Modelling River Corridors: The Scientific Basis for 
Rehabilitation of Urban Rivers

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This project is examining the dependence of urban river ecosystems on flow, water quality and physical habitat. The precise nature of the dependence upon these boundary conditions is far from clear and may vary throughout the river system. The contention is that even in highly polluted urban river systems, the flow regime and the nature and diversity of the physical habitat also significantly influence the river ecosystem. Therefore, all three boundary conditions and their interactions are being investigated. There are five principle research tasks:

  • Development of a rainfall run-off procedure linked with the Urban Pollution Modelling (UPM) procedure.
  • Development of modelling procedures for urban solute and sediment transport processes.
  • Development of a hydro-ecological classification of urban rivers.
  • Development of a bio-assessment method for urban rivers.
  • Development of a hydro-ecological model to explore the effects of changes in water quality, flow regime and physical habitat for urban rivers in evaluating restoration strategies.


West Midlands


The studies are being focused on the River Tame, upstream of Water Orton (407 km2) which drains substantial portions of Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Tasks 1 and 2 will produce flow, water depth, shear stress and water quality time series (based on observed data and some output from Task 3) for representative channel reaches for historic and current conditions. Task 3 will provide a physical classification to meso-habitat level that is suitable for urban rivers by using observed data and output from Task 1.

Task 4 will provide information on the invertebrate fauna associated with the defined physical classes (from Task 3) in combination with summary water quality indices (from Task 2), to define sensitive physical and chemical habitat relationships for invertebrates in urban rivers. Task 5 will lead to the development of a predictive model that reflects the relative importance of the boundary conditions upon the river ecosystem.

Start date/duration

January 1998 four years

Lead Organisation

University of Birmingham

CEH Wallingford


The main deliverables of the project will be a generic methodology appropriate for urban areas for:

  • integrated hydrological and water quality modelling
  • hydro-ecological classification for river corridors
  • bio-assessment method for urban streams
  • hydro-ecological model extending PHABSIM to urban channels
  • inclusion of ecological factors into the UPM methodology.


Environment Agency

Severn Trent Water

WRc plc

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Birmingham City Council

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Further Details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr J R West

Tel: 0121 414 5089, Fax: 0121 414 5051, e-mail: 

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

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