Professor David Butler

David Butler

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Division: Engineering
Organisation: University of Exeter
Tags: Fellowship: Established Career Fellowship, Researcher, University of Exeter
Related theme: Engineering Global uncertainties LWEC


David Butler is professor of water engineering, a chartered civil engineer and a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management and the International Water Association. Following positions at Arups, London South Bank University and Imperial College London, he is now a Director of the Centre for Water Systems at the University of Exeter. He specialises in urban water management, has authored/co-authored over 250 peer-reviewed papers, in addition to 12 books, published reports and edited conference proceedings, and is co-editor-in-chief of the Urban Water Journal.

My Fellowship

My fellowship aims to address emerging challenges and global uncertainties as they affect water management in UK cities. It postulates a new paradigm of 'Safe & SuRe', that is the need for systems to go beyond standard safe or reliable design and compliant operation to fully incorporate the notions of sustainability and resilience. The fellowship is an important opportunity for me to focus for an extended period on a single topic and to really make a difference to the engineering design and operation of a key infrastructure.

The water sector in the UK has, by many measures, been very successful. However, this success has been achieved using a 19th century approach based on the idea of plentiful resources, unrestrained demand and a stable climate. However, a perfect storm of climate change, increasing population, urbanisation and demographic shifts is brewing! Each one of these challenges is a threat to the water sector and, taken in isolation, existing approaches may be able to cope. Taken together and compounded by the speed, size and uncertainty of change, the system is heading for failure unless something is done.

This fellowship aims to meet these challenges by developing a new approach to water management in UK cities. The starting point is a new vision that is: Safe & SuRe. In a sense, our existing water systems are all about safety goals: public health, flood management and environmental protection. These are important and still need to be respected, but they are NOT sufficient to rise to the coming challenges. In the new world of rapid and uncertain change, water systems in cities must also be Sustainable and Resilient. In this fellowship. my vision will be developed, tested and championed into practice over a period of 5 years. A comprehensive evaluation framework will be developed to test in detail what options or strategies can contribute towards a Safe & SuRe water future, focussing on the challenges of water scarcity, urban flooding and river pollution. Recommendations and best practice guidance will be developed.