EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water and Waste Infrastructure Systems Engineered for Resilience (Water-WISER)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

The world is changing fast. Rapid urbanisation, large scale population movements, increasing pressure from climate change, natural and man-made disasters create enormous pressures on local and national governments to provide housing, water, sanitation, solid waste (rubbish) management and other critical services. In the UK there is also an ongoing challenge associated with aging infrastructure (many sewers for example are more than 100 years old) and at the same time, calls for new investment in housing, the construction of new towns, and an urgent need to reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels, reduce pollution and increase the recovery of valuable resources. As economic conditions improve, people naturally demand better services; twenty-four hour water piped direct to the house and convenient safe private toilets have replaced public stand pipes and public toilets as the aspiration of many families in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America (the "global south"). All of this creates both a challenge and an opportunity. In coming decades there will be a huge demand for new infrastructure investments in the global south; more than 4.4 billion people worldwide do not have a sanitation system that effectively collects and treats all the waste produced by families, while 2.4 billion people urgently need new water supply services. The UK engineering industry is poised to play a significant role in meeting both this global demand and the need for new innovations at home. But therein lies the challenge; the new generation of services and infrastructure must, by very definition, be essentially different in nature from what has been traditionally provided. In an era of increasing uncertainty from, for example, the changing climate, the traditional approach to the design of piped water supplies and sewerage networks would result in such a major over design that the investment costs alone would be prohibitive. Similarly, it is no longer acceptable to just keep adding additional treatment processes on to waste water treatment systems to meet increasingly challenging conditions and higher discharge standards, nor is it acceptable to continue to pump valuable nutrients and carbon into our rivers and streams; new approaches are needed, which recover the nutrient and energy value of human and solid waste streams, in fact turning away from the idea of waste altogether and moving towards the idea of resource management and the so-called circular economy.
What is needed to meet this demand is a new generation of research engineers and scientists trained not only in the fundamentals of 'what is known' but in the more challenging area of 'what can be re-imagined'. The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water and Waste Infrastructure Services Engineered for Resilience (Water-WISER) will train five cohorts of researchers with the new skills needed to meet these enormous challenges. Students in the Centre will have the opportunity to study at one of three globally-leading Universities working on resilient infrastructure and development. They will take a one year Masters course and then move on to carry out tailored research, in partnership with engineering consultancy firms, universities or development agencies such as the World Bank, UNICEF or WaterAid; studying how to deliver innovative, effective and resilient infrastructure and services in rapidly growing poor cities.
Water-WISER graduates will combine a solid training in the fundamental engineering and science of water and sanitation, solid waste management, water resources and drainage, with much broader training and development which will build the skills needed to collaborate with non-engineers and non-scientists, to work with sociologists and political scientists, city planners, digital designers, business development specialists and administrators, health specialists, professionals working in international development and finance.

Planned Impact

Water-WISER will train a cohort of 50 British research engineers and scientists and equip them to work in challenging environments both in the low-income settings of rapidly growing poor cities and in the changing urban environment of the UK, Europe and other regions with a historic endowment of aging infrastructure. The vision is for a generation of engineers with the skills to deliver the trans-disciplinary innovations needed to ensure that future water, waste and sanitation infrastructure is resilient to the stresses posed by rapid urbanisation, global climate change and increasingly extreme natural and man-made disasters. Our alumni will address the urgent need to re-imagine urban spaces as net contributors to ecological and environmental well-being rather than being net users of vital resources such as energy, nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon. These new leaders will be an essential resource if the UK is to deliver on its commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 6 which calls for universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services, within planetary and local ecological boundaries. This next generation of research engineers will enable UK-based engineering consultancies, manufacturers, and utility companies to grow their share of the expanding global market for water and waste services, for example; in the water services industry from 3% to 10% (an increase of £33 billion per annum) by 2030, and attract significant inward investment.
The research which Water-WISER cohorts enable will form the basis of new innovations in the design and delivery of resilient infrastructure and services. Innovations developed by Water-WISER graduates will inform how growing cities are designed and built in the global south and will be used to inform the re-engineering and replacement of the aging infrastructure on which the UK's water and waste services are currently reliant. Our alumni will form the new generation of leaders who will play a central role in securing a larger share of the international water and waste management consultancy market to UK consultancies. The network of expertise and skills created by Water-WISER will enhance potential for collaborations between major UK players (for example strengthening links between UK consultancy, the Department for International Development, and leading UK water agencies such as WaterAid and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor) and between UK companies and partners in the global south including international investors such as the World Bank, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation. Graduates of Water-WISER will enter industry, academia and development agencies having spent a substantial period (minimum of six months) embedded in an industry or development partner organisation delivering their field-based research. Water-WISER students will thus gain a unique combination of trans-disciplinary training, field experience and cohort networking; they are destined for leadership roles in UK and international engineering and development consultancies, academia, international development banks, international agencies such as the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022066/1 01/06/2019 30/11/2027
2277272 Studentship EP/S022066/1 30/09/2019 30/09/2023 Mst Sufia Sultana
2276633 Studentship EP/S022066/1 30/09/2019 30/09/2023 Hannah Nicola Ritchie
2293669 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 03/12/2019 Abdelkawy ABDOU
2294177 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Rebecca Anne Lewis
2272067 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Harriet Twine Roberts
2308770 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Alun Pinder
2271859 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Leonie Hyde-Smith
2272011 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Hannah Robinson
2426134 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Grace Phiri
2308430 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Richard Dewhurst
2272084 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Jonathan Wilcox
2439037 Studentship EP/S022066/1 28/09/2020 30/09/2024 Alexander Gillison Rodger
2438975 Studentship EP/S022066/1 28/09/2020 30/09/2024 Chimamaka Amala
2438953 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Katie Michelle Allen
2438967 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Georgia Isabella Hales
2439258 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Ruth Emily Sylvester
2443527 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Bushra Sadek Hasan
2439179 Studentship EP/S022066/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Jemma Felicity PHILLIPS