The UK's largest urban water research group, the University of Sheffield’s Water Centre, has announced a £3.7 million investment to enable researchers to develop scientific ways to manage distributed water infrastructure.

The Distributed Urban Water Infrastructure facility will be hosted by the university as part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) - a consortium of 14 major UK universities collaborating on all aspects of infrastructure, from road and rail to water and power. Professor Martin Mayfield leads the UKCRIC work at Sheffield.

The new facility will enable researchers from throughout the UK to investigate and develop innovative ways to tackle the UK’s deteriorating distributed water infrastructure. Its full-scale facilities will be used to study water and sewer pipes, and ancillary structures, to investigate deterioration and failure mechanisms, in-pipe biological, chemical and physical processes, flooding and corrosion processes.

Located adjacent to the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the facility will deliver translational research and development to accelerate and broker long-term collaboration between water utilities and technology providers.

The funding for the facility comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of a £138 million Government investment in UKCRIC, recognition of the importance of improving infrastructure performance in the UK.

The projected research will be organised in three streams, each headed by a senior academic: Professor Simon Tait (System Performance), Professor Joby Boxall (Asset Failure) and Professor Kiril Horoshenkov (Future Water Stream).

Professor Tait said: “The facility at Sheffield will be a national resource in which researchers will be able to come and develop new ideas and technologies to help the UK better manage its large water distribution and sewer networks. These are key infrastructure systems that impact on the lives of everyone in the UK and they face pressures from an increasing population, a changing climate and physical deterioration.”

Image: CGI of the projected Distributed Urban Water Infrastructure facility at the University of Sheffield courtesy of Bond Bryan Architects