EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment

Abstract

Globally, one in four cities is facing water stress, and the projected demand for water in 2050 is set to increase by 55%. These are significant and difficult problems to overcome, however this also provides huge opportunity for us to reconsider how our water systems are built, operated and governed. Placing an inspirational student experience at the centre of our delivery model, the Water Resilience for Infrastructure and Cities (WRIC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) will nurture a new generation of research leaders to provide the multi-disciplinary, disruptive thinking to enhance the resilience of new and existing water infrastructure. In this context the WRIC CDT will seek to improve the resilience of water infrastructure which conveys and treats water and wastewater as well as the impacts of water on other infrastructure systems which provide vital public services in urban environments.
The need for the CDT is simple: Water infrastructure is fundamental to our society and economy in providing benefit from water as a vital resource and in managing risks from water hazards, such as wastewater, floods, droughts, and environmental pollution. Recent water infrastructure failures caused by climate change have provided strong reminders of our need to manage these assets against the forces of nature. The need for resilient water systems has never been greater and more recognised in the context of our industrial infrastructure networks and facilities for water supply, wastewater treatment and urban drainage. Similarly, safeguarding critical infrastructure in key sectors such as transport, energy and waste from the impacts of water has never been more important. Combined, resilience in these systems is vitally important for public health and safety. Industry, regulators and government all recognise the huge skills gap. Therefore there is an imperative need for highly skilled graduates who can transcend disciplines and deliver innovative solutions to contemporary water infrastructure challenges.
Centred around unique and world leading water infrastructure facilities, and building on an internationally renowned research consortium (Cranfield University, The University of Sheffield and Newcastle University), this CDT will produce scientists and engineers to deliver the innovative and disruptive thinking for a resilient water infrastructure future. This will be achieved through delivery of an inspirational and relevant and end user-led training programme for researchers. The CDT will be delivered in cohorts, with deeply embedded horizontal and vertical training and integration within, and between, cohorts to provide a common learning and skills development environment. Enhanced training will be spread across the consortium, using integrated delivery, bespoke training and giving students a set of unique experiences and skills.
Our partners are drawn from a range of leading sector and professional organisations and have been selected to provide targeted contributions and added value to the CDT. Together we have worked with our project partners to co-create the strategic vision for WRIC, particularly with respect to the training needs and challenges to be addressed for development of resilience engineers. Their commitment is evidenced by significant financial backing with direct (>£2.4million) and indirect (>£1.6million) monetary contributions, agreement to sit on advisory boards, access to facilities and data, and contributions on our taught programme.

Planned Impact

Graduates from the WRIC programme will produce new knowledge across the disciplinary landscape and graduate to occupy professional roles of influence and authority which require a thorough understanding of the pathways by which knowledge and technology are adopted and put to socially significant use. The people and knowledge delivered through the CDT will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's >£5bn annual spend on water and water related infrastructure (OFWAT, 2017), improving its resilience and securing its value for society for generations to come. With ambitions to nurture domain experts who can flourish at the interfaces of scientific disciplines and economic/industry sectors, the impact imperative is a significant but stimulating challenge for the WRIC CDT. Our impact strategy seeks to; (i) ensure rapid dissemination of scientific insights, (ii) maximise awareness and uptake of research sponsored through the CDT, and (iii) improve professional and lay understandings of the water infrastructure challenges facing society and the science behind candidate solutions. This strategy has been developed with project and Centre stakeholders so as to leverage additional resources, and maximise impact.
Improving the resilience of water infrastructure systems will be of benefit to a wide range of stakeholders. Given the CDT's bold intention to tackle knowledge gaps at the interfaces between disciplines and problems, new scientific understandings generated through WRIC will be of value to the knowledge users in the public sector (local authorities, regulators) and private sector (utilities, consultancies, technology providers), ultimately benefiting both lives and livelihoods across the UK and beyond. The UK economy will benefit from robust and resilient water infrastructure, in-line with the UK Government's Industrial Strategy for cleaner economic growth, the efficient use of resources, and building a regenerative circular economy. In the next Price Reviw PR19 (2020-25), water companies will be financially rewarded for implementing enhanced system resilience and innovation. Research outputs from WRIC will enable water companies to be able to meet these demands, alongside ambitious industry targets for zero water and wastewater quality failures, demand reduction and chemical recycling (OFWAT, 2017; UKWIR, 2017). These developments will facilitate inward international investment, development of new technology providers and supply chains, and opportunities for exporting intellectual property and know-how worldwide, further benefiting the UK economy. Project partners, including Thames Water, Severn Trent Water, Atkins, Stantec, Datatecnics also benefit from access to high quality graduates and facilities. Furthermore, regulatory agencies (Environment Agency, Drinking Water Inspectorate) and the European Commission will see benefits from improved compliance to regulations and sustainability agendas (Water Framework Directive 2008/32/EC and Drinking Water Directive 2017/0332(COD)).
The CDT programme will benefit the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) government investments (£138M). Sheffield, Cranfield and Newcastle Universities have all received capital grants through UKCRIC to fund industrial scale test facility and observatory facilities to form an Urban Water Hub. The CDT will supply the resources to use and maximise the benefits and outputs from these facilities. Cooperation with other UKCRIC CDTs will help students better understand contemporary challenges for infrastructure and cities will catalyse horizontal innovation transfer and elevate the transformative potential of WRIC graduates.

Publications

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