Consortium outlines vision for future of water

Water engineer checking pipes

Research from an EPSRC-funded consortium involving six universities is shaping the way we use and manage our water resources and infrastructure.

TWENTY65 was launched to conduct multidisciplinary research to ensure that water systems positively impact:

  • health
  • the environment
  • the economy
  • society.

Collaborative innovation

The consortium has catalysed collaborative innovation across the water sector, which has led to further activities such as the Ofwat water innovation competitions.

And as the consortium’s work draws to a close, further projects will continue its legacy.

This includes the Pipebots project, which is developing micro-robots to work in underground pipe networks and dangerous sites.

International partners

Working with more than 40 partners across the international water industry supply chain, TWENTY65 was comprised of:

  • University of Exeter
  • Imperial College London
  • The University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Reading
  • The University of Sheffield.

Mobile robots

Work included producing a guide (PDF, 8.7 MB) for the use of the wider industry to help the water sector overcome barriers to collaboration and accelerate innovation.

The consortium also identified the need for bespoke approaches to differing water infrastructure needs, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach of large centralised infrastructure.

This would consider common technical and social factors for each situation, combining different solutions to provide resilient and adaptive water systems targeted to local needs.

The consortium’s research includes demonstrating how mobile robots could be used to monitor buried pipe networks, locate faults and report information before problems develop.

Water infrastructure

It also explored the use of community-scale ‘grey’ and rainwater reuse for non-drinkable uses, distinct from a separate drinkable water supply.

And a simulation was developed to demonstrate the operation of distributed water infrastructure for use as an energy store or source to supplement other renewable energy sources.

Professor Joby Boxall, Principal Investigator and Technical Director of TWENTY65 said:

The grand challenge funding gave us an unprecedented opportunity to take a deep, cross disciplinary, dive into the big issues and challenges facing the water sector.

The scale of activity was able to drive forward transformative visions that positively challenged the status quo.

Bringing diverse stakeholders together

Professor Vanessa Speight, Managing Director of TWENTY65 said:

In addition to the research advances, a critical outcome for TWENTY65 was bringing all the different and diverse stakeholders of the water sector together to co-create a new understanding of what is needed for the sustainable water systems of the future.

Our work has helped to spur a new enthusiasm for innovation in the UK water sector.

Efficient and sustainable water systems

Jane Nicholson, Director for Research Base at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) said:

The research conducted by the TWENTY65 consortium will help to ensure that our future water systems are efficient, sustainable and improve our health.

The consortium is an excellent demonstration of how multidisciplinary research across a wide range of partners can foster greater collaboration and deliver impact to sectors of key importance to the UK.

Find out more about TWENTY65.

Top image:  Credit: tolgart, E+ via Getty Images

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