bacteria.

A better understanding of the extent of resistant bacteria discharged from the WwTW and the link to anti-microbial resistance in the environment is needed, allied to quantifying the relevance of these environmental reservoirs in the context of human health. This knowledge also needs to be placed in context of the UK and Irish Governments’ AMR strategies and plans, to help to increase understanding of the contribution from the environment to the wider problem of AMR spread. Similarly, understanding the contribution of WwTW discharges relative to other environmental sources of AMR, for example, agricultural discharges, is key if we are as a society to prioritise our efforts to limit the spread of AMR.

Given the increasing importance and public concern over AMR, one of the key issues (after development of new antimicrobials) is how to prevent or limit the spread and dissemination of AMR; of specific interest to the water industry is the release of resistant organisms to the environment, and how this might impact society . WwTWs are one of a number of obvious release sources and although they achieve significant bacterial reductions, this may not be sufficient. This is particularly pertinent to bathing water discharges; although such effluents are routinely disinfected the probability of direct human exposure is far greater than for inland freshwaters.



 

Ecological impact of other (non soluble reactive) phosphorus fractions

Project Status Project Completed

This project is  a follow on from the ‘recently completed 'Phosphorus speciation - does it matter?’ UKWIR project.

Feedback through this project from the Environment Agency has indicated that there would need to be evidence that the river ecology is not impacted by other species of phosphorus for them to consider an alternative method of wastewater discharge permitting based on soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) rather than Total Phosphorus (Total P).

The opportunity would be to provide the evidence that there is/is not an ecological impact from the non soluble reactive species of phosphorus (non SRP).

Achieving compliance with the targets for phosphorus in the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is driving lower phosphorus permit limits for wastewater discharges, potentially down to 0.1 mg/l Total P. Technology to get to these very low levels is currently being trialled by the industry through the Chemicals Investigation Programme (CIP2). However, if there are alternative ways of permitting phosphorus this may change the technology required to achieve the reductions in the most relevant species of phosphorus.

If it can be proven that these other species of phosphorus do not impact the river ecology then the permitting of SRP instead of Total P may become an option resulting in the possibility of more cost beneficial solutions to achieve WFD compliance and protect the river ecology.

There is an indication from laboratory experiments that organisms have the ability to utilise normally ‘non-bioavailable’ forms of P under ‘extreme’ conditions, however further research into this is required.

 



 

Extending the Capability of SAGIS to Take Account of Climate Change, Growth and Mains Water Leakage

Project Status Project Commenced

What is the emerging legislation or other threat that lies behind the proposal?
The Adaptation Reporting Power of the Climate Change Act 2018 requiring companies to demonstrate how climate change effects their operations and that they understand and are dealing with any risks.

The Water Framework Directive requires measures to be implemented to improve ecological status and prevent deterioration. Companies need to understand more about the role of water mains leakage and the contribution that reducing leakage will make to improving compliance with the phosphorus targets.

 Why is the Industry concerned about this issue?

There is a need to understand the risks to water quality using climate change predictions so that the industry can start developing future strategies in catchments. The industry would also like to be able to consider these risks alongside other pressures such as growth.

In urban areas in particular the industry would like to understand whether they are already delivering their fair share to resolving phosphate non-compliance.

 What is the specific problem that the Industry needs to address?

There are currently no standard tools or methodologies for understanding the climate change risks to water quality. Since its development in 2012, the Source Apportionment Geographic Information System (SAGIS) model has proved a useful tool when developing suitable water quality measures required to comply with the Water Framework Directive (WFD). By estimating the relative sources of point source and diffuse pollution in rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters, the SAGIS model also helps to ensure that the water industry is not targeting pollution arising from other sources or sectors.

 

As part of project WW02B209, UKWIR commissioned a climate change scoping study report to consider how climate change modelling could be done in SAGIS. The scoping study has recently completed and recommended the development of an automation spreadsheet to create climate change scenario SIMCAT files, to run these files and to analyse the results. The SAGIS Steering group have asked that any tool developed also includes the capability to run other sensitivity tests. The SWQWPG SAGIS sub group met on 6th June 2019 and agreed that this should be implemented. The group also suggested that the tool be run and tested on a catchment in order to provide an early idea of how results will be effected.

Project WW02B209 also delivered a scoping study on water mains leakage which was discussed at the User Form meeting held on 11th July. SAGIS users asked for further work to be done to implement the recommendations of the scoping study.



 

Modelling a dynamic and uncertain future - preparing SAGIS for changes in climate, PR24, RBMP Cycle 3 and Brexit

Project Status Project Commenced

Source Apportionment Geographical Information System (SAGIS) is a tool developed by UKWIR that helps in quantifying the pollutant load from different sources in UK surface waters. It is primarily used by the industry and regulators in Asset Management Planning (AMP) and River Basin Management Planning (RBMP) and will remain so until at least the year 2027. It is used to determine permits for wastewater treatment works (WWTW) discharges and identify future investment needs.

The value of SAGIS and associated decision supporting tools is related to the data contained within the tool and the extent to which it incorporates the latest knowledge (scientific and political). This project will therefore focus on preparing the system for the future by including assessments of climate change, PR 24, RBMP cycle 3 and Brexit.



 

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.



 

Research, planning and management with UKWIR’s Source Apportionment modelling system – from data to evidence and wisdom

Project Status Project Completed

Water quality modelling underpins Water Industry decisions on securing investment to improve the aquatic environment. The SAGIS-SIMCAT modelling system is currently used by Water Companies to support decision making as part of the Asset Management Planning (AMP) cycle process, and by Regulators for River Basin Management Planning, and will continue to support these planning requirements until at least 2027.

Key benefits of SAGIS-SIMCAT are that it (i) helps to ensure that the Water Industry is not targeting capital and carbon intensive treatment solutions to address pollution arising outside of the Water Industry, (ii) provides the ability to trial the effectiveness of different measures (i.e. the ‘what if’ question), and (iii) can be used to support cost benefit analyses.

The scale of the investment by the Water Industry to improve the aquatic environment is significant, with the complexity of the challenge likely to increase. This is driven, in part, by an increase in the number of chemicals that will require active management (as suggested by findings from CIP2), but also the availability of novel and (potentially) expensive wastewater treatment technologies. It is important to deploy investment effectively to ensure measures deliver the right outcomes for Water Company customers and the environment, and SAGIS is a key tool for supporting these investment decisions.

The value of the SAGIS-SIMCAT model as a decision support tool is, however, directly related to the quality, quantity and age of data contained within the model, and also the extent to which it incorporates the latest catchment science, knowledge and understanding. The accumulation of new data and knowledge is continuous and it is critical to accommodate these within the modelling system to ensure it can continue to support current and future AMP cycle planning requirements and cost benefit analyses. This new project should therefore:

  • Incorporate findings from the latest research, for example from CIP2 (in particular).
  • Expand the frontiers of science by using SAGIS to support novel (relevant) research.

This project will be aimed at ensuring that the modelling system utilises the most up-to-date data, knowledge and information, thereby supporting both current and future AMP cycle and River Basin Management planning requirements, as well as cost benefit analyses. The benefits of this work will be realised through improved investment decision making and through the level of cooperation afforded by water companies and regulators using a common platform.



 

Sink to River - River to Tap - A review of potential risks from nano-particles & microplastics

Project Status Project Completed

There is significant interest in the prevalence of nano-particles and microplastics entering the environment.

There is a lack of understanding for the water industry with regards to the occurrence, fate and behaviour of these particles during transport and Waste Water Treatment; once dischrged to the river system there is limited understanding of how these particles behave; if river water is abstracted down-stream there is a lack of knowledge around the occurrenceand degree of removal of these particles through water treatment processes.



 

SAGIS model update tool to support modelling for PR24

Project Status Project Commenced

SAGIS-SIMCAT is the most widely used catchment scale water quality model in the UK. The traction it has gained is based on its capability to apportion the contribution from polluting sectors, such as water companies, arable and livestock farming, urban run-off and septic tanks, and the impact they have upon concentrations within the receiving rivers. As such it is used to support regulators and water companies alike make decisions designed to improve water quality. For PR19, SAGIS-SIMCAT is driving expenditure across the country of c.£4bn which is focused fairly on water companies’ share.
Prior to the generation of models and outputs, SAGIS which processes the data used to support investment decisions, needs to be updated with contemporaneous data. This task to-date has been a long and laborious one. For PR24 a new set of regional models will be required, necessitating an extensive update of the data within SAGIS and to the features of the GIS interface. To do this manually would involve considerable resourcing from both regulators and water companies.
The aim of this project proposes to generate a new tool, or collection of tools that will allow users to automatically update the SAGIS models with contemporaneous data. This tool/tools will need to take raw data provided by multiple sources including regulators such as the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) as well as water companies and process the data into a format needed to generate a new SAGIS model. From the raw data, new data tables and geo-referencing will be required. Effectively producing a new set of models.
The tool/tools also need(s) to report on the quality of the data, in addition to generating the input tables for new models and summarise the data to be used within the model. It is fundamental that decision makers understand the uncertainty within the source data and its implications upon investment. As such, the tool will be required to assess the raw data used and report on, but not limited to the following:
· Step changes in data
· The proportion of ‘less than’ observations within the data
· The number of observations
· The temporal coverage of the data
· The statistical distribution of the data
· Whether default values/assumption have been used in parameter estimation.

For every data set a quality score should be assigned taking account of these factors.
The tool will need to be able to identify data associated with features not already included in the model and will need to be able to add new features to the model all in one go. The project should consider either developing new tools or adapting existing tools.



 

BQ Delivering an environmentally sustainable wastewater service (that meets customer and regulator expectations) by 2050 - Phase 1 - Definition, research review and gap analysis

Project Status Project Completed

No Further Information Available.



 

Pharmaceutical reduction at STWs – cost and effectiveness

Project Status Project Completed


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