Using Urban Aquifers: 
Sustainability at Different Space and Time Scales

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Using Birmingham as an example, this project is testing the suggestion that it should be possible to abstract potable quality water from several of the UK urban aquifers on a sustainable basis. The project is concentrating on the Triassic sandstone aquifer of the West Midlands. The main issues are related to the heterogeneity of pollutant sources, and the effects of geochemical, hydrochemical and hydraulic layering at regional, sub-regional and local scales. The project is developing and applying tools which take these issues into account.


West Midlands


The project is addressing three main areas: evaluation of solute source fluxes; evaluation of advective transport of solutes; and evaluation of the effect of reactive interactions. Three scales are being considered:

  • urban-scale, where the aquifer is considered as one unit
  • suburban-scale, where solute transfers from one part of the aquifer to another are considered
  • borehole-scale, where solute fate in the immediate vicinity of the borehole is considered.

Start date/duration

November 1997 - four years

Lead Organisation

University of Birmingham


  • an assessment of the researchersí hypothesis in the context of the Birmingham system, including GIS databases, models at three scales with the incorporation of geochemical issues for the first time
  • a general methodology for assessing urban aquifer exploitation, incorporating a GIS-based system for urban risk assessment, a general reactive solute transport model that will allow the influence of water levels on hydrochemistry to be explored, and a borehole model for use in detailed well catchment/protection zone mapping.


Environment Agency

Severn Trent Water Plc

Birmingham City Council

Further Details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Prof R Mackay

Tel: 0121 414 6138, Fax: 0121 414 4942, e-mail: 

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: