Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Studentship Opportunities for 2016

Adaptive water resources planning to manage future risks to London’s water supply

Managing water supplies in a changing climate is a growing challenge. The uncertainty associated with future rainfall, river flows, water quality and groundwater availability makes it difficult to plan for the future with any degree of certainty. Under the circumstances, it may be desirable to adopt flexible strategies that keep options open for the future. There is a desire to develop ‘adaptation pathways’ for water resources management systems. Adaptation pathways demonstrate the possible sequences of options that might be adopted to cope with a wide range of possible future conditions.

The Environmental Change Institute in the University of Oxford has developed advanced methodologies for risk assessment of water resource systems and for decision making under uncertainty. This project will combine these methodologies in order to develop and demonstrate new methodology for water resources planning. The research will focus upon the Thames river basin, where climate change and increasing demand for water are challenging water supplies.

The research will combine several cutting-edge research areas in order to develop and integrated approach to decision making for the Thames:

  1. Statistical analysis of hydrological variability (in surface and groundwater) in order to estimate the probabilities of droughts on a range of scales.
  2. Analysis of the risks of harmful water quality, which may jeopardise water supplies.
  3. Simulation modelling of the water supply infrastructure in order to estimate the probabilities of water shortage.
  4. Development of decision strategies and pathways that ensure that risks to the water supply system are always within the bounds of tolerability.

The project will be supervised by Prof Jim Hall.

The project will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, physical or environmental sciences. Students with a background in hydrology and water resources would be particularly suitable. Applicants should have a first class undergraduate degree in any of the above subjects or have (or be projected to achieve) a distinction in a Master’s degree in a relevant subject.

UK and EU applicants will be eligible for funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (subject to confirmation), with additional financial support from Thames Water through a CASE award.

In the first instance applicants should send a CV and covering letter to Professor Jim Hall. The closing date for applications is 25 January 2016. A selection interview will be held in Oxford on 15 February 2016. Informal enquiries can be directed to jim.hall@eci.ox.ac.uk.

Please note that the successful candidate will then need to submit an application to the University of Oxford before 10th March. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

Download full research proposal.