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Catchment area management

We are researching how we can protect and enhance the natural environment and prevent pollution within catchment areas through the ways we manage the use of the land and water.

Catchment areas are geographic regions where water is drained to a common water body. They cover a variety of landscapes and land use including natural areas, agriculture, industrial estates, villages, towns and cities. We are developing novel catchment management principles that address the cause of pollutants damaging our waters. In the past, the focus has been on how to remove pollutants at the end of processes such as drinking water production or waste water treatment. But these end-of-pipe solutions are expensive and centre on treating the problem and not the cause.

We are designing new frameworks based on upstream catchment management for water utilities and other commercial land users. Our research looks at preventing or reducing waste at the source. This is cheaper than controlling or removing pollution after it has entered the catchment area and, in the long term, a more sustainable solution to protecting the environment.

For example, our research could help farmers manage their waste better to prevent pollution as well as explore how they can get value out of their waste through reuse. Another aspect of our theme investigates the impact of contaminants such as pharmaceuticals on the water environment. We are developing whole system approaches, building on life cycle assessment and costing, industrial ecology and GIS to generate novel ways to do this.

To prevent pollution, we need to bridge the communication gap between the source of waste and the end of its journey. With this in mind, we are working to bring together those at the source, such as pharmaceutical companies or farmers, with the water utilities responsible for treating the water. The new practices we develop will ultimately inform and benefit water utilities and others interested in the whole water cycle, such as citizens and water regulators.

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