Study unlocks canal potential

A PhD student from Huddersfield University is carrying out research that should help ensure the potential of Britain’s canal network is fully unlocked.

British Waterways wants to ensure that the nation gains maximum value from its canals. One way to do this is to encourage businesses that line the routes of canals to extract water and pump it into the modern cooling systems of buildings. The water then flows back into the canal, but is warmed in the process.

The worry is that the warm water that flows back into canals has the potential to harm fish and other aquatic life. For this reason, the Environment Agency closely monitors the discharge of warm water and has the power to block the use of canal water in cooling systems.

Now, Jafar Ali, a researcher in the third year of his PhD research in Huddersfield University’s School of Computing and Engineering, has developed a model of a stretch of canal in a laboratory tank, releasing dyed water and using devices such as flow meters to observe the effects of discharges.

Previous studies in this field, explained Ali, have dealt with either deep and still water or shallow and flowing water. He has pioneered the study of flows in water that is shallow and still, which poses special problems.

Ali has been able to demonstrate that warm water discharge into canals need not have a damaging effect on the aquatic life. He has shown that only when the water temperature of a canal reaches 28°C that environmental damage occurs, and the model he has constructed shows how this can be avoided.

British Waterways now plans to make practical use of the techniques Ali has developed.