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Yorkshire Water has selected the University of Leeds to deliver much of its research requirement over the next five years. This exciting collaboration between the University and the country’s leading utility company gives researchers access to over £16m to bring even higher quality water and further improvements in services to the people of Yorkshire while protecting and enhancing the environment.

Leeds is one of only four universities selected as part of a strategic research partnership to work with Yorkshire Water to share expertise and play a major role in research and development projects.

“This collaboration will give us valuable insights into the needs of water companies,” said geographer Dr Joe Holden. “It’ll be an ‘ideas factory’ to help Yorkshire Water face the challenge of change in the climate and in the aspirations of the region, to improve the quality of the water they get from supply rivers, improve the landscape and help train university staff and students.”

The University was chosen for its expertise in the study and management of catchments – the areas from which rainfall is collected – which are of vital importance to water companies. Martin Tillotson from Yorkshire Water said: “We recognise the relevance and quality of the research undertaken at the University of Leeds, and we place great value on working in partnership with local organisations.”

One of the first projects will be to help Yorkshire Water to improve the colour of their sourced water. Many water companies have found that their raw water is becoming increasingly brown because it contains larger amounts of dissolved organic carbon. This is a huge problem for suppliers, who spend millions each year treating the water. It also has environmental implications because it means we are losing increased amounts of carbon from the land.

“One solution could be to change land management practices to prevent carbon loss caused by burning, grazing and moorland drainage,” said Dr Holden. “It’s a very challenging area of global importance in terms of its environmental effects, but it is also crucial to the environment of the UK uplands and the Yorkshire region.”

The University will work closely with Yorkshire Water to tackle this and other issues. To set this in motion, the company has provided funding for a 5-year post doctoral researcher. Although primarily a research collaboration, important advantages to the university lie in the placement and recruitment opportunities and in the teaching input that the company is willing to support.

“This partnership recognises the quality of our research and provides the funding impetus to deliver world-class research that will inform policy and deliver practical outcomes,” said environmental management professor Adrian McDonald. “It emphasises the importance of building up a long term relationship based on talent, track-record and trust.”

Claire Jones | alfa
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