Wastewater Innovation Forum

MINUTES of the 69th Forum meeting of 24th June 2020
Please note that for older reports some links will be to sites that are no longer active.

Oliver Grievson (OG) – Technical Secretary FWR/Z-Tech Control Systems
Barrie Howe (BH) – Chair Environment Agency
Alice Horton (AH) National Oceanographic Centre
Gordon Jones (GJ) Foundation for Water Research
Ana Soares (AS) Cranfield University
Steve Palmer (SP) Stantec
Steve Bungay (SB) Helix Environmental
Mike Hutchins (MH) CEH
Karyn Georges Isle Utilities
Mehdi Khoury University of Exeter


Andrew Tagg, Mike Tregent, Kevin Ridout, Paul Schafer, Simon Tait, Simon Moody, Paul Hickey

Item No Agenda Item
1 Welcome & Introductions
2 Minutes of the last meeting held on 18th March 2020
3 Agenda
Reviews of Current Knowledge
Latest Newsletter
Future article proposals
Website & Social Media
4 Areas of Knowledge Focus
Anti-microbial resistance
Chemical Investigations Programme
5 Other areas of research
Anaerobic Water Treatment
Circular Economy
Digital Transformation
6 Sharing information about other member’s research areas
7 Any other business
Date of next meeting
8 Presentation by Dr Mehdi Khoury - University of Exeter
9 Presentation by Professor Dragan Savic - KWR, Netherlands
10 Presentation by Karyn Georges - Isle Utilities
  1. – Welcome & Introductions

    Everyone who attended the online meeting introduced themselves to the assembled members. The attendance list was as above.

  2. – Minutes of the Last Meeting

    The minutes of the last meeting were reviewed during the meeting and accepted.
    Action on OG to organise the newsletter to be sent to members who want to receive the newsletter and currently don’t.

  3. – Agenda Items

    Reviews of Current Knowledge (ROCKs)

    A Review of Current Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts has been published and is available on the here. There is a ROCK planned to be delivered on the Circular Economy by Steve Palmer and there are still problems in recruiting someone to write the AMR ROCK.

    AS is putting together a proposal for an anaerobic treatment ROCK at the moment but things have been delayed by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

    Latest Newsletter

    The latest newsletter has been published and features articles on CEFAS and both the freshwater & marine industry as well as articles on the wastewater industry and another on Coronavirus in water environments. A call was asked from the members for any information in this area.

    Future Article Proposals

    The next article that is being worked on for the next newsletter is being prepared at the moment and will be on Watewater-based epidemiology and will go through the basic of the technique and how it is being used as an early warning system for Covid-19.

    Website & Social Media

    There has been a slight decrease in the numbers of people visiting the FWR website over the LockDown period in comparison to last year but it is more normal in long-term trends. A video was put up of the presentations from the last panel meeting on YouTube and this has proved to be popular.

    Post meeting note: - The video of the presentations have also been put up on LinkedIn and at the time of writing had attracted almost 1,000 views through that media route.

    There does need to be a further focus on the social media channels including both Twitter and LinkedIn and there was a thought that this could be done in collaboration with CIWEM or members of the wastewater panel disseminating their knowledge through an interview or webinar process.

  4. - Areas of Knowledge Focus


    AH took the lead in this area and basically explained that work in the main has been delayed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. This is especially the case with the Chemical Investigations Programme, which is being delivered via UKWIR, where site visits were due to start but haven’t because of health risks. A delay of 6 months has been put in place to allow delivery in this area. There are still several research grants that are available in this area including by NERC and Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging fund.

    Anti-microbial resistance

    MH talked about AMR although there is not a lot to say but he flagged up a hazard characterisation study in the River Thames.

    Chemical Investigations Programme

    BH confirmed that the delay that has been seen under Microplastics is also been seeing on the more general CIP programme.


    There was a note that unflushables had increased during the Covid-19 crisis. This has been combatted via public outreach and dissemination of the 3P messaging.

    Wastewater-based epidemiology

    Wastewater based epidemiology is being mentioned a lot as a result of Covid-19 and this seems to be a well-developed art. There is a response to Covid-19 and virus tracking via sampling at wastewater treatment works. This has been done for many years in countries like Australia and Netherlands. This is covered, at least in part, by the later presentation by Professor Savic in the presentations at this meeting.

  5. - Other areas of research

    Anaerobic Water Treatment

    Both AS and SB highlighted the work that is still being done at the test bed site at Spernal. This project is developing and hazops have been delivered remotely during the crisis although construction has had to stop. Teams are ready to start when permitted to. Commissioning of the anaerobic MBR in September/October. Activities are starting to pick up now at Cranfield University.

    Circular Economy

    SP highlighted the talk about potentially moving faster on one aspect of the circular economy as a response to Covid-19 and the use of more renewable energy as a result. There is a movement with some companies like BP who are moving in this direction. There is a political push for the economic response with a greener recovery by using the circular economy to move closer towards renewables. This is a political opportunity to maximise the transition to renewables.

    This runs counter to the water industry where there can be more renewables in their energy used but there is a risk around ROC (renewable obligation certificate) and the benefits of this route. This affects the carbon use and carbon budgets that are tightening as there is a move towards carbon zero.

    AS raised a question and comment about the work that is being done in Europe to recover products from sewage but there is some backlash as a result of Covid-19. The thoughts is that the virus does not remain in the wastewater stream with the majority risk place being the aspirated sewage in the activated sludge process but not in the final product. There is a conservatism that is limiting the UK and the economics are not clear about product recovery and the economies of scale that are available at large works. The risks of the environmental implications of Covid-19 have been highlighted in papers (click here). There was a comment from MK about how long the virus can last in the sewer with rapid degradation at above 20⁰C and only at 4⁰C lasting several weeks.

    Digital Transformation

    OG highlighted the work that is being done in Digital Transformation and the recent publishing of the report “Digital Water” by the UK Water Partnership (click here). OG also highlighted his visit to Valencia in Spain and the local production of a Digital Twin by Global Omnium & Idrica. One of the key points of this Digital Twin was instrumentation accuracy and knowledge of the uncertainty. This point is necessary to deliver any Digital Concept and can be seen as a major barrier within the UK where data quality is either poor or the quality of the data is unknown.

    There are several conferences that can help in this area including the SWAN Forum in July (being run Digitally) and the Digital Water Summit in November/December.

    There is work going on with

  6. – Roundtable discussions of members areas of research

    Nature based solutions

    MH highlighted the worked that has been doing in Nature Based Solutions with the Descipher project. This project looks at planning of nature based solutions in urban areas for multiple benefits. Looking at the future-proofing of nature-based solutions.

    MH also highlighted a long term study in the Swindon area which is looking at riverine improvements due to process intensification at wastewater treatment works . The study has identified decreases in metal concentrations and an increased in the temperature from wastewater treatment works.


    BH highlighted the work that the Environment Agency has been doing around the management of Covid-19 and the production of incident response and a lot of regulatory position statements were produced informing people and companies what to do from the environmental perspective. Also looked at resources for chemicals. Huge amount of communications around guidance. There is also the recovery plan afterwards in offices restarting and the disposal of beer which has gone off and need to be disposed off without impacting wastewater treatment systems.

    The EA is looking at wastewater monitoring which is starting at a few sites looking at RNA strands . By 1st July this will cover about 50% of the population to provide early warning of viral flare ups. This is being done in other countries such as Australia and the Netherlands. Universities like Bangor University has been doing a lot on this already. Action on OG to pass on the details of Kando.

    Sewers4Covid Hackathon

    MK spoke about the work that has been done as a result of Sewers4Covid Hackathon in producing a system of designing a decision support system for the sewer sampling that is going on. For instance security drivers and taxi drivers have become particularly vulnerable and so these are areas that need a greater level of personal protective equipment.

    Integrated Constructed Wetlands

    There is a lot of interest in this area at the moment as there is a lack of confidence of it as a treatment system. This is due to poor knowledge of how they work and there is thought there may need to be a trials in this area. There is the opportunity to increase biodiversity by utilsing some of the SUDS systems that are being put in new development areas.

    Wastewater BS/CEN Standards

    OG highlighted the work that is ongoing with the BS/CEN standards around wastewater in refreshing the standards and his particular work on Instrumentation, Control & Automation and Storm Water Systems. There is input that needs around tricking filters and soil-based systems.

  7. – Any Other Business

    OG is to send a Doodle Poll to the members of the panel to agree on a date for the next meeting.

  8. – Presentation No.1 on Serious Gaming by Mehdi Khoury of the University of Exeter

    MK talked about the use of Serious Gaming with particular reference to a case study in the Milbrook area which is in South West Water. In this particular area the water company was being blamed for flooding and there was a need to convince the local population in terms of getting to the root cause of the problem. By using a Serious Gaming approach there was a methodology of showing the science and reasoning to what was happening using a serious game that was backed up by a model of the system. What this showed was the root cause of the problem was actually local agricultural land use. By changing the land use there was an actually an increase in agricultural value and a decrease in flood risk.

    This allowed people to make a reasoned approach, challenged their intuitive thinking and allowed them to see evidence. This has been shown in Mehdi’s work that allowed a pre-game and post-game questionnaire.

    Mehdi demonstrated the Serious Game for Millbrook during his presentation. and a longer webinar of Serious Gaming can be seen here.

  9. - Presentation No.2 on Covid4Sewers and wastewater-based epidemiology in the sewer environment

    In this presentation Dragan Savic talked about both wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) and in detail about Sewers4Covid which was an international hackathon approach to put a Decision Support System around the WBE approach. The early warning system that was developed using the principles of WBE was based upon over 10 years of work that tracked narcotics through the sewer system at the crude input into a wastewater treatment works. This allowed rapid testing of very large populations (up to 1 million people -depending upon how much the wastewater treatment works serves). The testing takes 48 hours which includes a 24-hour composite sampling regime.

    The idea from the narcotics testing using WBE was then applied to SARS-COV2 and Covid-19 and wrapped around a decision support system around this to facilitate decision making. The sewer surveillance was something that was already being done but there was social and economic data of people within the area as well as social media data . This was all developed into a prototype system within 24 hours for Holland. The WBE epidemiology study basically at best allowed up to 6 days early warning of an increase in RNA strands due to SARS-COV2 and Covid-19. This could then be used to take early decision making on isolation to allow actions to be taken to flatten the infection rate and death rate curve. The initial 48 hour period requires another three months of detailed development to bring the prototype into a working system.

  10. - Presentation No.3 on Digital Communication in a time of crisis – A case study of using Whatsapp to collaborate and communicate.

    The final presentation in this meeting was by Karyn Georges of Isle Utilities and the digital collaboration work that they have done during the Coronavirus pandemic. In short Isle Utilities set up a Whatsapp group that allowed people to share experiences and best practices surrounding the outbreak. Karyn presented the fact that the group developed to 630 people in water utilities representing 363 organisations in 60 countries at a standing start on 23/03/20. Webinars were held on a twice daily basis to account for time differences and were open to all utilities and municipalities. Whatsapp was a platform that was widely available throughout the world but could become bogged down by posting and so ground rules had to be set. The main group also separated into sub-groups to manage interest including sewer surveillances, communications and other areas. All of the webinars are also available on the Isle Utilities website. Using these communications methods allowed the rapid exchange of information by providing a huge group of people to quickly disseminate the learning. The main group basically went viral showing a strong international community that were interested in the one pandemic and its affects especially on the financial and communications aspect of water company operations. The content of the group was varied using a number of different communications methodologies including the exchange of messages via Whatsapp but also webinars, infographics as well as hard data in the development of the pandemic. The benefit was looking at what worked and what didn’t work and this operational effectiveness was shared. There were 12 key takeaways which are available in the presentations that have been provided. If any utilities or municipalities still want to join the Whatsapp group they should contact

See the video of all of the presentations