Engineering and the Environment

Research Group: Water and Environmental Engineering Group

The Water and Environmental Engineering Group consists of a multidisciplinary team of academics, research staff and postgraduates.

The principle that underpins all our work is that of improving the world we live in through engineering solutions. We bring a variety of fundamental disciplines and skills to our work in the areas of water engineering and water resources management, eco-hydraulics, and bioenergy and organic resource utilisation.

Currently Active: Yes

Group Overview

The Water and Environmental Engineering Group has a wide range of research activities: further details of these can be found using the tabs on the right to access research themes and centres

Some key research highlights include: 

Water Engineering 

- Low head hydropower: New hydropower converters are under development which can use head differences below 2.5 m as a source of renewable energy. Unlike conventional turbine technology, these systems can be used in a cost effective and ecologically acceptable way. Two prototypes built and monitored in the EU FP7-funded project Hylow have shown efficiencies  from 75-85%. Tests show that the converters can be used successfully in conjunction with fish and sediment passages. Work to expand the area of application and to improve the technology is continuing.

- Environmental Fluid Mechanics: research areas include the interaction between Turbulent Boundary Layers with groups of fixed or moving bodies (e.g. wind farms or fish schools); prediction of local scour around bridge piers and off-shore structures; aerodynamic design of novel rain gauges; dispersion of methane emissions from landfills; flow resistance and sediment transport in geophysical flows; wall-turbulence and Lattice-Boltzmann simulations of laminar flows. 

- Hydrology and water resources: EPSRC-funded research on surface zone infiltration into engineered clay slopes has shown that climate change will lead to increased risk of instability. Aquifer recharge modelling shows that water tables may fall between 1-2 m by the end of the century in the UK. Coastal flood risk is being evaluated for new nuclear power stations in the UK, and for Bangladesh as part of the NERC/DFID 'Ecosystems for Poverty Alleviation' programme. The first Windows version of CROPWAT was written in Southampton for the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation. This software is being used worldwide for regional water resources evaluation. 

- Wastewater treatment: current research includes anaerobic treatment of wastewater at ambient temperatures, using a variety of technologies from expanded beds to membrane systems; advanced wastewater treatment using aerobic granular systems up to demonstration scale; design and optimisation of waste stabilisation ponds to maximise wastewater reuse; and new methods for removal of trace pollutants using bio-sorbents and nano-adorbers. 


- At the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research (ICER), we conduct research to quantify the potential environmental impacts of energy and water resource infrastructure in aquatic habitats, focusing primarily on fish populations.  The research provides the basic understanding needed to develop effective mitigation solutions.  

- Projects have included assessment of traditional large-scale and novel small-scale hydropower installations and water control structures (e.g. tide-gates) in the UK, Europe, North and South America and Asia.  Our research is funded by the EU FP7, the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers and Native American Tribes, the Swedish hydropower sector, and the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources.  We have also investigated the resolution of socio-economic impediments and conflicts through associated EPSRC-ESRC funding. 

- Research is conducted to quantify the fine-scale behavioural response of fish to hydrodynamic and acoustic stimuli created by anthropogenic structures / activities, in an effort to develop methods to mitigate for environmental impacts.  The Environment Agency and CEFAS support work that aims to incorporate an understanding of fish behaviour to develop both traditional mechanical screening and novel behavioural devices that will protect fish at water off-take structures (e.g. at power stations or abstraction points). 

Bioenergy and organic resources 

- Algal biofuels: We are partners in an EU FP7 demonstration programme on algal biofuels, looking at the potential for bio-methane production from whole algal biomass and residues. Other research includes the engineering design of large-scale systems to optimise energy and other resource inputs using our raceways in Spain and large-scale hydraulics facilities in Southampton. 

- Organic wastes: we lead an EU FP7 consortium of Universities and companies researching the production of energy from food waste by anaerobic digestion, and provide support to the UK biogas community. Industry-funded research includes the design of integrated processes for second generation production of biofuels from the organic fraction of municipal waste. 

- Agricultural biomass: we are researching the optimisation of bioenergy production on farms through the use of agro-wastes, purpose-grown biomass and imported waste materials. 

- Modelling: Comprehensive tools have been developed to assess the energy balance of crop based renewable energy in the UK and Europe. Integrated modelling systems are being developed for algal biofuels production and industrial waste treatment.


Contact us

  • Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering and Science Unit

    Engineering and the Environment
    University of Southampton
    Highfield Campus
    Southampton SO17 1BJ


    Senior administrative officer: Melanie Hallford

    Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2192


    Administrative officers: Sheila Stickland

    Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 8946


    Aparna Subaiah-Varma

    Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 7745


    Satwant Virdee

    Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 4914



Members of staff associated with this group:

Research projects

Research projects associated with this group:

JAYHUN - Interstate water resource risk management: Towards a sustainable future for the Aral Basin - Dormant

Integrated Systems for Farm Diversification into Energy Production by Anaerobic Digestion: Implications for Rural Development, Land Use & Environment

Development of anaerobic support particles for effective membrane cleaning for submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactors, AnMBR

TRIF PS - Particle size requirements for effective bioprocessing of biodegradable municipal waste - Dormant

AmbiGas - Biogas production from high volume industrial effluents at ambient temperatures

Spring ponds - algal biomass systems

Improving fish passage at low-head river barriers

All-Gas: Industrial scale demonstration of sustainable algae cultures for biofuel production

Advanced Waste Gasification/Pyrolysis for Bio-energy (Bio-syngas or Bio-oil) Production - Dormant

Lockerley Water Farm - intermittent loading algal pond system

SUE Waste Project 3 - Appropriate scales and technologies for bioprocessing of organic urban wastes including energy production from anaerobic digestion - Dormant

Environmental Optimisation of the Production of Bricks and Tiles at Honey Lane, Selborne - Dormant

Enhancing Mercury Capture by wet FGD Systems - Dormant

EU - China Cooperation for Liquid Fuels

Hydrogen and methane production from wastewater with microbial granular sludge

Production and extraction of C3 and C4 aliphatic carboxylic acids from the anaerobic digestion of waste blood as a model substrate

Treatment, Extraction and Reuse of Chemically Complex Alkaline Leachates from Landfills - Dormant

TRIF Auto - Evaluating the effect of autoclaving on the rate of bioprocessing of waste - Dormant

TRIF MBR - Anaerobic membrane reactor technology for biodegradable waste stabilisation - Dormant

Development of options for damage limitation and environmental restoration of mercury-contaminated areas in north-central Kazakhstan - Dormant

Development of cost-effective methods for minimising risk from heavy metal pollution in industrial cities: A case study of mercury pollution in Pavlodar (TOXICMANAGEMENT) - Dormant

Bioganix Demonstrator Project - Research, Monitoring and Evaluation - Dormant

Anaerobic degradation of renewable plastics - Dormant

Comparative evaluation of mesophilic and thermophilic digestion of source segregated domestic food waste - Dormant


Measuring stability of digestates from AD of source-segregated biodegradable waste and manures - Dormant

Distribution and activity patterns of brown trout in a chalk river

Study of the equilibrium and kinetics of mercury sorption and desorption by power station fly ash and assessment of the role of ash in limiting the bio-availability of mercury - Dormant

BV Dairies KTP

Industrial Collaboration for Promoting Sustainability - Dormant

Effective mass transfer of hydrogen into digester mixed liquor for biomethanisation of biogas CO2

System requirements for low-cost energy-efficient algal biomass cultivation for biofuel production

Study of the parameters for optimisation of the design and performance of waste stabilisation ponds in extreme continental climates - Dormant

Water Availability and the Production of Biofuels - An Integrated Assessment - Dormant

Satellite image processing techniques for effective management of land use and irrigation demand in the Aral basin - INTAS Aral - Dormant

CROPGEN - Renewable Energy from Crops and Agro-wastes - Dormant

Aerobic granular sludge- formation mechanism, application and its scaling up

Optimising processes for the stable operation of food waste digestion - Dormant

Development of low-cost methods for treatment and reuse of drainage and urban wastewater by adaptation of waste stabilisation ponds for extreme continental climates - Dormant

Evaluation of a reticulated foam bioreactor - Dormant

VALORGAS - Valorisation of food waste to biogas

Study of the mercury of the River Nura - Dormant

Biocycle - Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of the South Shropshire Digester - Dormant

Assessment of how landfilling could affect the ecology of the far-field aquatic environment - Dormant

Creation of a network of scientists and engineers for sustainable management of the water resources of the Aral basin - Dormant

TWINBAS - Twinning European and third countries river basins for development of integrated water resources management methods - Dormant

Optimising Inputs and Outputs from Anaerobic Digestion Processes - Dormant

FOUL-X-SPEL (Environmentally friendly antifouling technology to optimise the energy efficiency of ships)

Investigating the combined effects of environmental pollutants


For information on the Group's research facilities follow the links below: 

Water engineering  


Bioenergy and organic resources

Postgraduate opportunities

Postgraduate programmes:

MSc Civil Engineering

MSc Coastal and Marine Engineering and Management

MSc Energy and Sustainability (Energy Resources and Climate Change)

MSc Engineering in the Coastal Environment

MSc Integrated Environmental Studies (1 year)

MSc Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (1 year)

MSc Environmental Pollution Control (1 year)

MSc Biodiversity and Conservation (1 year)

You can find all of our projects with guaranteed funding here. 

Research (PGR)

If you are considering doing a PhD in one of our research areas, please contact: 

Water engineering: Dr Sonia Heaven:

Eco-hydraulics: Dr Paul Kemp:

Bioenergy and organic resources: Prof Charles Banks:

We offer excellent Postgraduate Research programmes for students. These include opportunities for PhD research in all aspects of Environment as well as the 4 year Industry-sponsored Engineering Doctorate (EngD) Programme in Transport and Environment. 

More generally, we offer excellent Postgraduate Research programmes for students. These include opportunities for PhD research in all aspects of Environment as well as the 4 year Industry-sponsored Engineering Doctorate (EngD) Programme in Transport and Environment.

Potential PhD Projects

Nitrogen removal from ammonium rich wastewater through partial nitrification followed by anaerobic ammonium oxidation (ANAMMOX) with immobilized microorganisms