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:
- 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.