Which Way Water? – 12 October 2016

The UK Water Partnership hosted a workshop evening colloquium on 12 October 2016, bringing together the three sub-groups; Commercialisation and Economic Growth, Development and Implementation, and Research and Innovation. The day consisted of numerous themed break out sessions including presentations and open forum discussions.

This was followed by an evening session at Defra where guest speakers from the water industry lead a panel discussion and Q&A session.

Please see the summary report for outputs of the event. (ukwp-which-way-water)

HR Wallingford Fast Flow Facility

UK Water Partnership launches facilities register to accelerate innovation

The UK Water Partnership is pleased to announce the launch of a new publicly available and searchable register of testing and demonstration facilities, which will benefit water technology developers and researchers.

The Tapping the Potential report identified a clear need for researchers and developers to test new water technologies and processes in facilities that represent realistic deployment situations. There is already a wealth of research and testing facilities spread across the UK, yet it has been difficult to locate information about such facilities.

Funded by Scottish Government’s Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service and the Natural Environment Research Council, this facilities register allows technology developers and researchers to easily search and identify facilities that best meet their needs and to contact the owners and operators for access.  This will accelerate the route to market and abort unnecessary expenditure in replicating test facilities that already exist.

If your organisation has research and testing facilities and would like to add them to the Register, please fill in this short questionnaire and contact WRc: [email protected] .


For further information about the UK Water Partnership, please contact:

Alexa Bruce, Secretariat, The UK Water partnership

Email: [email protected]

Case study: biobed reduce on-farm pesticide pollution

Guest post by Dr Richard Cooper, University of East Anglia


A two year research program (2013–2015) by UEA academics, in partnership with the Environment Agency, farm managers and precision farming experts Farm Systems & Environment, found that a lined compost-straw-topsoil biobed reduced total pesticide concentrations in waste machinery washings by over 90%, thus minimising both surface water and groundwater pollution risk.

The biobed facility

In 2013, a biobed facility was installed at Manor Farm, Salle Park Estate, Norfolk, UK to treat pesticide contaminated machinery washings. The facility consists of three main components:

  1. Wash-down unit: a 20 m x 9 m enclosed wash-down unit is used to both remove pesticides residues from farm machinery and to contain any pesticides spilt during the filling of the pesticide sprayer. A drain running down the centre of the unit channels contaminated washings into a concrete storage tank (the input sump);
  2. Biobed: the biobed itself is an uncovered, indirect, lined (impermeable geomembrane) design covering an area of 49 m2 (7 m x 7 m) to a depth of 1.2 m, thus providing a large surface area for the sorption and subsequent biological and photo-degradation of pesticide residues. The organic bio-mix matrix material is composed of a 1:2:1 mix of peat-free compost, chopped wheat/barley straw and local topsoil. The surface is seeded with grass. Contaminated water from the input sump is pumped onto the biobed surface via a trickle irrigation system, with the leachate collected at the base of the biobed in a concrete output sump;
  3. Drainage field: the leachate from the output sump is pumped onto a 200 m2 (20 m x 10 m) grass drainage field via a second trickle irrigation system buried just below the surface to promote further removal of residual pesticide residues. A network of 20 porous pots were installed across the drainage area at 45 cm and 90 cm depth to monitor soil water pesticide concentrations at depth for signs of further removal or accumulation.

The biobed facility

Pesticide removal efficiency

Pesticide concentrations were analysed in water samples collected fortnightly between November 2013 and November 2015 from the biobed input and output sumps and from the 20 porous pots buried within the drainage field. In total, 86 different pesticides were detected in the system and the biobed was effective at reducing the concentrations of them all. Results revealed that the biobed removed 68–98% of individual pesticides within the contaminated washings, with mean total pesticide concentrations reducing by 91.6% between the biobed input and output sumps. Drainage field irrigation removed a further 68–99% of individual pesticides, with total mean pesticide concentrations reducing by 98.4% and 97.2% in the 45 cm and 90 cm depth porous pots, respectively. The average total pesticide concentration at 45 cm depth in the drainage field (57 µg L-1) was 760 times lower than the mean concentration recorded in the input sump (43,334 µg L-1).

Table 1: Biobed pesticide removal efficiencies for the 15 most abundant pesticides detected.

Table 1 Biobed pesticide removal efficiencies


The biobed facility required limited maintenance following its construction in 2013. The biobed matrix was topped up with fresh material in July 2015 as decomposition of organic material had reduced the depth of the bio-mix. There was no evidence of a reduction in the pesticide removal performance of the biobed over its two years of operation, nor was there any evidence of seasonality in degradation efficiency indicating the design was able to withstand cool, wet UK winters.


Costs to set up

The cost of the biobed including the pipework, pumps, liner, matrix material and labour, was around £4300 and the cost of the drainage field infrastructure was around £1700. Replenishment of the matrix material two years after construction cost £8 per square metre. The most expensive part of the system was £90,000 for the construction of the large wash-down unit and equipping it with mains electricity and steam cleaning equipment, however, simpler facilities would be recommended for wider roll-out.


Further information

Agricultural pesticide pollution threatens both riverine and groundwater systems and therefore on-farm mitigation measures are required to reduce the amount of pesticides entering these freshwater environments. This study shows that a three-stage biobed can successfully reduce pesticide pollution risk from contaminated machinery washings on a large commercial arable farm.

This research by Richard Cooper, Peter Fitt, Kevin Hiscock, Andrew Lovett, Lee Gumm, Steve Dugdale, Justin Rambohul, Antony Williamson, Lister Noble, James Beamish and  Poul Hovesen was published in the Journal of Environmental Management in June 2016 – “Assessing the effectiveness of a three-stage on-farm biobed in treating pesticide contaminated wastewater” doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.06.047.

For more information please contact Richard Cooper ([email protected]) or Kevin Hiscock ([email protected]).

Urban Simulators for Water

Guest post by Kevin Smith, Science and Technology Facilities Council


Climate change, population growth and rising customer expectations present significant risks and challenges to our water systems. In the developing world water security is a major risk in terms of development impact and is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are many different agencies, businesses and people involved in the planning and provision of different parts of our water systems, and yet huge investment decisions will have to be made in a coordinated way to ensure an adequate water supply and to manage extreme events such as droughts and flooding.

Cities present particular challenges due to the complexity of infrastructure, and urban areas are becoming increasingly important as a result of the global movement of populations from rural areas to rapidly growing cities.

There is currently a lack of a systems approach to cities and a lack of coordination amongst the many agencies involved. Issues tend to be dealt with in isolation and this approach has not always led to the best outcomes. If a way of holistically visualising existing and proposed new infrastructure could be developed that accurately simulated how systems would behave in a range of scenarios, and how people would interact with them, it would provide a powerful tool to enable business, policy and society to work together to deliver benefits to communities and local economies and to avoid potential failures arising from a lack of coordination.

A simulator would need to bring together often disparate disciplines such as, hydrology, engineered networks, water quality, heat balance, economics, population movement, climate change impacts, greenhouse gas footprint and ecosystem benefits, factoring in issues such as groundwater, rainfall, in-city water mass balance, domestic and community-scale water use and re-use. This would enable testing and virtual engineering of innovative concepts, and the building of a picture of whole water-cycle management at domestic, city and catchment scale to enable integrated and more effective water management.

Simulators for water were first identified at a Water and Cities Workshop in February 2014, and were reinforced by the water community at the Water in Future Cities Showcase in June 2015. The UK Water Partnership report Future Visions for Water and Cities – A Thought Piece  highlighted the potentially valuable role that simulators and demonstrators could play in developing, testing and evaluating innovative ideas that could shape water and cities. The need for a workshop focusing on urban simulators for water was agreed by the UKWP Water and Cities Task Force during October 2015, and this took place at the Science and Technology Facilities Council Hartree Centre, Daresbury Laboratory, on 16 and 17 March 2016. The aims of the workshop were to identify the priority issues that urban simulators could address, to develop a vision for urban simulators and water and explore what actions are required to achieve this. The workshop also identified how key stakeholder groups would benefit from developing urban water simulators. The outputs are documented in the workshop report Urban Simulators for Water and its annex.

Urban Simulators for Water Workshop report

The Future Visions for Water and Cities – A Thought Piece highlighted the potentially valuable role that simulators and demonstrators could play in developing, testing and evaluating innovative ideas that could shape water and cities.

The UK Water Partnership’s Water and Cities Task Force identified urban simulators for water as a key priority. The Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) led the action, sponsoring a workshop in March 2016 with experts from industry, government and academia.

The full workshop report is available for download below:


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Thames Water Reading STW WWNI Test Facility

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Thames Water Old Ford Water Recycling Plant

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Thames Water Thames Water Innovation and Smart Technology Centre (TWIST)