WETS Research Cluster





About the WETS Cluster

WETS is an interdisciplinary research cluster drawn from across Leeds Beckett University with a common focus upon water issues within developing regions of the Global South. The cluster is currently engaged in research projects across Africa and South America.

Our team contains academics and researchers with interests in the following areas:

  • The operational reliability of key water and sanitation infrastructure
  • Appropriate monitoring technologies for key infrastructure
  • 'Big data handling’ for water data
  • Appropriate water treatment technologies
  • Issues of social acceptance, ownership and adoption of key infrastructure
  • Synergies between access to water, energy and mobile phone infrastructure
  • Water and sustainability
  • Water resources and associated forestry issues


Our research activities focus upon some of the key current water- related challenges and issues in developing regions of the Global South, for example:

Many communities are served by local water infrastructure that is poorly functioning, or has fallen In to a state of disrepair; this can force these communities to use unprotected water sources, and increase their exposure to a range of water-related diseases

Many community water sources are of poor, or unknown, water quality

Many communities in developing regions live ‘off-grid’ in terms of access to mains water and electricity, but still have access to mobile phone networks



AGUASOCIAL is a 5-partner network between the Universita degli Studi Roma Tre (Italy), Leeds Beckett University (UK), the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain), Universidade Federal do Para and the Universidade do Estado do Amazonas Fundao (Brazil). The AguaSocial project is due to receive Euro 350,000 of funding over 4 years, to explore Social Innovation in relation to the Water Sector across Brazil’s Amazon region.

This EU funding will facilitate a researcher exchange program, with 26 months of visits by Brazilian academics to Leeds Beckett University, and 24 months of visits by Leeds Beckett staff to Brazil.

Appropriate telemetry projects

Many rural communities are served by water pumps that are broken, or deliver poor quality water. Conventional methods for both operational, and quality, monitoring require regular site visits to remote locations, which can be costly and time consuming. These factors may limit the amount of monitoring undertaken in the field. Telemetry based monitoring techniques could help overcome some of these problems.

Work is underway to develop low cost appropriate telemetry tools for monitoring both the post-construction performance and water quality of remote water points in developing regions.

This area of research is the focus of an on-going PhD study at Leeds Beckett University, and of collaborative investigations between the University and Environmental Monitoring Solutions (EMS). These collaborations have benefited from Innovate UK funding.

Combined solar off-grid recharging hub & community water point

Research is underway in Gambia to assess the merits of a pilot study that combines an off-grid recharging hub with a community water point. The modus operandi of this arrangement involves local users paying a small fee to recharge portable smart-battery packs (which can then be taken home to power mobile-phones, lighting, etc.).

It is intended that a proportion of the income generated by this enterprise will be retained, and used to fund the on-going maintenance costs of the recharging hub and the local water infrastructure.

This area of research is the focus of an on-going DEng study at Leeds Beckett University, and of collaborative investigations between the University and Mobile Power.

Water quality monitoring – Malawi

Approximately 50% of illnesses in Malawi are solely due to water-related diseases with only 37% of Malawians having access to safe drinking water.

Previous monitoring of the quality of water from boreholes and shallow wells has been irregular. Information on seasonal water quality changes in shallow wells used by rural communities in Malawi has generally been lacking. Staff from the cluster have been involved in research to develop a water quality inventory for 52 shallow wells from six districts in Southern Malawi.

Over 2,700 samples were analysed for chemical, microbiological and physical contamination. Water quality results indicated that shallow well water is heavily polluted with both total and faecal coliforms. The pollution level was higher in the wet season especially soon after the on-set of the rains, compared to the dry season.

The Social Interface: Access to Water Technologies

Poor communities may experience social exclusion in many ways including access, or lack of access, to technologies that could improve their lives.

Technologies exist within a social and political setting, and their impacts, and outcomes, can be shaped by both ‘technical experts’ and local stakeholders. Where poor communities do have access to useful technologies they often do not have agency over the way these are designed or used, such as the way in which water is shared, distributed and managed. Such factors may influence the uptake and impact of a seemingly promising technology.

The cluster is engaged in on going research to explore the key processes that influence whether, or not, water related technologies are implemented; and what influence local users can exert over the design and operation of such technologies.


The WETS cluster is a multi-disciplinary network which comprises the following staff

Dr Andy Swan
Web Link
Cluster coordinator, Civil/Water Engineering
Prof Peter Skipworth
Web Link
Water Engineering and telemetry
(Visiting Prof)
Oriel Kenny
Web Link
Development Studies
Dr Martin Pritchard
Web Link
Water & Geotechnical research
Anthony Smith
Web Link
Geotechnical research
Will Gamble
Computing - Appropriate telemetery
Dr Muthu Ramachandran
Web Link
Prof Alan Simson
Web Link
Tom Craven
Web Link
Appropriate treatment
Josie Rothera
Civil Engineering
Dr. Pedro Pablo Cardoso
Corporate Strategy/Strategic Management
of International Enterprises
Prof Chris Gorse
Web Link
David Rodgers
Civil Engineering
Dr. Suneel Kunamaneni
Web Link
Enterprise and Innovation
Dr Alan Edmondson
Web Link


Links to partner sites

AguaSocial EU FP7

Project details on Cordis pages

Mobile Power Ltd

Collaborative partners on pilot study of an off-grid recharging hub & community water point

Environmental Monitoring Solutions

Collaborative partners on appropriate telemetry project


Civil Engineering Research Facility @ Leeds Beckett University


Leeds Sustainability Institude