Name of scholarship/program
Effect of climate change on permeable catchment yield using a new integrated assessment methodology
One of the major challenges facing the UK is the impact that climate change is likely to have on water resources. Nowhere is this of greater concern than in SE England, where current climate projections1 indicate that droughts may become more frequent and intense and thus will impose critical constraints on the ability of water companies to meet future demand, particularly given the projected growth in population for this region. Water companies in southern England rely extensively on groundwater obtained from the Chalk, the UKs primary aquifer, along with water abstracted from rivers (surface water). Consequently, calculating catchment yield, in light of environmental constraints in order to maintain aquatic ecosystems, and then assessing how such yields might be impacted by climate change requires an integrated assessment of both groundwater and surface water.
Eligibility and other criteria
The aim of this project is to develop a new methodology for evaluating catchment yield under climate change. This will be achieved through three phases of work. First, new developments in the representation of surface processes in permeable catchments will be coupled with a new conceptual model representation of recharge in the Chalk. This will provide a physically realistic representation of recharge in the Chalk, which will include the effect of slow drainage during summer, something that is current ignored in all Chalk recharge models. Second, new methods on the integration of abstraction wells into distributed groundwater models will be adopted such that there is an automatic feedback on abstractions when groundwater wells are low, as is the case in reality. Third, new methodologies in climate downscaling1, developed in conjunction with UCL, will be implemented in order to give spatially coherent downscaling representation of climate change scenarios. These phases will enable the three key objectives of the project to be achieved. Namely, (1) the development of a consistent physically representative catchment yield model, (2) the implementation of spatially consistent non-stationary climate driving variables both under historic and future projected climates and (3) the construction of a risk framework for evaluating the ability of a catchment to meet future demand. In view of the challenges this work poses, the focus will be a major outcrop of the Chalk. It will include part of the Thames and a major tributary, the Kennet in Berkshire (which is also a key catchment in connection with the protection of important aquatic species). This approach means that the required complexity to represent spatial variability in catchment properties is balanced with an achievable programme of work.
The major outcome from this project will be a new and robust methodology for evaluating catchment yield along with a new framework for evaluating water resource risk under climate change.
The student will need a background in civil engineering, geology or environmental science, preferably with an MSc in hydrology, hydrogeology or water resources, and should be comfortable with mathematical modelling and computer programming.
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full department and project details for further information.
* 01 February 2013
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