We have produced a report, entitled 2050 Futures – Water Sustainability, which provides recommendations to achieve long-term water sustainability for Milton Keynes, currently the fastest-growing city in the UK.

Key Facts

    • Water security requires active management measures such as efficient devices in new homes and remote sensors in water distribution systems.

    • The effects of climate change are increasingly severe so flood protection measures, such as improved water conservation and flood defences, need to be scaled up.

    • Water affordability can be improved through measures minimising water pollution.

    • Dependencies on grid energy for water distribution and treatment can be reduced through investment in technologies for energy use, generation and storage.

  • Funded by Milton Keynes Council.

Impact of our research

We researched the sustainability of secure, equitable and environment-friendly water systems in the context of a city, Milton Keynes, which has reached its planned population size but still expects extraordinary continued growth.

Uncertainties in demand for water services and availability of water mean that storage solutions and transfers from areas of surplus may be required. Our study recognises past effective planning in the design of the city, such as linear parks and balancing lakes for strategic flood mitigation, which should be adopted for continued growth. There is great potential for both technologies and behaviours to improve average water consumption per resident and business. Our recommendations offer insights to policy-makers which are applicable to other growing cities to improve their resilience.

Why the research was commissioned

Milton Keynes has appointed a 2050 Futures Commission to explore what makes a great city greater; to identify the factors that could affect Milton Keynes over the coming decades and the possible future scenarios that could be created when thinking about those drivers.

The project aims to produce a series of recommendations and to develop a framework for government, businesses and other relevant stakeholders to help put in place the arrangements that will help deliver the vision for Milton Keynes’ future.

Milton Keynes Council commissioned this water sustainability report as part of the infrastructure evidence informing the Commission’s vision. Water systems are a key component of the city’s infrastructure, providing critical services by resourcing, supplying and removing water. In the longer term, a decline in the available quality and quantity of fresh water is a high-impact risk.

Why Cranfield?

We are spearheading complex systems approaches into integrated infrastructure systems such as energy, water, transport and telecommunications.

We provide thought leadership in inter-dependent, dynamical and adapting systems, particularly focused toward sustainability and resilience, and advocating approaches such as user innovation, circular economy and ecosystem services.

Our research is inter-disciplinary using mixed methods approaches, mostly implemented into agent-based models which enable explanatory insights into the multi-scale, dynamical systems they represent.

Another project is ongoing with Peterborough, another fast-growing city, on sustainable transport and measures to assess progress to targets.

Facilities used

Global, national and local evidence and trends from published reports, surveys and assessments such as CCRA (Climate Change Risk Assessment) were reviewed and supplemented by up-to-date interviews with experts.