School of Civil Engineering and Surveying


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Professor John Williams

  • Qualifications: BSc PhD MCIWEM CWEM CEnv FHEA
  • Role Title: Professor of Environmental Technology
  • Address: Portland Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth PO1 3AH UK
  • Telephone: +44 (0)23 9284 2404
  • Email:
  • Department: School of Civil Engineering and Surveying
  • Faculty: Faculty of Technology


After completing a BSc in Resources Science at Kingston, I came to Portsmouth Polytechnic as a PhD student in 1988 to study the use of reed beds for sewage treatment in the UK and Egypt. I then stayed in Portsmouth, during which time I've had a range of roles, first as a post-doctoral researcher, then a lecturer, senior lecturer and principal lecturer.

I mainly teach water engineering related subjects, but have also taught mathematics, sustainable design and research methods. I have a broad interest in sewage treatment and have worked on international research projects in Egypt, Brazil, Colombia and Greece. I have also made study trips to countries in Africa and Asia, with visits to sewage works always top of my 'must see' list.

As the Research Coordinator for the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, I deal with PhD admissions and facilitate the development of research within the School.

Teaching Responsibilities

My main research interest is in wastewater treatment and runoff management to reduce pollution of rivers and coastal areas. We have a field station at a local sewage works where we work with industry to develop new and improved water treatment technologies.

I've worked on research projects with a range project partners. For example:

  • The fate of emerging pollutants, such as phthalates and pharmaceuticals, during wastewater treatment, most recently with AstraZeneca
  • Package plant development with companies such as WPL Ltd
  • Fat, Oil and Grease (FOG) deposits in sewers, in collaboration with WRc PLC and water utilities

We are currently working with Southern Water to develop an Innovation Hub at our field station focussing on the problems faced by small rural sewage works.

My other interest is using 'green' infrastructure in the form of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to manage runoff from roads and housing in order to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Projects have included:A34 Newbury Bypass road runoff water quality management in vegetated detention ponds with Mott MacDonald

A34 Newbury Bypass road runoff water quality management in vegetated detention ponds with Mott MacDonald
SuDS for housing developments with Mayer Brown Ltd
PrOSuDS: NERC Green Infrastructure Innovation project to develop standard valuation tools for SuDS

I also work on waste management and land remediation.

I have supervised 21 PhD projects to completion and welcome applications for research degrees in any of my areas of expertise. I'm the Research and Research Degrees Coordinator for Civil Engineering and Surveying, as such I am the first point of contact for potential industrial partners and PhD students in all areas of Civil Engineering and Surveying.


My PhD on constructed wetlands focussed on the removal of pathogenic microorganisms and the activity of nitrogen cycling bacteria in constructed wetlands. My research interest in sewage treatment has continued with various studies of novel wastewater treatment systems. This has extended to considering the fate of compounds, such as phthalates and pharmaceuticals, in wastewater treatment.

My interest in the use of wetlands, ponds and plants in engineered systems has led me to study the management of pollution from urban and road runoff in Sustainable Drainage systems. I have also undertaken projects examining the accumulation mechanisms of fat deposits in sewers and the potential of wetland plants to phytoremediate contaminated sediments.

My main research expertise is in developing the understanding of the treatment mechanisms in engineered systems to improve design and operation. This is through a combination of skills in environmental science, hydrology and analysis of complex multivariate data sets, often in collaboration with chemists and microbiologists. I also have an interest in Sustainability Assessment and environmental decision making.

I have supervised 15 successful PhD students (8 as first supervisor), published over 20 journal papers, made numerous conference presentations and secured over £800k of external income.


Research profile

Explore my research profile, publications and activities on the Portsmouth Research Portal

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