Self Evaluation Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering

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Evaluation of Norwegian Research in Engineering Science

Self Evaluation
Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology
Norwegian University of Science and Technology



  1. Department level

  1. Organisation of the department

The department is presently organized as shown below. The presentation will be given on department group level with some references to research group level.

The three department groups reflect the three economic sectors (public and industrial) with which the department interacts:

  • The hydraulic engineering group mainly covering the hydropower sector

  • The water and wastewater engineering group mainly covering the water and wastewater sector

  • The solid waste and recycling group mainly covering the solid waste sector

The department is one of the oldest ones at NTNU (originally named Hydraulic Engineering) as it was one of the original departments when NTH (Norwegian Institute of Technology) was started in 1910. Later several other civil engineering departments were formed as spin offs. It has remained organized under civil engineering (various organizational structures and names) at NTH and later NTNU (from 1996) until the recent reorganization of NTNU when it became a department under the Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology (IVT) in 2002. The Norwegian name of the department was then changed from Hydraulic engineering to Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering that had been the name of the department in English since long. The name change reflected both the fact that environmental engineering disciplines have been a considerable part of the activity since the late 1960’ties and the fact that the hydraulic engineering activity has been more and more oriented towards environmental issues. The hydraulic engineering group is thus the oldest one.

The water and wastewater group was started around 1965 with one associate professorship (dosent) (in water and wastewater engineering). Its activity increased especially during the seventies as a consequence of the awareness of environmental issues when a full professorship (1973) of water and wastewater engineering and an associate professorship (dosent) in water and wastewater treatment (1975) were established. The solid waste engineering group is the youngest and the smallest one. The solid waste field was covered from 1983 by an adjunct professorship. A full professorship was established as a consequence of the initiation of an interfaculty study program in industrial ecology in 1998.

2. Leadership of the research
Prof. Hallvard Ødegaard is at this time the head of the department and prof Haakon Støle deputy head. They form the leader group of the department together with the heads of the department groups:

  • The hydraulic engineering group: assoc. prof. Knut Alfredsen

  • The water and wastewater engineering group : prof. Wolfgang Schilling

  • The solid waste engineering and recycling group : prof. Helge Brattebø

A level under the department group level is indicated in the chart, called the research group level. It reflects the areas in which full professorships have been established.
In the hydraulic engineering group, the division between the two research groups is not strong – they operate more or less as a joint group. The areas of activity can, however, be divided in hydraulics- and hydraulic structures (the professorship in hydraulic engineering – presently occupied by prof. Haakon Støle) and a hydrology and water resources planning (the professorship in hydrology and water resources planning – presently occupied by prof. Aanund Killingtveit). Two new field of research activity are emerging – computational fluid dynamics (CFD) headed by prof. Nils Reidar Olsen (personal professorship) and eco-hydraulics (biohabitat influence on rivers as a consequence of river regulations), headed by associate prof. Knut Alfredsen.
In the water and wastewater engineering group there is a clearer organizational division of the research activity in two research groups, partly due to the fact that each of these groups has a very strong relationship to corresponding groups in the SINTEF department of water and wastewater. As will be dealt with in more detail later (under research group level), the two professors occupying the full professorships in water and wastewater engineering, prof. Wolfgang Schilling (in water and wastewater systems) and prof. Hallvard Ødegaard (in water and wastewater treatment) are both co-leaders of the joint research groups of IVM and SINTEF in the respective areas of research (i.e. Systems and Treatment). Prof. Liv Fiksdals (personal professorship) research in water chemistry and environmental hygiene as well as assoc. prof. TorOve Leiknes’ research on membrane processes lie within the water treatment group. The research of assoc. prof. Sveinn Thorolfsson (urban hydrology in cold climates) lies within the water and wastewater systems group.
The solid waste and recycling group is a quite small one, and there is no division into research groups. Since the group has only one full-time staff member (prof. Helge Brattebø), who is the leader of the industrial ecology program at NTNU, the research in the group (carried out by Brattebø and his PhD-students) is mainly oriented towards the interfaculty program of industrial ecology.
Resources to the department through the university system (i.e. from the central level or from the faculty level) are allocated in the department by the department head using the department leader group as advisers. It is a fact that most of the resources arriving this way are the salaries for the staff and running costs and very little (< 5 %) can be allocated in the budget for specific research activities. Proposals for research scholarships (PhD’s and post doc’s), scientific equipment and strategic research projects are called for through the department groups and the leadership make priorities and forward these to the faculty level where decisions are taken with respect to allocation to the different departments. The largest part of the research resources is collected by the research groups or the individual researchers through research grants from NFR or other national or international (like EU) contributors or from the industry directly (see fact sheet).

3. The strengths and weaknesses of the department

  • The competence of the scientific staff covers at this time well the areas we want to serve in hydraulic engineering and water and wastewater engineering areas

  • The research activity and quality in these two groups is good – in some sub-areas excellent

  • The solid waste engineering group is too small to have a similar standing. The work done is good, but an increase in the research activity in this area would be beneficial on the department level

  • The research activity of the department is quite internationally oriented. Several of the staff members are recognized as international experts in their areas of expertise

  • The publication frequency is among the highest per staff member in the faculty

  • The close relationship to SINTEF (especially in the water and wastewater field) yields overcritical group sizes compared to European standards

  • There is a fair amount of basic research activity even though the major part of the research is applied and/or industrially oriented (which we consider an advantage)

  • Most of the staff is strongly engaged in research even though some more than others


  • The department is limited in its research by lack of resources for new experimental equipment as well as for the maintenance of the equipment that we already have

  • The research of the department is also limited by the lack of human resources for experimental technical assistance (laboratory and workshop personnel)


  • The strong relationship with SINTEF (especially with department of water and wastewater) is considered to be of great importance to the research activity. It increases the width and depth of competence within the group, it increases the general activity, it makes transfer of basic to applied research more easy and smooth and it brings research staff easier in contact with the industry etc.

  • The relationship to SINTEF in the area of hydraulic engineering has decreased since SINTEF reorganized in 2000. Before this time the Norwegian Hydrotechnical Laboratories (NHL), with premises joint with our department, was part of SINTEF. After SINTEF reorganized, NHL disappeared as an institution even though several groups (e.g. the water and wastewater department) remained within SINTEF Civil and environmental engineering and later on SINTEF Chemistry. The hydrology activity of SINTEF moved to SINTEF Energy research (SEFAS) while the hydraulic activity more or less vanished from SINTEF (people moved to industry, consulting companies or to our department). A new link is made to SEFAS but the intensity of cooperation between our department and SINTEF in the hydraulic engineering area has decreased.

  • SINTEF NHL had another strong link to a group in the former NTNU Civil and environmental engineering faculty (now part of the IVT faculty), i.e. to the marine engineering group (especially the port engineering part of that group). The SINTEF part of the port engineering activity remained at the NHL premises (shared with our department) and we believe therefore that it would have been beneficial if the marine engineering group of our faculty joined forces with our department since laboratory facilities as well as workshop is shared with us. When NTNU was reorganized and the new IVT faculty was formed in 2002, the marine engineering group was, however, transferred from Department of constructions to Department of civil engineering and transport.

4. Strategy and plans for the future
The department expects that the research profile as reflected in the three department groups will be maintained in the future. If there would be a major cut (> 20 %) in the resources to the department, one would have to consider our activity in solid waste engineering that may be said to be of sub-critical size at this. However, since this is an important sector in society we neither expect nor plan for such a development. If we should receive a major increase in resources, we would, on the contrary, strengthen the solid waste group and also consider establishing a group in aquaculture engineering especially oriented towards the use of freshwater in aquaculture. The age distribution of the senior department staff is too much shifted to high age at this time. A renewal has begun, especially in the hydraulic engineering group. In the water and wastewater engineering group 3 of the senior staff is over 57 years and will have to be replaced within 5-10 years.
Hydraulic engineering

Norway is the biggest hydropower producer in Europe and number 6 worldwide and the completely dominating electricity source in Norway is hydropower. This situation will remain in the foreseeable future even though other energy sources like gas power, wind power and salinity power will increase during the coming years. The hydropower sector is undergoing a generation shift at the time and new competence in the hydraulic and hydrology engineering field will be required especially in order to increase efficiency of the hydraulic systems in upgrading existing hydro power plants. It is estimated that the power companies in Norway and Sweden will invest about 3 billion NOK in the hydropower sector before 2010. EU is planning to increase the production of electricity from renewable sources with 320 TWh before 2015. A large part of this is expected to be hydropower. NTNU has selected “Energy and environment” as a strategic field.

Developing countries are seeking Norwegian hydropower expertise when developing their own hydropower which implies the resolve of new technical challenges. The internationally oriented research is in agreement with the department strategy in this area and is the reason for the department to offer an international MSc program in Hydropower development (HPD) with 17 international candidates per year. The department has played an important role in establishing the International Centre for Hydropower (ICH) in Trondheim and is a key partner in the activities of ICH. To develop the role of Trondheim as a hydropower centre of excellence in the future requires, however, strengthening and renewal of the laboratory and a closer coordination with all the other hydropower related research environments at NTNU. The hydraulics laboratory activities will also be strengthened considerably if the resources should increase to secure that NTNU can serve as a host for a national hydraulics laboratory in Norway.

The climatic changes may lead to more extreme precipitation and need for more research in hydrology, flood analysis, flood control and habitat changes. Two growing research areas are computational fluid dynamics applied to rivers and lakes and eco-hydraulics, the application of hydraulics and hydrology in the analysis of the interaction between the environment and the aquatic ecosystem. Both of these activities require an increase in advanced computing capacity and field measurement technology.

Water and wastewater engineering

The value of the Norwegian water and wastewater infrastructure is calculated to be around 400 billion NOK. It is estimated that the renewal rate has to be more than doubled in order to prevent accelerating deterioration of this infrastructure. The research in order to meet this challenge has to be increased. At this time Norway does not fully comply with the EU-directives concerning water and wastewater plants (which is required through an agreement between Norway and EU). New water and wastewater systems as well as treatment plants will be required in the years to come. Our department is recognized as being in the research front when it comes to development of new processes for water and wastewater treatment. This has lead to creation of Norwegian companies operating world wide based on process developed in our department (in cooperation with SINTEF).

Due to its climatic situation Norway has favourable conditions for cold climate research. Our activities in cold climate urban hydrology have increased and will continue so, making us one of the few centres worldwide focusing on this area.
More emphasis will be given to risk analysis and risk management in both the water and wastewater sector. The research is building up for instance on treatment methods as hygienic barriers (membrane processes etc) and urban flooding analysis and mitigation in order to meet the need for competence in risk analysis and risk management. The consequences of climate change (more frequent urban flooding, increase in humic substances in natural waters etc) will also represent a challenge in the future.
It is expected that the competence of the group will play a more prominent role than today in two of the most important industrial sectors in Norway, the oil sector and the aquaculture sector. In the oil sector improved treatment of produced water (before discharge to the sea) is asked for and our department has competence in this area. In the aquaculture sector there is likewise a need for water treatment competence both for land-based and well as sea-based operation.

Solid waste engineering and recycling

It is expected that the present trend of developing the area from the traditional municipal solid waste handling towards the more systems oriented area of industrial ecology will continue and be strengthened. The scientific focus will be turned towards systems analysis (including LCA), producer responsibility, recycling of resources and environmental effects. This development is backed up by the faculty (industrial ecology).

5. Infrastructure (including major pieces of equipment)
Hydraulic laboratories

The large hydraulic laboratory (3300 m2) has been run in cooperation with the former SINTEF NHL. As the SINTEF activity has decreased, the department has concentrated on that part of the laboratory (600 m2) that belongs to the department. As mentioned above the department is working on raising the resources to upgrade this part of the laboratory and update the research facilities to a modern and well equipped hydraulic laboratory. Priority will be given to the following areas: sedimentation and sediment handling, dam safety, rehabilitation and upgrading of hydropower systems and field measurement in rivers, lakes and power systems. In laboratory operation, we have close cooperation with Hydro Lab in Nepal and the Water Power Laboratory at NTNU as well as the GE Hydro Lab in Trondheim.

Hydrology research fields

The department is operating two hydrology research fields both of them strongly oriented towards cold climate (snow) hydrology. The Sagelva hydrology research field covers 9.16 km2 of area of the Jonsvatnet catchments east of Trondheim and is equipped with two climate stations and four discharge measurement stations. The research field has been in operation since 1969. Both climate stations are equipped with precipitation gauges and sensors for wind, temperature and humidity. For snow measurements there are a snow melt gauge and a snow pillow. In addition manual snow surveys are carried out several times each winter at certain locations in the catchments. Data are transmitted by radio to the department and stored in a database system. Data from Sagelva is used in research on PhD- and MSc-level and as a part of lecturing in hydrology.

The Risvollan urban hydrology research field (field laboratory) is a 20 hectares residential area situated in one of the suburbs of Trondheim that was put in operation in 1986. Outdoor it is equipped with instruments for measuring precipitation, snow melt rate, temperature in air and ground, solar radiation, wind velocity and relative air humidity. It includes also small building housing equipment for storm water flow, wastewater flow and snow melt as well as data loggers and PC-based telemetric data transmission. All parameters are recorded with 2 minutes resolution. The measuring station is run in cooperation with Trondheim municipality and NVE. Snow surveys have been conducted weekly from spring 1994. The snow courses comprise three paths with 30 measuring points. Photo documentation has periodically been carried out from 1986.
The water chemistry laboratory

The water chemistry laboratory (200 m2) is well equipped with instruments for physical/chemical/microbial water quality analysis (including gas chromatograph, spectrophotometers, fluorimeters, total organic carbon analyser, flow injection system, microscopes, and bacterial cultivation). Equipment for advanced inorganic analysis is lacking but the department owns a share of an ICP MS element analyzer that is placed at Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) where the group carries out heavy metal analysis in particular. The laboratory is particularly well equipped with regards to particle analysis (including 2 particle analyzers, for low and high particle size ranges) since this particle separation is an area of priority in the water treatment research. An upgrading of the laboratory was made possible in 1996 through a strategic allocation of resources for scientific equipment connected to the appointment of the water treatment area as a strong point center in NTNU/SINTEF (total investment 2.2 mill NOK). In 2003 the laboratory equipment is being expanded for analysis of hygienic water quality (investment 1 mill NOK) in support of our research on rapid techniques for detection of microorganisms in water and on membrane technology in water treatment, i.e. membrane technology for wastewater reuse as well as membrane technology as hygienic barrier.

The water and wastewater treatment laboratories

The water and wastewater treatment experimental facilities are divided in three locations:

  • Research hall – wastewater: a research hall dedicated to pilot plant studies for wastewater treatment. The hall covers ~100 m2 with a height of ~6 m. Wastewater is pumped into the facility from a nearby public sewer pipe and distributed to the respective pilot plants from a holding tank. The facility includes some permanently installed equipment such as columns (for filtration/bubble columns etc.), a unit to simulate tests in a sewage pipeline, and autoclave. The main activity, however, is based on experiments with pilot- and lab-scale plants primarily used for MSc- and PhD-thesis work. The house was built in 1977 and needs upgrading

  • Research hall - water: a research hall for larger clean water pilot plant studies. The hall is ~ 150 m2 with a height of ~ 6 m. Experimental activity in this facility is restricted to studies of drinking water treatment. Activity is primarily related to MSc- and PhD-thesis studies but is also used for student project assignments and class laboratory exercises. The research hall is also equipped with an isolated room designed for studies of water treatment for aquaculture when disinfection and cleaning of equipment is required. The hall is not originally designed as a laboratory and needs to be upgraded to meet minimum laboratory room standards.

  • Experimental laboratory: a laboratory designed for bench-scale and small pilot plant studies where “simple” analytical work can be done. The laboratory is ~75 m2 with a height of ~5 m. The facility is equipped with a climate control room and a cooling room enabling studies at set temperatures. The room has a laboratory infrastructure including an ozone generator, ovens, furnace and some analytical equipment. The facility is also used for laboratory classes and student project assignments. Upgrading to meet current laboratory room standards is required.

6. The recruitment of researchers
The department does not have any special activities targeting recruitment at the PhD-level except measures taken to increase recruitment more MSc-students. We organize tours for undergraduate students to our research facilities in order to raise their interest in our field. The department offers information/demonstration/ project work for young people, i.e. we have received and offered water related work activities to young people from junior high schools in Trondheim during their so called “work-week”, we host students from the technical college in our water quality laboratory during their project work period, we have been (2003) “advisor” for a school class (4.klasse) who participated in NFR’s “Curious Peter” competition. A new “information package” (e.g. power point presentation, laboratory demonstrations) for school classes is in preparation .
We have been able to attract several women to our PhD-program. 7 out of a total of 28 (i.e. 25 %) of PhD-graduates in the period 1993-2003 were women.
It is not difficult to get candidates in general, but it is difficult to get well-qualified Norwegian candidates. One major reason during the last period is the fact that there has been a reduction in the number of MSc-graduates Civil and environmental engineering program in general and in the area of water and environmental engineering in particular. This trend is now changing and we expect the number of MSc-graduates in water and environmental engineering to be around 30 and those graduating in the international MSc- program in hydropower development to be around 20 in the years to come.
Most of the post doc’s have been financed through NFR. It has not been easy to get post-doc scholarships from the university. This seems to be changing now. One strategy that has been followed in order to keep those finished with their PhD in the research group is to have them employed by SINTEF. Especially in the water and wastewater groups this has been successful. The general difficulty of finding R&D money also for SINTEF has, however, made it difficult to employ new PhD-candidates over the last years. We will in the future put more emphasis on getting post-doc scholarships.

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