Southern Water collaborates on ground-breaking phosphorus removal R&D

Ground breaking research to remove phosphorus compounds from waste water is being carried at a Southern Water treatment plant in Petersfield in co-operation with academics from the University of Portsmouth.

Southern Water spends £5 million a year on R&D sponsoring PhD students, conducting experiments and developing and testing new technologies and techniques.

Saskia Benzig a Portsmouth University PhD candidate working at the Petersfield Innovation Hub, is examining how different types of absorptive material might be used to remove phosphorus from waste water- an increasing problem and the subject of increasingly stringent targets by the Environment Agency.

Rebecca Kennedy research and development planner at Southern Water explained that phosphorus is really good at making things grow – which is why a fifth of the phosphorus entering the water cycle comes from fertiliser run off.

However, that includes making algae bloom in rivers and streams and that can have a serious impact on the other living things trying to share an eco-system with algae –“ in other words fish die.”

Phosphorus compounds are also present in food but the human body excretes most of it. Shampoos and conditioners have additional compounds and dishwasher and washing machine detergent can also contain phosphorus.

Existing solutions involve dosing waste water with additional chemicals and the systems involved can only generally be used at very large treatment plants. The techniques under development by Benzig and other scientists working with Southern Water will be deployable at even small rural treatment centres.

First use of driverless cars on UK roads

The country’s first driverless car trial will see commuters taken from Didcot Parkway to Milton Park in autonomous pods.

The driverless pods will travel between private roads in the 250-acre business and technology park but also on public roads that link the site with transport services, including Didcot Parkway.

The 30-month trial, announced following a £2.5m grant from Innovate UK, will allow commuters to book and pay for journeys to and from work.

It is hoped that by the end of the trial up to 50% of private vehicle journeys within the business park will switch to using the shared, electric-powered pods.

The project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, and led by UK transport operator FirstGroup.

John Birtwistle, project lead for FirstGroup, said: “We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK.

“By connecting the Milton Park development with the existing regional transport infrastructure, including Great Western Railway trains at Didcot Parkway station, commuters will see a tangible reason to leave their cars at home.

“It’s a huge step towards tackling the problem of congestion on our roads and enabling the sustainable future development of the business park and, potentially, other similar sites in the future.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport, Yvonne Constance, said: “Oxfordshire was the first council to consider autonomous vehicles within its transport policy and has been a supporter of the technology since it’s infancy in the UK.

“We have an incredible concentration of AV related companies, and in Culham, RACE the UK’s real world test bed facility.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader, John Cotton, said: “The funding will deliver an exciting regular commercial service, using innovative transport, to connect residents, visitors and workers to the surrounding business community based on Milton Park – one of the main principles in the Didcot Garden Town plan.”

Interview: SW Water Operations Chief discusses network leakage, innovation and resilience

Bob Taylor, Operations Director Drinking Water Services, South West Water, UK talks about network leakage, innovation and resilience ahead of the 9th Global Leakage Summit  he is chairing in London next month

Taylor has worked in a senior position for water utilities in UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East and has a wide experience of the range of topics being discussed at the 2018 Summit.

What do you see as the biggest influence on achieving these three goals in water scarce areas and countries with less developed infrastructures? Is it better utilisation of new technologies and best practices, or is it more about ‘working with what you have’ but increasing the awareness of senior utility staff to the significance of controlling water loss in a world where water supplies are diminishing?

From a strategic perspective it is vital that key policy and decision makers understand the challenges we are facing globally with climate change, population growth, urbanisation and the scarcity of water resources.

In addition the value of water, its importance to the living environment and the vital role water plays in human and economic development should underpin any strategy to ensure water is used wisely and water loss and wastage is minimised.

Once these high level drivers are understood the next challenge is for water management senior level practitioners to understand the range of tools and technology available and the experiences gained globally over the last 30 years in the battle to minimise water losses and conserve this valuable but finite resource.

Water loss management has been an area of evolving technology and knowhow and it is important that people are aware of what is available and what will be appropriate and effective in their local environment.

There are some interesting and relevant panel discussion topics for both the UK audience and international delegates. From a UK water company viewpoint, do you see the regulatory drivers of a 15% reduction in leakage by 2020 – and a standard reporting structure across the UK – as feasible and practicable?

These challenges have emerged as a result of an understanding of customer priorities and a desire from both water companies and regulator to inject new impetus into the British water industry’s long record post privatisation in reducing leakage. The standardised reporting was initiated by the industry itself in order to make it easier for our customers to make direct performance comparisons and judge how well their own supplier is delivering in this area.

Both requirements are challenging in different ways particularly as they are hitting the industry at the same time – but in both cases the changes were planned and companies have sufficient time to prepare.

What do you see as the single most important change that could be implemented by UK water companies to drive down their own network leakage – and that of their customers – to such a level? Are more robust demand management measures needed, particularly in water-scarce areas of the UK?

Speaking for my own company, South West Water which covers a large mainly rural area with wide variations in topography, we are planning to modernise and improve our pressure management infrastructure which we believe will help us reach the new targets.This is only one part of a multi faceted strategy.

Certainly in resource stretched areas the combination of demand management measures needs to be as strong and effective as possible along with education of customers to promote less wastage and more efficient water use.

Another agenda topic is ‘upstream losses’ – Large diameter trunk (transmission) mains have always been the ‘bête noire’ of water networks, as some of the most difficult pipes to monitor and manage cost-effectively. Do you see any upcoming technologies or practices, particularly those to be disseminated in the Summit agenda, that can best address this scenario?

In the UK high impact trunk mains failures are becoming more frequent driven by extremes in climate and asset deterioration. It is therefore even more vital that water companies become more capable in monitoring trunk main leakage performance in order to identify small leaks before they develop into catastrophic bursts.

There are some interesting emerging technologies in this area such as satellite imagery, infra-red drones and fibre optics.

Innovation – another panel session topic on Day 1 – clearly plays a large part in improving efficiency and bringing down the costs of technology. But who should encourage innovation – the water utility or the supply chain? And where does the funding come from?

Innovation should be driven by business need particularly in delivering improved outcomes for customers – and the solution can be developed by companies themselves or the supply chain or whoever is best placed to do this. In reality some of the best innovations result from collaborations – companies understanding the need and suppliers developing solutions. The evolution of modern leakage management knowhow and technology has followed exactly this path.

Can innovation also be applied to the workforce – to change mind-sets and encourage upskilling? What can both water companies and regulators do to promote and influence a culture of innovation?

Innovation in terms of skills, capability and training is probably an area that has not had enough emphasis historically but with the onset of the digital revolution and the age profile of our industry this is becoming an increasingly key area.

Promoting a culture of innovation implies a wide range of actions but it is important to recognise that innovative products and process often fail and this is not necessarily a bad thing provided the reasons are understood and different improved approaches emerge as a result. Recognising that failure is part of the process is a key attribute of successful innovators.

What do you think are the primary ‘nuggets’ of information from the Day 1 agenda that can be taken away by our international delegates?

The global leakage conference has always provided delegates with the opportunity to stress test their own local leakage strategies by comparing and contrasting with case studies from around the world.

If recent conferences are anything to go by I am expecting to hear some great success stories of real life strategies delivering in the field and conserving water resources around the world.

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Surveys to start for new Exmouth tidal defence scheme

Preparations for a new tidal defence scheme in the Devon town of Exmouth are underway, with a series of surveys taking place during the coming months.

The need for a new tidal defence scheme for the town was initially identified as part of a flood risk management strategy for the whole of the Exe Estuary.. Approximately 1,400 residential and 400 commercial properties are at risk from tidal flooding in Exmouth – many of which are considered to be at ‘significant’ risk.

The Environment Agency has been working with East Devon District Council to develop the scheme since 2015, culminating in the approval of £12 million of Government funding in September 2017.

The scheme will be delivered by Kier, working as part of Team Van Oord and on behalf of the Environment Agency and East Devon District Council.

The Team Van Oord project team is currently working on an outline design covering three areas:

  • Area A – on the estuary side of Exmouth. This will involve raising flood defences between the Withycombe Brook and the Imperial recreation ground.
  • Area B – around the ‘gut’. This will involve raising defences between the Imperial recreation ground and Camperdown Terrace.
  • Area C – involves the seafront, including the Esplanade from Mamhead slipway in the west, to between the clock tower and Premier Inn to the east. Works will include strengthening the existing seawall, and new set-back defences along the landward side of the Esplanade.

The project team will also carry out a series of surveys across the three areas, including:

  • Topographic surveys (accurate recording of ground levels – please note that a small amount of grass/shrub clearance will take place in northern parts of Area A to enable access)
  • Bathymetric surveys (accurate recording of the sea bed)
  • ground penetrating radar surveys (a technique that helps to identify utility services and other underground objects)
  • Property surveys (to establish possible flow routes into property)

Following the surveys, designs for the scheme will be progressed after which a planning application will be submitted to the local authority.

Should planning permission be granted this year, construction would start in early 2019 – some work may also be possible before the end of this year if the relevant consents are in place.

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A2: Highways England opens consultation on planned £125m improvements

Plans for a £125m A2 upgrade have been revealed.

Highways bosses are asking drivers for their views on the proposed changes in a consultation, which opens today.

Under the plans, the Bean and Ebbsfleet junctions will both see their capacity increased.

This will improve journeys, boost safety and prepare the road network for the transformative growth expected in north Kent in the coming decades, according to Highways England chiefs.

Senior project manager, Brian Gash, said: “Bean and Ebbsfleet junctions serve Bluewater, Ebbsfleet International station and soon the new Garden City and these vital upgrades will help to make sure that the A2 stays fit for the future opportunities coming to Kent.

“Demand is expected to grow by up to 200 per cent by 2027, so it is vital that the final proposals we end up taking forward for planning permission are the best we can possibly make them.

“People’s input into the consultation will help us make sure that they are. There are important decisions still to be made about each junction, so I’d encourage anyone with an interest – drivers, residents, business owners and visitors – to get involved.”

An initial consultation ran between January and March last year, before the preferred options were announced in August.

Now, the public is being asked for views on the updated plans:

  • Both junctions will see enlarged junction roundabouts, with new lanes and enhanced slip roads.
  • At Bean, a new bridge will be built over the A2 dual carriageway providing two extra lanes between the two junction roundabouts, which will also be improved.
  • Another slip road for eastbound traffic joining the A2 will also be built.

Chief executive of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, Ian Piper, said: “With up to 15,000 new homes in Ebbsfleet Garden City, it is important that local infrastructure is improved to accommodate this growth.

“With our support for the proposed scheme for the two A2 junctions and a commitment from us to improve public transport in the area through a new and upgraded Fastrack service, we are investing to ensure traffic continues to flow.”

It is thought the upgraded junctions will help support 30,000 jobs and 15,000 homes.

But not everyone is happy with the plans.

If the green light is given Duncan Wood will lose his property to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

Mr Wood said: “In all probability my house will be compulsory purchased and I’ll have to find somewhere else.

“Because I’m the chairman of the residents’ association we went to talk to Highways England about it to see if there was another alternative.

“The deal is they pay me the value of the house as if it wasn’t going to happen, plus 10% and the moving and legal costs.”

Public information events about the changes run from today with the first being held at the Heritage Community Hall, Craylands Lane, Swanscombe.

From then they will be held at the following locations:

  • Saturday, February 24, 10am until 3pm, Bean Youth and Community Centre, High Street, Dartford
  • Saturday, March 3, 9am until 9pm, Bluewater Shopping Centre, Dartford
  • Saturday, March 10, 10am until 3pm Eastgate, Springhead Parkway, Northfleet
  • Thursday, March 15, 7am until 9am and 3pm until 7pm at Ebbsfleet International Station, Dartford
  • Saturday, March 17, 10am until 2pm, Stone Pavilion, Hayes Road, Stone

The consultation materials will also be available to view from 2018 at the following locations, during their normal hours of opening:

  • Dartford Borough Council, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford
  • Swanscombe and Greenhithe Town Council, The Groves, Swanscombe
  • Bean Youth and Community Centre, High Street, Bean
  • Greenhithe Library, London Road, Greenhithe
  • Fleetdown Library, Swaledale Road, Dartford
  • Longfield Library, 49 Main Road, Longfield
  • Swan Valley Library, Swanscombe Library Discovery Centre, Southfleet Road, Swanscombe
  • Temple Hill Community Centre, Temple Hill Square, Dartford
  • Coldharbour Road Library, 3 Coldharbour Road, Northfleet
  • Hive House Library, Hive House, Northfleet
  • Gravesend Library, Windmill Street, Gravesend
  • Gravesham Borough Council, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend
  • Maidstone County Hall, County Hall, Maidstone
  • Stone Pavilion, Hayes Road, Greenhythe

Details on the plans and feedback forms are available online from today until 11:45pm Wednesday, April 4.

Climate change impacts could drive Europe’s cities “beyond breaking point”

A landmark research study shows the impact of flooding, droughts and heatwaves by 2050-2100 will exceed previous predictions – and could put European cities “beyond breaking point”.

The research, by Newcastle University, UK, has for the first time analysed changes in flooding, droughts and heatwaves for all European cities using all climate models.

Published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters, the study shows:

  • a worsening of heatwaves for all 571 cities
  • increasing drought conditions, particularlyin southern Europe
  • an increase in river flooding, especially in north-western European cities
  • for the worst projections, increases in all hazards for most European cities


Increase in ‘heatwave days’ for all European cities

Using projections from all available climate models (associated with the high emission scenario which implies a 2.6°C to 4.8°C increase in global temperature), the team showed results for three possible futures which they called the low, medium and high impact scenarios.

The study shows that even the most optimistic of these – the low impact scenario – predicts both the number of heatwave days and their maximum temperature will increase for all European cities.

Southern European cities will see the biggest increases in the number of heatwave days, while central European cities will see the greatest increase in temperature during heatwaves – between 2°C to 7°C for the low scenario and 8°C to 14°C for the high scenario.

For changes in droughts and floods, the cities which are affected depend on the scenario. For the low impact scenario, drought conditions only intensify in southern European cities while river flooding only worsens in north-western ones.

Worst flooding in the British Isles

The British Isles have some of the worst overall flood projections. Even in the most optimistic scenario, 85% of UK cities with a river – including London – are predicted to face increased river flooding, while for the high scenario, half of UK cities could see at least a 50% increase on peak river flows.

The cities predicted to be worst hit under the high impact scenario are Cork, Derry, Waterford, Wrexham, Carlisle and Glasgow and for the more optimistic, low impact, scenario are Derry, Chester, Carlisle, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

By 2051-2100, for the low impact scenario, cities in the south of Iberia, such as Malaga and Almeria, are expected to experience droughts more than twice as bad as in 1951-2000. While for the high impact scenario, 98% of European cities could see worse droughts in the future and cities in Southern Europe may experience droughts up to 14 times worse than today.

“Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point,” Dr Selma Guerreiro, lead author, explained.

“Furthermore, most cities have considerable changes in more than one hazard which highlights the substantial challenge cities face in managing climate risks.”

Far-reaching Implications of study in terms of how Europe adapts to climate change

The implications of the study in terms of how Europe adapts to climate change are far-reaching, according to Professor Richard Dawson, co-author and lead investigator of the study.

“The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions.

“We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities. In Paris the Seine rose more than 4 metres above its normal water level. And as Cape Town prepares for its taps to run dry, this analysis highlights that such climate events are feasible in European cities too.”

Several European cities could see 80% increase in peak river flows

Of the European capitals, Dublin, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius and Zagreb are likely to experience the most extreme rise in flooding. For the high impact scenario, several European cities could see more than 80% increases on peak river flows, including Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cork and Waterford in Ireland, Braga and Barcelos in Portugal and Derry/ Londonderry in the UK.

Stockholm and Rome could see the greatest increase in number of heat-wave days while Prague and Vienna could see the greatest increase in maximum temperatures during heat-waves. Lisbon and Madrid are in the top capital cities for increases in frequency and magnitude of droughts, while Athens, Nicosia, Valleta and Sofia might experience the worst increases in both drought and heatwaves.

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to hold its first Cities & Climate Change Conference

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognised the important role cites must play in tackling climate change and next month will hold its first Cities and Climate Change Science Conference, in Edmonton, Canada.

“A key objective for this conference,” explained Professor Dawson, who sits on the Scientific Steering Committee for the IPCC Conference, “is to bring together and catalyse action from researchers, policy makers and industry to address the urgent issue of preparing our cities, their population, buildings and infrastructure for climate change.”

Dr Guerreiro added:

“Our analysis does not preclude the need for detailed climate change impact assessment for each city. But it does provide comparable information for different impacts and cities that can be used to prioritise national and European adaptation investments and guide more detailed adaptation studies.”

‘Future heat-waves, drought and floods in 571 European cities’. Selma Guerreiro, Richard Dawson, Chris Kilsby, Elizabeth Lewis and Alistair Ford. Environmental Research Letters. Jan 2018