Report No DWI0081

WATER RESEARCH IN THE LONGER TERM

DWI0081

Apr 1986

SUMMARY

  1. The Long Term Water Research Requirements Committee had its origins in the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. It met 8 times between May 1984 and December 1985.
  2. In this report we review the need for research on:
    1. longer term issues affecting the water authorities and other water undertakers;
    2. other longer term problems of water policy including those relating to water conservation, the aquatic environment and public health.

    We also examine the current organisation of water research in the UK to assess its capacity to respond to longer term needs.

  3. The Committee has concentrated throughout on identifying areas of weakness rather than making detailed proposals for research. Our general conclusion is that at present there are no major gaps in current and projected research but that a change of emphasis and some expansion of effort is required in several areas. Provisional estimates suggest that our recommendations are broadly equivalent to 5% of the total water research budget but more detailed study of possible programme adjustments is required to assess the overall implications The pace of social change and scientific and technological advance is such that gaps could appear in the future and we therefore feel that long term research needs should be reviewed in about
  4. Recommendations

  5. Our major recommendations are set out below under two headings:
    1. Environmental Research
    2. Engineering and Processes Research.

    The first of these categories covers the whole range of phenomena about which Government and industry need to know if they are to plan sensibly for the future. The research fields involved span almost the whole range of the environmental and social sciences. A proportion of the studies required can be undertaken within the Water Research Centre or by individual water authorities. Much more forms part of the wider development of the environmental sciences for which we look to the Research Councils (especially NERC and ESRC) and the academic community.

    The second area covers the technological developments the water industry must attend to in response to the changing context of its operation. A good deal of this research will fall to the industry itself, although SERC, NERC and some universities, and private sector firms, can make substantial contributions.

    We have used our best judgement in selecting our major recommendations, accepting inevitable subjectivity of this approach. We have tried especially to identify area where research is likely to produce significant financial rewards or contributions the quality of life; we have also considered the urgency of the problems and the practicability of solving them using the research techniques currently available.

    A list of all our recommendations is set out in Chapter 7.

  6. Environmental Research
  7. Our major recommendations are:

    Environmental Protection
      • Study the merits and investment implications of combining an EQO/EQS approach with emission limits for black list materials(2.7).
      • Study dispersion and neutralisation mechanisms and develop predictive models for hazardous substances (2.8).
      • Expand basic research on the physiological and biochemical responses of aquatic organisms to pollution in the context of long term investigations of their population performance (2.10).
    Drinking Water Quality and Health
      • Identify non-volatile organics in potable and water (2.14).
      • Investigate effects of distribution systems on chemical quality (2.14).
      • Continue work on basic toxicological and medical research (2.17, 2.19).
      • Examine effects of water treatment on pathogenic viruses and protozoa (2.20).
    Social and Economic issues
      • Develop methodology for the application of risk analysis in the water industry. (2.27)
    Climatic Change
      • Evaluate the need for new research on the implications of climatic change for the hydrological cycle and water management (3.6)
    Freshwaters
      • Continue basic research on hydrological and hydraulic processes for the purposes of predicting run-off and recharge to groundwater (3.7), sediment transport and effects of sub-surface flow on water quality (3.8)
      • Investigate occurrence, causes and effects of contamination of groundwaters by trace organic substances (3.12)
    Marine Environment
      • Develop understanding of the processes determining water quality and simulation models to predict the response of marine ecological systems to pollutant inputs (3.21)
    Sludge Disposal to Sea
      • Assess the costs and feasibility of establishing an integrated field and laboratory based programme of work to evaluate new approaches for measuring the effects of sewage and sludge disposal to sea (3.32)
    Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Uses
      • Evaluate water quality and other implications of changing agricultural practices including cropping patterns (4.5), fertiliser usage (4.6), pesticides (4.7), animal slurry (4.9), silage (4.10), and irrigation (4.12).
    Waste disposal on Land
      • Further study of the effects of sludge disposal o soil fertility and the long term implications of sludge disposal to land (4.37)
    Monitoring and Collation
      • A long term and multi-disciplinary programme to of Data develop understanding of how organisms respond to their physical and chemical environments and how organisms are inter-related within their communities (6.5)
  8. Engineering and Processes Research
  9. Our major recommendations are:

    Water Demand
      • Assess the implications of domestic metering and the prospect of controlling demand through tariff structures (5.3).
    Water Treatment
      • Develop reliable and cheap plant for the removal of nitrate from potable water (5.8)
      • Evaluate alternative methods of disinfection and means of removing mutagenic compounds and their precursors (5.9)
    Intake Protection
      • Develop effective water quality sensors using biological and physical/chemical sensing systems and application of risk analysis to operational procedures for handling pollution incidents and the design of work (5.11) Sewage, Trade Effluent
    Sewage, Trade Effluent and Sludge Processing
      • Study the implications of stimulating the development and Sludge Processing of British pollution control equipment and instrumentation (4.34, 5.13)
      • Explore the possibilities of collaboration between the water industry and universities on the application of advanced biotechnology to sewage and sludge treatment (5.14)
      • Expand existing research on the reduction of toxic metals and persistent organics in sewage sludge (5.15)
    Underground Services
      • Develop understanding of the effects of traffic loading on water mains and sewers (5.10)
      • Monitor progress on development of trenchless pipelaying techniques and consider a financial contribution to development costs (5.10).
  10. Future Activities
  11. We do not recommend the continued existence of our Committee. We do consider, however, that some forum for continued surveillance of long term research strategies in this broad field is necessary in addition to the existing machinery for research formulation. We recommend that a small working group, chaired by the Chief Scientist, DOE, is established to facilitate and monitor implementation of our recommendations as described in Chapter 8.

    Copies of this report may be available as an Acrobat pdf download under the 'Pre 2000 Reports' heading on the DWI website.