The latest study from the Centre for Research and Innovation for Groundwater Infiltration into Urban Infrastructure suggests that the issue of groundwater infiltration into sewers is a worldwide problem that can’t be solved immediately.
The Developing a Conceptual Framework for Linking Sewer Condition Assessment and Groundwater Infiltration study was completed in the summer of 2016 and highlights some of the sewerage network’s problems.
Adam Cambridge, technical authority for urban stormwater management at Atkins — one of the Centre’s partners — said: “We’ve completed a month’s worth of literature review around it — not just looking at the work or research that has been completed in the UK but around the world. We found that the UK is not alone in this, everyone around the world is struggling with this problem of groundwater infiltration into sewers and no-one has got the answer when it comes to the degradation of the asset.
“It just emphasises the point that this is not a problem that can be solved immediately — it requires not only a PhD on it but will probably require several over a long period of time.”
40% of the flow in the sewerage network is due to water seeping through the cracked pipes. According to Cambridge, the factors contributing for the deterioration of the sewer may vary depending on its location.
“It’s very difficult to go from a survey to a linear extrapolation across the whole system. We can’t do one survey and expect it to be representative of all the locations, when there are so many other variables affecting the integrity of that sewer.
“Determining sewer factors is not linear – many factors can contribute. It is just not a case of surveying everything, but maybe a case of developing new technology to monitor the performance and deterioration of that asset in time.”
The Centre’s first two years will be focused on groundwater infiltration into the sewerage network.
* Data provided by Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center.
The Centre for Research and Innovation for Groundwater Infiltration into Urban Infrastructure was launched in 2015 by the British Geological Survey, Imperial College of London, Birmingham University, and Atkins.
It aims to tackle the economic and environmental impacts of groundwater infiltration on urban infrastructure in the UK, which costs tens of millions of pounds annually.
Cambridge said: “For decades infiltration has been a long-standing infrastructure challenge for our industry. Local communities are often the ones most affected by the problem. This is the first time we’ve taken a coordinated approach to tackle the impacts of infiltration facing our infrastructure head on.
“Over the next five years, the Centre will bring together academics, researchers and industry to build an integrated approach in managing the environmental risk and economic impact to our sewerage network, hopefully freeing up capacity, reducing the overspills and saving millions of pounds in the process.”
The Centre will be undertaking research with academia, researchers and industry to bring innovative and practicable outcomes, so that significant financial and environmental benefits can be achieved. The Centre meets five or six times a year to discuss the different research outputs, says Cambridge.
“The role of Atkins at the Centre is to facilitate the bringing together of academic research and its applicability to the industry, and importantly to transfer the issues that we are facing in the industry back to academia,” said Cambridge.
He added: “We are keen in making the best use of outputs in the projects we undertake but this is a long-term aspiration. This [issue] is not going to be solved in the next five or ten years, and it is going to take a long time to actually see some progress.”
Even though the solution for the groundwater infiltration into urban structure seems to be far away, Cambridge says that they are working towards one.
“There’s going to be a heavy focus in understanding the problem first but the ultimate goal is to actually develop solutions, and some of these may be capital solutions, new bits of infrastructure, new bits of technology to monitor the performance of the asset, or new ways of developing business plans. We have the right people involved to progress with this problem and develop solutions.”
Mike Woolgar, Atkins' water market director at the time, signing the contract for the Centre for Research and Innovation for Groundwater Infiltration into Urban Infrastructure.