Boosting UK infrastructure resilience against climate change

Aerial view of countryside in English Midlands

Eight projects share £1.4 million to develop the UK’s infrastructure resilience against severe weather events such as extreme floods caused by climate change.

There is an urgent and increasing need to protect the UK’s natural and built environments.

From a surge in population growth to severe weather events such as extreme floods and droughts, the UK’s infrastructure resilience against these types of events must improve.

The Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis (Centre of Excellence) has awarded £1.4 million across eight UK-based projects.

Protecting UK infrastructure

Using computational modelling on the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) platform, these eight projects strive to strengthen UK’s resilience against severe weather events and other complex challenges.

Doing so will help protect underground infrastructure, like water pipes and electrical cables, plus reduce the risks of:

  • road closures
  • energy failures
  • sewer flooding
  • water and food shortages

Tackling complex issues

For example, traditional water resource management techniques are no longer sufficient to manage the UK’s water supply.

Ana Murgatroyd of the University of Oxford is creating a comprehensive water resource model for England and Wales.

The model integrates various water usage sectors and future scenarios to assess potential water shortages and solutions.

Running ‘what-if’ scenarios

Richard Milton from University College London has created a model that simulates land use and transportation patterns in the UK.

The simulation allows users to run ‘what-if’ scenarios to predict the impact of infrastructures to the land, such as the impact of High Speed Two on the UK’s urban system.

Combating potential losses

The funding highlights the importance of strengthening the UK’s natural and built environments.

It also underscores the critical need to combat potential losses arising from the growing impacts of climate change.

The outputs from the Centre of Excellence will ensure the UK is resilient against potential future risks by providing essential analysis and scenario-planning vital to:

  • policymakers
  • local councils
  • private companies

DAFNI opened the Centre of Excellence in spring 2023 with £4 million in funding from the ‘Building a secure and resilient world’ strategic theme at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Scientific Computing Department delivers the DAFNI programme for UKRI.

Strengthening UK’s resilience

Kristine Zaidi, Associate Director for Arts and Humanities Research Council and lead for the ‘Building a secure and resilient world’ theme said:

To build a more secure and resilient world we must put people at the heart of our research.

The eight projects announced today will help communities of all sizes improve their ability to prevent and respond to threats from extreme weather occurrences.

By working across disciplines and improving access to robust evidence and information, we can strengthen the UK’s resilience.

Further information

Summaries of the UK projects awarded

Simulating the resilience of transport infrastructures using QUANT

Principal investigator, Richard Milton from the University College London has developed a model, called QUANT, which simulates the pattern of land use and transportation for Great Britain.

The model looks at ‘what-if’ scenarios so users can run thousands of scenarios of the use of land and transport to predict impacts that enable stakeholders to test various plans.

It will also demonstrate how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to inform the generation of many scenarios.

This includes the impact of shocks to the land by new infrastructures such as High Speed Two in Birmingham.

Uncertainty quantification and sensitivity analysis for resilient infrastructure systems

Computational modelling provides a vital tool to support infrastructure investment decisions. Model outputs though are conditional on a range of uncertain assumptions and input data. Overconfidence in model results and insufficient consideration of the breath of possible futures are key obstacles to resilient infrastructure design.

This project, led by Francesca Pianosi of the University of Bristol, will integrate into DAFNI a generic methodology to analyse the propagation of uncertainties and enable better model construction, validation, and use for decision-making under uncertainty.

The methodology will be tested and showcased on pilot applications in the water and energy systems sector. Ultimately the project will contribute to promote best practices for responsible modelling and robust decision-making in the DAFNI user’s community.

Building systemic resilience of interdependent infrastructure networks at the national scale

In recent years, extreme flood and storm events across the UK have affected large numbers of infrastructure networks and their customers.

These events resulted in economic damages and losses of the order of tens of millions of pounds.

The lack of coherent datasets of interconnected networks and cross-sectoral resilience metrics makes it challenging for government agencies and infrastructure operators to plan for and respond to extreme large-scale weather events.

This project led by Raghav Pant, from the University of Oxford, aims to deliver an open-source modelling framework on the DAFNI platform for stress-testing interdependent network resilience against flood and storm events.

Flood resilience simulation on DAFNI

The Flood Infrastructure Resilience Model (FIRM) is led by principal investigator Richard Dawson of Newcastle University. FIRM is an agent-based model that simulates how people and organisations respond to the effects of flood infrastructure failure before, during, and after extreme weather events.

The model can be used to assess different strategies to minimise threats to lives and infrastructure during a flood incident.

This project will recode FIRM and make it available to the community on DAFNI.

The model’s capabilities will be upgraded to incorporate more recent approaches to flood incident management and provide training to enhance its accessibility to the wider research and stakeholder community. As a result, contributing to better preparation and responses to flood incidents.

Pywr-WREW, a water resources model for England and Wales built in Python water resources simulation system

Traditional water resource management, focused on individual companies, is no longer sufficient to address the complex issues surrounding England’s water supplies due to population growth, climate change and ecological needs, posed by these factors.

Anna Murgatroyd, principal investigator from the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Environment Agency and Ofwat, initiated the National System Simulate Modelling project.

As part of this, they developed a comprehensive water resource model for England and Wales.

The model integrates various water usage sectors and future scenarios to assess potential water shortages and solutions.

However, they are limited by the model’s reliance on commercial software.

The Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis provides a way to address this limitation and aims to enhance the model’s accessibility and usability for researchers and practitioners.

Resilience scenarios for integrated water systems (RIWS)

The RIWS project led by Ana Mijic, Imperial College London, addresses a critical knowledge gap in resilience scenarios for integrated water systems for various stressors.

It also aims to develop scenarios that can provide evidence on the feasibility of water systems adaptive planning when assessed by resilience metrics for:

  • water companies
  • planning authorities
  • environmental regulators

Sewer overflow flood risk analysis model DAFNI enabled (SOFRAMODE)

Using DAFNI, Vassilis Glenis from Newcastle University, aims to develop and demonstrate a state-of-the-art platform for understanding and simulating urban drainage related to surface water flooding and high-profile storm overflow events, for any UK town or city.

The scenarios will encompass a wide range of current and future rainfall event magnitudes.

This will provide functionality for industry and researchers, to design and test strategies to ease surface water flooding.

Strategies and tools for resilience of buried infrastructure to meteorological shocks (STORMS)

Buried infrastructure, like cables and pipes, are vulnerable to meteorological shocks or extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts.

Such events can lead to:

  • soil movement
  • thermal contraction and expansion
  • sinkholes
  • various other problems

Despite the urgency to be prepared for these impacts, our understanding of what the UK’s buried infrastructure can cope with remains poor.

This is because existing risk assessment tools do not comprehensively consider impacts from these extreme weather events.

The framework will be applied to understand the potential impacts of extreme weather events, or ‘shocks’, and climate change on these infrastructures.

This will lead to fewer service disruptions, potential cost savings, and increased resilience of infrastructure systems in the face of meteorological shocks and climate change.

Top image:  Credit: CHUNYIP WONG, E+ via Getty Images

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