Minimising carbon emissions through synergistic water-energy systems

Minimising carbon emissions through synergistic water-energy systems

What can we do to better align water and energy system interactions? Can we provide evidence on the feasibility of introducing integrated water-energy systems? Could this be done at either city or neighbourhood scales for energy recovery/generation?


Normally the urban water system is viewed in isolation. This approach has been encouraged by our regulatory systems and even our engineering education system which aligns different engineering disciplines to different infrastructure systems. This theme wishes to take a new approach by investigating the potential synergistic benefits obtained by closely linking two existing infrastructure systems.


In all the urban areas of the UK; there are water supply and drainage systems and electricity distribution systems. These systems are usually operated by different companies and have different regulators, but both are seen by the general public as essential for a well-run society. There is some commonality, both systems provide a near universal and highly reliable service but they also face severe challenges from long term future change impacting on their current asset base. Urban water systems face pressures from climate change, increased urbanisation and a growing population, the electricity supply system faces challenges from requirements to de-carbonise and changes to the pattern of energy use.


 'Both water supply, drainage systems and electrical distribution systems in the UK face severe challenges from long term future change.'


What factors could drive closer system integration? The UK’s water utilities have carbon emission reduction targets of 80% by 2050 and the EU’s 2050 Energy roadmap aims to meet 70% of electricity demand from renewable sources. If the latent capacity in water systems could be harvested and time shifted then the level of grid reinforcement forecasted could be reduced. By modelling the current technical performance of both systems simultaneously in case study catchments, this theme will aim to demonstrate the potential future economic and environmental benefits of integrating water and energy systems at city and neighbourhood levels.


In summary, the research in this theme will:

  • Quantify the generation and storage of renewable energy in water supply and wastewater networks
  • Quantify at the same spatial and time scales the technical capacity of electricity distribution systems to meet energy demand as more decentralised, low carbon generation sources are used
  • Identify technical opportunities in which the need for additional transmission and backup capacity can be avoided through the linkage of reliable water infrastructure derived renewable energy and existing local electricity systems; and to quantify the long term economic and environmental benefits.

 If you are interested in collaborating on any element of this research, please contact the Water Innovation Hub at


Academic Participants in this theme

Professor Joby Boxall

Fei Liu

Dr Alma Schellart

Professor Tony Dodd

Dr Richard Collins

Professor Simon Tait