Minister opens UK's largest testbed for sustainable draining systems in Newcastle

Supplementary content information

illustrated image of teal brush strokes swishing in a U shape on a white background

Chris Skidmore, Minister of State for Universities, Science Research and Innovation, has officially opened the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) National Green Facility, at Newcastle University which allows engineers to test the performance of new technologies that can slow the flow of water in the event of extreme rainfall and reduce the risk of flooding in cities.

The facility is the UK's largest testbed for sustainable draining systems and is providing a blueprint for how cities should be designed in the future, in order to reduce flood risk in the face of climate change.

EPSRC's Director of Research Base, Jane Nicholson, said: "We see all too often the devasting scenes of communities affected by extreme weather events such as flooding, so understanding how we can make the UK's infrastructure more resilient and adaptable to changing circumstances will have a huge societal impact.

"The UKCRIC National Green Facility is a living laboratory which underpins research into sustainable drainage systems and green infrastructure approaches which will make urban centres more resilient and sustainable for future generations. It is part of a much wider investment by EPSRC in state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories through the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), which allow universities, industry, government and end users to collaborate to upgrade the UK's infrastructure."

Designed by engineers at Newcastle University and funded by EPSRC, it integrates a range of naturally engineered systems such as green roofs and rain gardens together with a full-scale swale which is fitted with a series of 'leaky barriers' designed to hold back floodwaters. These include a range of slotted barriers that can be modified to replicate natural conditions, alongside a wetland area.

Situated in the heart of Newcastle, the swale is fitted with a network of sensors and cameras to monitor flow, water levels, soil moisture, rainfall and other meteorological conditions. This data is then fed into Newcastle University's Urban Observatory, the UK's largest set of real-time open data, and will be used to inform future flood management and help policy makers and emergency services make decisions in real time if, and when, flooding occurs in the future.

With over 3600 sensors deployed across Newcastle and Gateshead alone, adding 5000 new observations every minute, this makes it the largest deployment of urban sensing in the UK and the largest collection of open, environmental, real-time data in the world.

The UKCRIC Urban Observatories are a partnership between the universities of Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Cranfield and the local councils; and are led by Newcastle University.

Co-director of the National Green Infrastructure Facility (NGIF) Dr Claire Walsh, a lecturer in Green Infrastructure at Newcastle University, said the aim was to use this site as a demonstrator to help protect other urban areas from flooding. "At Newcastle University we are working on designing a number of natural flood management schemes to help our urban environment cope with a changing climate and future development pressures.

"The UK has seen an increase in the number of extreme weather events over the past decade and we have seen the devastation and distress that flash flooding causes. Naturally-engineered schemes should work hand in hand with flood defenses. In this way, we can disperse the water and reduce the flood risk rather than simply moving the problem downstream."

Further information on the Collaboratorium can be found at the UKCRIC website.