Photograph of Professor David Kay.Professor David Kay



Office: C14
Phone: +44 (0)1570 423 565
Fax: +44 (0)1570 423 565


  • Member of the IGES Advisory Committee
  • Head of Centre for Research into Environment and Health

Teaching Areas

Modules Taught

Module coordinator for:

  • Water Quality And Health (EA30810)
  • Water Quality And Health (EA30810)

Contributes to:

  • Advanced Research Skills (EAM1120)


Group Affiliation

Research Interests

Catchment microbial dynamics and modelling has formed the core of our team's research agenda since my own PhD programme in the late 1970s. Modelling fluxes of indicator bacteria and pathogens to places where people come into contact with them is important for the management of bathing and shellfish harvesting waters and, to a lesser extent, where drinking water is abstracted. In environmental modelling terms catchment microbial dynamics have received much less research attention than, for example, the nutrient parameters. However, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), published in 2000, now places a legal requirement on the regulators to manage both 'point' and 'diffuse' sources of microbial pollution to achieve 'good' status in 'protected areas' such as bathing waters and shellfish harvesting areas. This has created a new imperative for the academic community to develop microbial modelling. In 2004, we completed the first bacterial modelling study on the UK's sentinel research catchment for WFD implementation, the Ribble. The next 'big' question once we have reliable modelling tools is to assess the impacts of potential 'remedial' measures in reducing microbial flux to protected areas. The first UK studies in this area were completed in 2005 in Scotland. In these investigations we were able to assess the impacts of farm-based measures such as fencing streams and/or dirty water control on total catchment fluxes. The objective here is to use the scientific data to inform the policy makers now designing new instruments for the support of the farming community as we move away from 'production based' payments towards a 'single farm payment' following the mid term review of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2003. A further 'big' question arising as we seek to understand the impacts on marine and lacustrine nearshore waters is how we link the 'catchment flux' models with 'nearshore hydrodynamic' models. The latter have undergone considerable improvement in recent years which was needed to provide accurate prediction in shallow waters. We have developed a series of linked models with our colleagues in Cardiff University (Professor Roger Falconer's team) in which we have incorporated for the first time 'real time' decay coefficients. These modelling studies were supported by NERC, EPSRC, EU and Environment Agency funding.

Recreational and drinking water epidemiology is the second major theme of our group's work. This has developed from the catchment microbial dynamics and seeks to quantify the actual health effects when people come into contact with ‘environmental’ waters. With medical colleagues such as Dr Ros Stanwell Smith and Dr Roland Salmon, we developed a new protocol using a ‘semi-blind randomised’ trial using healthy adult volunteers. This protocol has been adopted by the WHO and was replicated in recent studies funded by the German Government. We have now completed (Sept 2007) further EU FP6 funded epidemiological studies in Mediterranean and Hungarian waters employing this protocol. US researchers in Florida have also applied the protocol using our questionnaires.

The results from our original UK studies were selected by a WHO expert panel to form the basis of the new WHO guidelines for recreational waters published in 2003. These Guidelines were also informed by the work on catchment microbial dynamics outlined above which was presented at a meeting of the WHO in Farnham in 2002. This led to a new type of regulation which, put simply, incorporates ‘discounting’ of results when a compliance area is impacted by ‘natural’ fluxes of bacteria from catchment systems which are not caused by sewage spills. This approach has also been incorporated into an amended EU Bathing Water Directive published in 2006. Thus, the catchment microbial dynamics and epidemiology have together impacted directly on the international policy debate and formed the scientific evidence-base for much of the new WHO and EU standards. In addition to the current epidemiological field studies in Europe, we are developing new molecular methods of viral pathogen enumeration in recreational waters, through EU FP6 funding. The EU FP6 projects coordinated through Aberystwyth represent a research agenda defined in Article 14 of the 2006 Bathing Water Directive. They have been commissioned to provide the evidence-base for a report from the Commission to the EU Parliament in 2008 which will address the potential for virus measurements and new epidemiological data for bathing beach management. This research is led from Aberystwyth.

Our close collaboration with WHO, USEPA, CDC and World Bank scientists since 1989 has also led to publications on risk assessment from water and sanitation, problems of chemical exposures and global disease burden assessment. Our team edited the recent WHO synthesis text on health risk assessment and co-authored five chapters. This capacity in the emerging science of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) has formed the basis of a further collaboration with scientists at Cardiff University Medical School (Professor Ian Matthews) Birmingham University (Professor Roy Harrison) and the University of East Anglia (Dr Alan Bond). This consortium has, since 2001, provided over 100 separate HIAs for the Environment Agency ranging from incineration through to BSE prion risks, the latter report forming the EA evidence on environmental transmission to the national SEAC committee in 2005. We are further developing the theory and application of HIA within three separate EPSRC-funded projects covering, sustainable water systems, in new development, riverine flooding, and sewer spills.

Research Income

David Kay’s HESA research spend returned by Aberystwyth Jan 2001- July 2007

Central Government £140,000
EC Government £1,169,221
EU Other sources  
Overseas other sources (e.g. WHO) £328,566
Research Councils £540,402
UK Charity  
UK Industry £1,707,966
UK other sources £92,395
Total £3,978,949


The team of full-time Aberystwyth University staff working in these areas since 2001 include:

  • Mr Daniel Bennett
  • Mr Thomas Chibnall
  • Dr Lorna Fewtrell
  • Mrs Paula Hopkins
  • Mr Matthew Hopkins
  • Mr Nigel Hollett
  • Mr Chris Kay
  • Mr Duncan McDonald
  • Dr Keren Smith
  • Dr Carl Stapleton
  • Dr Mark Wyer
  • Dr Peter Wyn-Jones

Working closely with our team of associates including

  • Dr David Casemore (CREH Analytical, Leeds, UK)
  • Dr Rachel Chalmers (HPa, National Cryptosporidium Reference Unit, Swansea, UK)
  • Dr John Crowther (University of Wales Lampeter, UK)
  • Dr Tony Edwards (Independent Consultant, Aberdeenshire, UK)
  • Ms Carol Francis (CREH Analytical, Leeds, UK)
  • Dr Nick Humphrey (Independent Consultant, Wales, UK)
  • Dr Norman Lowe OBE (Independent Consultant, Wales UK)
  • Mr Huw Morgan (Independent Consultant, Swansea, UK)
  • Prof John Stoner OBE (Honorary Professor IGES, Wales, UK)
  • Dr Chris Stretton (Independent Consultant, Wales, UK)
  • Mr John Watkins (CREH Analytical, Leeds, UK)

Scientific collaborators with whom we hold grants led by Aberystwyth University

  • Professor J Bartram (WHO, Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Dr Alan Bond (Environmental Science, UEA, UK)
  • Dr Richard Carr (WHO, Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Dr Nigel Cook (Central Science Laboratory, York, UK)
  • Professor Alan Elliot (Bangor, Marine Science, UK)
  • Professor Annalaura Carducci (Università di Pisa, Italy)
  • Dr Ingrid Chorus (WaBoLu, UWA, Berlin, Germany)
  • Dr Nigel Cook (Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, UK)
  • Dr Maurizio Divizia (Tor Vergata University, Italy)
  • Dr Al Dufour (USEPA, Cincinnati, USA )
  • Dr Maria Figueras (University of Rovira, Virgili, Spain)
  • Dr Jay Fleisher (Davies, Florida)
  • Dr Christophe Gantzer (University Henri Poincaré, Nancy, France)
  • Dr Andy Gawler (Environment Agency, Exeter, UK)
  • Dr Rosina Girones (University of Barcelona, Spain)
  • Professor Roy Harrison (School of Geography, Birmingham, UK)
  • Professor Christiane Hoeller (Bayerisches Landesamt für Gesundheit und Lebensmittelsicherheit, Germany)
  • Professor Paul Hunter (Medical School, UEA, UK)
  • Dr Ana Maria de Roda Husman, Rijksinstituut loor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, Netherlands)
  • Dr Michael Kadar (National Institute of Hygiene, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Professor Ian Matthews (Cardiff, Medical School, UK)
  • Professor Adrian McDonald (Geography, Leeds, UK)
  • Professor Beata Mizak, (National Veterinary Research Institute, State Research Institute, Poland)
  • Dr Michele Muslillo (Istituto Superiore Sanità, Italy)
  • Professor Maria Nascimento (Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal)
  • Dr George Papageorgiou (State General Laboratory, Cyprus)
  • Dr Juan Lopez Pila (Umweltbundesamt, UWA, Berlin, Germany)
  • Dr Annette Pruss (WHO, Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Dr Roland Salmon (Director, NPHS, CDSC, Cardiff)
  • Dr Jane Sellwood (National Virology Reference Laboratory, HPa, Reading, UK)
  • Dr Marta Vargha (National Institute of Hygiene, Budapest, Hungary)

Research Assistants


David Kay joined IGES in 1998 from Leeds University where he was Executive Director the Leeds Environment Centre. He now leads the Centre For Research into Environment and Health (CREH), an academic research team of approximately 10 staff responsible for almost £4m of HESA spend through Aberystwyth University over the RAE 2008 assessment period. Academic outputs from this funding are seen in over 100 publications and reports since 2001. CREH led development of the microbiological standards for new WHO Guidelines for recreational waters in 2003 and have coordinated two large EUFP6 projects which are still ongoing to inform the Commission on the health effects of bathing water exposures (EPIBATHE) and the potential for new molecular methods of pathogenic virus detection as a regulatory tool in EU bathing waters (VIROBATHE). Significant RCUK funding within the WaND, FRMC and REVISIONS consortia as well as WHO and World Bank resources have been devoted to developing the new discipline of Health Impact Assessment (HIA), resulting in three Research Monographs edited by the CREH team and published by the International Water Association and WHO in 2001 and 2008. David Kay serves on the NERC strategy and grants committee for the new Environment and Human Health programme and has acted as consultant and/or adviser to WHO, EU-DGENV and USEPA on recreational water quality and HIA. He has advised most UK regulators and governments on related areas since 2001.