UN SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Colleagues from the College of Science & Engineering are contributing to the Decentralised Water Technologies project, which aims to promote a future decentralised model for water infrastructure and wastewater biological treatment systems that operates at the household-community level with the convenience of domestic appliances. The team are focusing on the development of new systems that are easy to use, reliable, safe, affordable and desirable to both end users and legislators. Research is organised into three themes: the delivery of biological treatment technologies and tools; the implementation of viable decentralised water treatment systems in communities; and governance analysis and reform.
The National Centre for Resilience (NCR), based at our Dumfries campus, is a cross-sector partnership spanning Scottish universities, government and practice. In the face of an escalating flood threat to our communities, the RIFFLE project, led by NCR, delved into the long-term hazards posed by floodwaters. The surge of a flooded river can swirl up historic environmental pollutants, some of which have lain dormant for decades or centuries. These hazardous elements can then be deposited within the flooded areas with the potential to cause ecological harm to our waterways and affect crops, livestock, wildlife and human health. The RIFFLE study took a comprehensive approach, drawing upon historic flood records, data gathered from SEPA and local authorities, as well as soil and sediment analysis. Through these methods, the study was able to look at the potential long-term hazards within the floodwaters. By identifying the contaminants and chemical compositions, the team could assess the risk of these substances to agriculture, wildlife, and human health. The outcomes of this pioneering research extend beyond academia and serve as a tool to guide policy and practice in sustainable water management work. The research offers actionable recommendations for mitigation strategies and the proficient management of contaminated sediments, ultimately enhancing the safety and resilience of our water systems.
Sustainable drainage from the ‘rain gardens’ of our Western campus helps manage rainwater runoff and avoid localised flooding. It also acts as a filter system that allows pollutants and silt to settle.
Learning & teaching
Environmental Geoscience is the study of the interaction between natural and anthropogenic processes and environments. It focuses on working towards a sustainable future by understanding how humans affect, and are affected by, a range of environmental issues including climate change, water resources, pollution, and landscape change. Our undergraduate programme in Environmental Geoscience offers students extensive fieldwork experience as well as an opportunity to work with world-class samples provided by our Hunterian Museum. Graduates in Environmental Geoscience are equipped with the tools to make an impact across many SDGs and have historically gone on to work in agencies including Scottish Water and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
The School of Geographical & Earth Sciences also offers a postgraduate programme in Sustainable Water Environments, which equips students with an interdisciplinary and global perspective on different surface water environments, incorporating issues such as climate and land use change, flood risk, restorations, ecosystem health and associated management perspectives.
Our Western Campus development has been designed to provide sustainable drainage through a number of ‘rain gardens’. Plants in the rain gardens have been selected to withstand both waterlogging and drier conditions, as well as avoiding those susceptible to diseases which have increased and spread as a result of climate change.
The main rain gardens below St Mungo Square, outside our Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre, are designed to catch and attenuate surface water runoff, carrying pollutants such as salt, hydrocarbons from asphalt and any spilt materials. The planting includes species capable of cleaning surface water runoff (eg reeds, rushes and marginals) and the check dams within the rain gardens slow the rate at which surface water passes through the planting, enabling the settlement of pollutants and silt within the beds.
We have also promoted water consciousness through the installation of 50 sustainable water fountains on campus. The fountains are not chilled and are run on the domestic water supply, while de-incentivising the purchase of single-use plastic bottles and cups by providing ample access to water on campus.
Our School of Social & Environmental Sustainability continue to host their popular global webinar series on Water & Sustainable Development. This series provides a platform for discussion on current and future water-related problems, and potential solutions from a multidisciplinary, multisectoral and multi-issues basis. Leading global academics, senior policymakers from around the world, heads of national and international organisations, and senior officials from important multinational corporations have contributed and provided insight from their expert perspectives. Recent panel members have represented the Scottish Government, Scottish Water and the International Water Management Institute.