Remediation and development of the Manchester Ship Canal and Salford Quays
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentBiological Sciences
Summary Impact TypeEconomic
Research Subject Area(s)
Earth Sciences: Oceanography, Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience
Engineering: Environmental Engineering
Summary of the impact
The 33km Manchester Ship Canal (MSC) was one of the most polluted
waterways in Europe
following the industrial revolution. Ecosystems were destroyed and odorous
prevented the redevelopment and regeneration of the surrounding water
front areas that had an
estimated real estate value of £500m.
The research led by White established the cause and extent of water
pollution in the upper MSC
and Salford Quays. Critically this research allowed evidence based
restoration programmes to be
initiated that have rejuvenated the waterway and Salford Quays areas. This
improvement in water
quality was the essential first step in the long term development of
Salford Quays that has seen
approximately 2,000 homes being built and the arrival of 900 businesses
that employ over 35,000
The impact is based on the work of University of Manchester (UoM)
researchers that took place
from 1993 to date. The key researchers were:
Dr Keith White (Senior Lecturer, 1981 to date; Marine Scientist and
Technical Director of APEM,
1987 to date)
Dr Adrian Rees (PhD student, 1991-1994)
Dr William Bellamy (PhD student, 1994-1997)
Dr Kevin Nash (PhD student, 1999-2003)
Dr Liz Baldwin (PhD student, 2000-2004)
Mr Robert Mansfield (PhD student, 2011 to date)
The aim of the research has been to analyse the extent of pollution and
ecological deterioration in
the MSC and Salford Quays, with a view to informing and implementing
The key steps were as follows:
- Determining the extent of pollution in the River Irwell whose lower
reaches form the MSC.
Particular attention was given to the interactions between the chemistry
of the sediments and
water column, the relative importance of changes in flow and the impact
of the tributaries on
water quality. The main conclusions were that the lower Irwell/MSC was
subject to significant
organic pollution from sewage during storm water overflows and the
release of pollutants from
smaller tributaries .
- Identifying the concentration of metals and other contaminants in the
sediment layer before
and after intervention. UoM researchers showed that the installation of
Helixor mixing systems
at Salford Quays successfully prevented stratification and release of
pollutants from the
sediments, reduced anoxia, decreased orthophosphate and ammonia
controlled algal blooms [2,3].
- Demonstrating that the homogenous conditions in the water basins
restricted biodiversity . A
programme of habitat diversification and introduction of fish was
devised and successfully
created a more complex foodweb . Biodiversity has increased, for
example there has been
an increase from 9 to 50 invertebrate taxa following the improvements in
water quality and
On-going research is aimed at analysing ecological improvements as the
upper MSC recovers
from pollution, with a view to applying effective remediation measures to
the entire length of the
References to the research
The research has been published in high quality books and journals.
References 1 and 3 in
particular are internationally recognised.
1. Rees, A., White, K. N. (1993) Impact of combined sewer
overflows on the water quality of an
urban watercourse. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management. 8
DOI:10.1002/rrr.3450080112. Journal Article.
2. Hendry, K., Webb, S. F., White, K. N. (1993) Water quality and
urban regeneration: a case
study of the central Mersey basin. In: Urban Waterside Regeneration:
Problems and Prospects.
(ed: White, K N, Bellinger, E G, Saul, A J Symes, M & Hendry, K) Ellis
Chapter 31. 271-282. Book Chapter. Available on Request (AOR)
3. Williams, A. E., Waterfall, R. J., White, K. N, Hendry, K.
(2010) Manchester Ship Canal and
Salford Quays: industrial legacy and ecological restoration. In: Ecology
of Industrial Pollution
(ed: Batty, L C & Hallberg, K B). Cambridge University Press. 276-308.
Book Chapter. AOR
4. White, K. N., Hendry, K., Bellinger, E. G. (1993) Ecological
change as a consequence of water
quality improvements at Salford Quays. In: Urban Waterside Regeneration:
Prospects. (ed: White, K N, Bellinger, E G, Saul, A J Symes, M &
Hendry, K) Ellis Horwood,
Chichester. Chapter 40. 366-376. Book Chapter. AOR
5. Hendry, K., Bellamy, W. M., White, K. N. (1997) Environmental
improvements to enhance and
develop freshwater fisheries — Salford Quays, a UK case study. In:
Fisheries and the
Environment: Beyond 2000 (eds. B. Japar Sidik, F. M. Yusoff, M.S, Mohd
Zaki and T. Petr).
Universiti Putra Malaysai, Serdang, Malaysia. 121-131. Book Chapter. AOR
Details of the impact
The MSC was one of the busiest waterways in Europe during the industrial
revolution. It was
polluted by industrial discharges, sewage overflows, surface water runoff
and tributaries. Salmon
disappeared from the Irwell in the 1850s and rowing races were abandoned
in the 1970s. Despite
the real estate value of the disused docks being estimated at around
£500m, development was
prevented by unpleasant odours, bubbling gas and sediment rafts.
Pathways to impact
White's research into water pollution and biodiversity has been translated
into practical solutions
for the remediation of contaminated urban waterways. The mechanism for
this quick and effective
translation is an on-going collaboration with the spin-out company, APEM
(Aquatic Pollution and
Environmental Monitoring). APEM was founded at UoM in 1987 by White's
Associate, Hendry [A]. The annual turnover of APEM is ~£8m, making it one
of the largest
independent aquatic science consultancies in Europe [B]. White is a
Director and Scientist at the
APEM was commissioned to monitor, manage and advise on water quality and
ecology in Salford
Quays and the MSC. The work started in 1987 and is continuing to have a
major impact on the
area today (see review in ) with critical input from UoM researchers.
Reach and significance of the impact
Providing an evidence base for effective water remediation
APEM's continuing commercial activities relating to water quality
management are underpinned by
research led by White. From 1993 to date, research conducted by White has
been influential in
directing APEM's research strategy and enabling the realisation of
environmental and social
benefits, with joint projects and co-supervised students playing a key
role. Specific examples are
- Bellamy, under the supervision of White, showed that `top down'
control by planktonic and
benthic biota are key factors in improving water quality in Salford
Quays by filtering out algae
, and this research was taken forward by APEM. The improvements
resulted in the
introduction of a successful recreational fishery. Salford Friendly
Angling Society, with over 300
members, is currently bidding for the fishing rights.
- White supervised Nash, whose research on the role of water quality in
determining coarse fish
population dynamics was published as a report to the Environment Agency,
Campaign and United Utilities [C]. Nash showed that water quality in the
lower River Irwell and
upper MSC had profound effects on the size and health of fish stocks.
- An industrial placement student, Whitehead (Sep 2012 - Aug 2013) has
results examining metal contamination in fish populations. This data has
been used by APEM to
assess the level trace metal contamination in the lower River Irwell and
- Mansfield is currently working with APEM to examine past data
collected by the company that
have identified, quantified and modelled the key drivers (`bottom-up'
control via the nutrient
phosphate and `top-down' control via filtration) of the changing aquatic
community structure in
Salford Quays, and has provided insights into the reasons for the
current favourable water
quality and ecology. These findings will be used by APEM and others to
inform water quality
and ecological management of similar artificial and re-engineered
The long and productive collaboration between APEM and White is
demonstrated by APEM having
sponsored/directly funded five PhD students and co-supervised over 20 MSc
projects [B]. APEM
hosts up to two industrial placement students per year from UoM, where
students are paid a salary
and act as members of staff for 12 months.
The Chairman of the Mersey Basin Campaign states, "We can verify that
the solutions pioneered
by researchers at APEM and the University of Manchester have actively
led to significant
improvements in water quality at Salford Quays and the ecological
recovery of the area" [D].
The Assistant Director of Planning at Salford City Council also verifies
that, "The research
conducted by APEM and the University of Manchester which produced
practical solutions... has
been fundamental to the area's success" [E].
The initial Water Quarter Improvement Programme (WQIP, 1987) involved
headwaters of the MSC and was funded by North West Water (£3.5m) and
(£0.5m), with input from the Mersey Basin Campaign, United Utilities, MG
Gases and APEM [F]. A
key part of the WQIP involved injecting oxygen into the MSC and monitoring
resulting water quality
improvements. In 2012 this was replaced with Helixor mixers (following
success in Salford Quays)
and APEM was commissioned to assess their efficacy in maintaining water
This system is now being extended to the whole 33km MSC [B].
As a result of the WQIP, a thriving fish and invertebrate community
developed and 22km of the
MSC has been designated a cyprinid fishery under the Freshwater Fisheries
(78/659/EEC). At one point, the dock basins contained the fastest growing
fish population in the
UK [B]. Work is on-going to achieve FFD standards further along the MSC.
Oxygen levels at Salford Quays are now sufficient to meet the European
Economic and commercial impact on Salford Quays:
The cleaner waterways have been absolutely critical in attracting £185m of
public investment in the
Salford Quays area, levering £1,405m of private investment [E]. This
includes £7m from United
Utilities, over £1m from Salford City Council, £400k from the Heritage
Lottery Fund and £100k from
the Mersey Basin Campaign [B]. As a result of the water quality
improvements, homes for 6,000
people have been built and 900 businesses have located on Salford Quays,
35,000 people (in contrast to the 1,000 people employed 20 years ago) [E].
From being a polluted wasteland, Salford Quays is now a hub of culture,
retail and tourism. It hosts
attractions such as the Lowry Theatre, the Imperial War Museum and the
Centre that hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games Triathlon [B].
MediaCityUK has recently been developed on Salford Quays and the
projected public and private
investment is approximately £800m for 2005-2020 [F]. MediaCityUK is
designed around the
specific needs of the media and creative industries and from Spring 2012
is home to the BBC, ITV,
University of Salford, Lowry Outlet Shopping and over 80 small businesses.
Phase One of
MediaCityUK is a 36-acre site, including 65,032 2
office space, 7,432 2 of retail and leisure
space, 378 apartments, a new tram terminus and a public area for 5,000
Social and cultural impact:
The rejuvenation of the MSC and Salford Quays has provided a high quality
and pleasant living
environment for residents and recreational facilities for the community.
Indeed, Salford Quays
attracts well over 3million visitors per year [E].
European `Blue Flag' standards of water purity have been recorded at
Salford Quays, allowing
international sports events such as triathlons to take place [B]. From
2010 to date, the site hosts
the annual Great Manchester Swim event which is part of the `Great Swim'
open water swim
series) [H]. Also, the Water Sports Centre at Salford Quays is a well-used
facility and a base for
Agecroft Rowing Club which includes Olympic rowers [E].
Neighbouring socially deprived areas such as Ordsall, Langworthy and
Trafford Park benefit from
substantially increased levels of investment in the Salford Quays area
Informing other regeneration programmes:
The successful regeneration of the waterways at Salford Quays has been
mirrored on the Trafford
bank of the MSC, which encompasses the football and cricket grounds of Old
Trafford, which are
now a distinct part of Greater Manchester. Salford City Council
acknowledges that, `APEM and the
University of Manchester's role ... has been vital' [E].
It is hoped that the water remediation strategy at Salford Quays and the
upper MSC will be applied
to the whole 33km length of the MSC in 2015, to facilitate compliance with
the Water Framework
Furthermore, the results from the Salford Quays and the MSC projects have
set the precedent for
the regeneration and redevelopment of other dock and urban waterways,
Docklands, Liverpool Docks and Cardiff Bay [B].
Sources to corroborate the impact
describing the history, current team membership, ongoing projects &
locations of UK offices.
B. Letter from Managing Director of APEM, corroborating the
relationship with the University of
Manchester and the nature and impacts of the research.
C. Nash, K. T., White K. N., Henry, I. C. The Effect of Water Quality on
Coarse Fish Productivity
and Movement in the Lower River Irwell and Upper Manchester Ship Canal: A
recovering from historical pollution. R&D Technical Report W2-030/TR,
Commissioned by the Environment Agency. ISBN No. 1 85729 956.
D. Letter from Chair of Mersey Basin Campaign (now Healthy Waterways
Trust), corroborating the
investment in Salford Quays and the improvements to water quality.
E. Letter from Assistant Director Planning, Salford City Council, corroborating
the impact of the
research on Salford Quays and investment in the area.
Salford Quays regeneration milestones, the
story of the regeneration project. Councillor Antrobus, July 2008. History
of Salford Quays.
Overview of facilities at MediaCityUK.
Great Manchester Swim hosted at