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Research Group: Water and Environmental Engineering Group

Currently Active: 

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.

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
Engineering and Physical Sciences
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
Southampton SO17 1BJ


Administrative officers:

Satwant Virdee
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 4914

Sheila Stickland
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 8946

Aparna Subaiah-Varma
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 7745

Kelly Carter
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2692

Melanie Hallford
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2192



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

Water engineering  


Bioenergy and organic resources

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. 

Potential PhD Projects

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

List of related projects to Water and Environmental Engineering Group
Related ProjectsStatus
Advanced Waste Gasification/Pyrolysis for Bio-energy (Bio-syngas or Bio-oil) ProductionActive
Aerobic granular sludge- formation mechanism, application and its scaling upActive
All-Gas: Industrial scale demonstration of sustainable algae cultures for biofuel productionActive
AmbiGas - Biogas production from high volume industrial effluents at ambient temperaturesActive
Anaerobic degradation of renewable plasticsActive
Assessment of how landfilling could affect the ecology of the far-field aquatic environmentActive
Biocycle - Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of the South Shropshire DigesterActive
Bioganix Demonstrator Project - Research, Monitoring and EvaluationActive
Biomethanisation of CO2 in Anaerobic Digestion PlantsActive
BV Dairies KTPActive
Clean water and green energy from waste using bubble acousticsActive
Comparative evaluation of mesophilic and thermophilic digestion of source segregated domestic food wasteActive
Creation of a network of scientists and engineers for sustainable management of the water resources of the Aral basinActive
CROPGEN - Renewable Energy from Crops and Agro-wastesActive
Development of anaerobic support particles for effective membrane cleaning for submerged anaerobic membrane bioreactors, AnMBRActive
Development of cost-effective methods for minimising risk from heavy metal pollution in industrial cities: A case study of mercury pollution in Pavlodar (TOXICMANAGEMENT)Active
Development of low-cost methods for treatment and reuse of drainage and urban wastewater by adaptation of waste stabilisation ponds for extreme continental climatesActive
Development of options for damage limitation and environmental restoration of mercury-contaminated areas in north-central KazakhstanActive
Distribution and activity patterns of brown trout in a chalk riverActive
Effective mass transfer of hydrogen into digester mixed liquor for biomethanisation of biogas CO2Active
Enhancing Mercury Capture by wet FGD SystemsActive
Environmental Optimisation of the Production of Bricks and Tiles at Honey Lane, SelborneActive
EU - China Cooperation for Liquid Fuels Active
Evaluation of a reticulated foam bioreactorActive
FOUL-X-SPEL (Environmentally friendly antifouling technology to optimise the energy efficiency of ships)Active
Hydrogen and methane production from wastewater with microbial granular sludgeActive
ICAReS project (Innovation Cluster Acceleration Remote Sensing)Active
Improving fish passage at low-head river barriersActive
Industrial Collaboration for Promoting SustainabilityActive
Integrated Systems for Farm Diversification into Energy Production by Anaerobic Digestion: Implications for Rural Development, Land Use & EnvironmentActive
Investigating the combined effects of environmental pollutantsActive
JAYHUN - Interstate water resource risk management: Towards a sustainable future for the Aral BasinActive
Lockerley Water Farm - intermittent loading algal pond systemActive
Measuring stability of digestates from AD of source-segregated biodegradable waste and manuresActive
Optimising Inputs and Outputs from Anaerobic Digestion ProcessesActive
Optimising processes for the stable operation of food waste digestionActive
Production and extraction of C3 and C4 aliphatic carboxylic acids from the anaerobic digestion of waste blood as a model substrateActive
Satellite image processing techniques for effective management of land use and irrigation demand in the Aral basin - INTAS AralActive
Spring ponds - algal biomass systemsActive
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 mercuryActive
Study of the mercury of the River NuraActive
Study of the parameters for optimisation of the design and performance of waste stabilisation ponds in extreme continental climates Active
SUE Waste Project 3 - Appropriate scales and technologies for bioprocessing of organic urban wastes including energy production from anaerobic digestionActive
System requirements for low-cost energy-efficient algal biomass cultivation for biofuel productionActive
Treatment, Extraction and Reuse of Chemically Complex Alkaline Leachates from LandfillsActive
TRIF Auto - Evaluating the effect of autoclaving on the rate of bioprocessing of wasteActive
TRIF MBR - Anaerobic membrane reactor technology for biodegradable waste stabilisationActive
TRIF PS - Particle size requirements for effective bioprocessing of biodegradable municipal wasteActive
TWINBAS - Twinning European and third countries river basins for development of integrated water resources management methodsActive
VALORGAS - Valorisation of food waste to biogasActive
Water Availability and the Production of Biofuels - An Integrated AssessmentActive
Phosphorus in the perennial headwaters of chalk streamsActive
The impact of tide gates on fish migrationActive
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