Helping to keep the world’s rivers clean
While the UK’s canals and rivers have come a long way since the infamous ‘Great Stink’ of the Thames in 1858, pollution remains an ongoing problem for the country’s waterways. Agricultural and urban waste, including sewage and manure, can cause significant damage to freshwater ecosystems and has wider implications for human health.
In England, the Environment Agency samples around 7000 river and canal sites each year to assess nutrient levels and chemical / biological quality. However, water chemistry samples are then sent to laboratories for testing, causing delays that can affect the accuracy of the data collected. The ideal situation is to monitor water pollution in real time, allowing the Environment Agency and others to keep abreast of water condition changes as they happen.
RS Hydro is a total solutions provider for the water and wastewater industries, selling to the UK and worldwide. It specialises in a variety of water-monitoring equipment, including flow meters, water-quality monitoring instruments and wireless telemetry systems. With the aid of funding from two UK Research Councils, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), RS Hydro engaged in a two and a half year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.
The aim was to develop a water-sensing system that would discriminate between different forms of aquatic pollution in real time. A recent PhD graduate, Dr Kieran Khamis, was employed to lead on the project and whilst employed by the University, was hosted by RS Hydro, ensuring that new knowledge developed over the course of the project was passed on to company staff. Over time the scope of the project was broadened, such that initial plans for field testing were expanded to include monitoring of drinking water and sewage treatment works, along with river catchment surveys. The laboratory capabilities of RS Hydro were also expanded, allowing the company to continue testing and calibration of sensors beyond the lifetime of the project. Furthermore, the sensor technology developed during the course of the KTP has formed a platform for future monitoring system developments, with the potential to lead to a range of new products in the future.
In recognition for his excellent work, Kieran was awarded Business Leader of the Future at the KTP Best of the Best Awards in London. The award, given to KTP Associates that demonstrate outstanding leadership skills, came with a cash prize, and the project was publicised via a number of media outlets. Following the close of the project, Kieran is now in an excellent position from which to pursue a career in environmental research.
Managing Director, RS Hydro Ltd.
“I would thoroughly recommend a KTP to embed academic research within a commercial organisation. There are no other opportunities for a company such as ours to undertake this level of research and to be supported by the people needed to convert a meaningful project into a range of deliverable outcomes that have the potential to transform our company.”