Modelling London’s 25km super sewer
Mar 03, 2022
Thames Tideway’s Peter Vale explains how his firm has harnessed existing technology to digitise and automate wastewater network systems during wholesale upgrades to London’s ageing sewer infrastructure.
The super sewer Tideway project harnesses technology to digitise and automate wastewater network systems to reduce pollution of the Thames – upgrading a sewer network built in the late 1800s and used despite London’s population growing from two million to around eight million people during its lifespan, according to Vale. As such, London’s current sewer system is hampered by overloaded treatment works – in which the quality of treated discharge deteriorates during heavy rainfall – and an overloaded network which is frequently discharging untreated combined sewage into the tidal Thames. In a typical year, around 40 million m2 of untreated sewage is dumped into the tidal Thames across more than 50 occasions – almost once a week on average.
He added that in order to deliver a 120-year design life, the Thames Tideway also had to provide mechanical ventilation and air treatment to reduce risk of odour complaints and accommodate large flows and huge drops in the sewage system. To tackle this series of complex problems – and ultimately create a sewer that prevented frequent pollution of the Thames and changed the relationship between London, Londoners and the river – Vale explained that Thames Tideway was required to harness a broad variety of different models, spanning catchment, pneumatics and transients, computational fluid dynamics, physical and air movement and dispersion models. This system largely reflected one already developed by Thames Water, Vale added, with the firm charged with serving 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley benefitting from a comprehensive digital footprint. Such modelling shaped Tideway’s combined sewer overflow control and the system response to variable rainfall-runoff which results in discharges, for example. Thames Tideway’s control strategy developed two operating modes, wet weather and extreme wet weather, with the former activated if forecasted system-wide rainfall depth is below 22mm in 24 hours, and the latter – and pre-emptive control measures – activated if above said benchmark.
On top of this, physical models were used to evaluate deaeration designs to avoid air entrapment at large drops in the sewer network and led to the creation of vertical deaeration chamber designs.
A live virtual operating system for London
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