The Legacy of TWENTY65: Innovation to deliver clean water for all

Water is the foundation of society. It sustains life, fuels agriculture and food production, supports our economy, and is crucial to the natural environment.  We currently take water for granted, but due to the interacting pressures of climate change, population growth and increasing density, and ageing infrastructure we can not continue to do so.  We need to understand how to build resilience, efficiency and adaptability into our systems, networks and catchments to ensure we all receive clean water sustainably into the future.  Change in how we use and manage our precious water resources and infrastructure is needed.

TWENTY65 was a consortium of 6 leading UK universities formed to conduct multidisciplinary research that delivers sustainable and resilient clean water for all.  TWENTY65 was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and worked in partnership across the water sector to tailor water systems so that they positively impact health, the environment, the economy and society.

As the consortium’s work draws to a close, they have prepared a review of TWENTY65’s legacy in the form of an interactive digital document (https://twenty65.ac.uk/presentation/).  This document looks across the water cycle from source to tap and back again, with explanations of how water infrastructure works together with research findings from across the consortium.  One key finding is that social and technical innovations which can work together in different combinations, synergistically with existing infrastructure, are essential: there is no silver bullet solution to the sustainable water challenges. This thinking has culminated in a roadmap of how different drivers might lead to different water system configurations along a continuum of centralised to decentralised scenarios.

The consortium’s research fed into government consultations across multiple issues including water efficiency, reforms to the planning system, catchment partnerships and management, and innovation in the water sector.  The TWENTY65 Water Innovation Hub facilitated bespoke workshops across the water regulatory sector for bodies such as Ofwat and the Environment Agency, with significant input provided to policy and initiatives such as the Ofwat Innovation Fund.

Prof Joby Boxall, Principal Investigator and Technical Director of TWENTY65 explained that:

the grand challenge funding gave us an unprecedented opportunity to take a deep, cross disciplinary, dive into the big issues and challenges facing the water sector.  The scale of activity was able to drive forward transformative visions that positively challenged the status quo.

Prof Vanessa Speight, Managing Director of TWENTY65 added,

In addition to the research advances, a critical outcome for TWENTY65 was bringing all the different and diverse stakeholders of the water sector together to co-create a new understanding of what is needed for the sustainable water systems of the future. Our work has helped to spur a new enthusiasm for innovation in the UK water sector.

Jane Nicholson, Director for Research Base at EPSRC said:

The research conducted by the TWENTY65 consortium will help to ensure that our future water systems are efficient, sustainable and improve our health.

The consortium is an excellent demonstration of how multidisciplinary research across a wide range of partners can foster greater collaboration and deliver impact to sectors of key importance to the UK.

The work of the TWENTY65 consortium continues through numerous follow-on projects, such as Pipebots, which aims to revolutionise buried pipe infrastructure management: www.pipebots.ac.uk.

Further Information: