World Water Day 2022

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To celebrate World Water Day 2022, we are highlighting some of our research on river abuse:

Slow Violence and River Abuse: The Hidden Effect of Land Use on Water Quality

Associated staff, researchers and companies:

In England, no river achieves good chemical status, only 14% achieve good ecological status and none achieve both good chemical and ecological status according to the European Water Framework Directive. The deteriorating quality of our river systems is a result of pollution runoff events from storm water discharge, sewage discharge and land mismanagement. Pollution from sewage discharge and land misuse (e.g. agricultural chemical runoff) can result in diminishing water quality through increased nutrient availability in rivers. The increased availability of nutrients in rivers can lead to algal blooms and eutrophication events. Eutrophication events negatively impact the quality of freshwater systems as light penetration becomes limited as sheets of algae cover surfaces. This then leads to reduced oxygen availability, which greatly impacts the microbial and aquatic life beneath the surface. The addition of excess nutrients or contaminants into our river systems can be describes as “slow violence”. Slow violence in the environment is the mid- to long-term damage or mismanagement that results in adverse effects may not always obvious: out of sight, out of mind.

An ongoing collaborative project between the Centre for Research in Biosciences, the Centre for Fine Print Research and Somerset Wildlife Trust is seeking to address slow violence in the form of how land-use can affect freshwater quality. This project intends to identify the effect of key nutrients and contaminants that are associated with excessive algal growth. This data will be integrated and interpreted in the form of traditional printmaking and experimental photographic processes. The printed outputs will investigate and respond to the relationship between land use and aquatic health. Produced artwork will be exhibited to allow for engagement with audiences and seeks to start conversations around the issue of declining water quality of our rivers and the effect of slow violence.

This multidisciplinary project is an example of interdisciplinary collaborations that are being created and nurtured as part of a new UWE Bristol-wide Healthy Waters Initiative Research Cluster. The Healthy Waters Initiative seeks to restore and enhance the health of freshwaters for people, businesses, and nature. This will be addressed through developing projects that cut across three interdisciplinary core themes: science, design and technology, and society.

Welcome to the Healthy Waters Research Cluster blog

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Welcome to the Healthy Waters Research Cluster blog where we plan to share with you the latest the Healthy Waters updates.  

People and ecosystems require both an adequate quantity of water as well as an adequate quality of water if key development objectives such as health, food security and water security are to be realised. Actions to protect water quality should be embedded in the larger concepts of sustainability, resilience and appropriate technology. There is an urgent need to explore and develop scientific, technological and societal responses to deteriorating water quality at all scales from cellular to global, but especially at the biophysical and community scales.

The Healthy Waters Research Cluster centres on three core themes, with integrated cross-disciplinary management, each drawing upon a wider sphere of scientific, societal and technological knowledge:

Theme 1 – Science:

Led by Professor Darren Reynolds with support from Dr Jason Matthews, this theme will consolidate and expand the scientific knowledge base, facilitated through the collection of water quality data. Ultimately this will enable science discovery that underpins the development of existing and emerging water technologies. This theme is essential for developing the understanding needed for monitoring and evaluation of water resource management strategies.

Theme 2 – Society:

Led by Professor Chad Staddon with support from Dr Andy Ridgeway , a key to managing water quality is the active participation by the public and stakeholders. For example, new data sources from citizen science sensing are required to supplement national monitoring data. Barriers to effective change arise from a lack of access to the science and knowhow of what is possible. This theme will address these barriers by active engagement with the public and stakeholders.

Theme 3 – Design and Technology:

Led by a management group co-chaired by Dr Robin Thorn and Dr Tavs Jorgensen. This theme will draw upon the multiplicity of high and low TRL technology platforms and approaches already available within UWE Bristol to address water quantity and quality. This will include water quality sensors (exploiting existing knowledge in electrochemical, metal oxide [VOCs], fluorescence and microbial sensors), treatment systems (nature-based, ceramic, ultrafiltration) and novel approaches to process integration and water distribution, collectively these approaches are required to improve water quality monitoring and management. This theme will undertake the co-creation of new technology approaches and establish demonstrator projects to show how both components and complete systems can be sustainably produced in local and global contexts. In addition, such progress will simplify data acquisition and strongly expand data availability for a range of practitioners and water end-users.

We look forward to sharing developments from this research cluster.

This research cluster is funded through the Expanding Research Excellence scheme at UWE Bristol. The scheme aims to support and develop interdisciplinary, challenge-led research across the University. It is designed to bring together research clusters or networks that will work together to respond to challenges (local, regional, national, global) aligned with major research themes.

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