Assessing impacts on water quality in future British rivers due to environmental changes


Assessing impacts on water quality in future British rivers due to environmental changes


Project Description


Dr Helen He (University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences) – Contact me

Prof. Kevin Hiscock, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr. Richard Cooper, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia


Project background


The percentage of surface waterbodies achieving ‘good’ ecological status in the UK has stagnated at 35% over the past decade. Climate and landuse changes have put further stresses on water quality. Robust assessment of the impacts of the changes on both water quantity and water quality is essential to their sustainable management.

Research methodology

The project contains four major steps.

  1. The relevant water quality data will be collated from the four Demonstration Test Catchments catchments across England. The water quality data along with other input data will be processed for the SWAT+ model (Soil and Water Assessment Tool Plus).
  2. The SWAT+ model will be set up at both a daily and sub-daily time step. They will be calibrated and validated using the historical data.
  3. The UKCP18 12 km regional projections and 2.2 km local projections will be bias corrected and used as forcing inputs for the daily and sub-daily SWAT+ models. To analyse future low-flow environments and the pattern/ sequence of summer hydrological events and how they can lead to increased eutrophication risk, the new Met Office Advanced Meteorology Explorer will also be used to assess impacts of extreme low/high-flow conditions on water quality.
  4. The Landuse scenarios and agricultural management practices will be used to force the SWAT+ models to quantify their impacts of on water quality.



You will gain (1) knowledge in climate change, hydrological and nutrients modelling (2) computer programming, model optimisation algorithms, data processing, and statistical analysis, (3) industry experience through working with the project partner – Anglian Water, (4) training opportunities provided by ARIES.

Person specification

An enthusiastic graduate trained in the field of earth and environmental sciences, geography, civil engineering, applied mathematics or computer science.


  • He Y, Manful D, et al. (2022) Quantification of impacts between 1.5 and 4 °C of global warming on flooding risks in six countries. Climatic Change.
  • Taylor S, Y He and K Hiscock (2016) Modelling the Impacts of Agricultural Management Practices on River Water Quality in Eastern England.
  • Yang X-Y, Q Liu, Y He, et al. (2016) Comparison of daily and sub-daily SWAT models for daily streamflow simulation in the Upper Huai River Basin of China. Stoch. Environ. Res. Risk. Assess., 30:959-972.
  • Cooper R, Hiscock K, Lovett A, Dugdale S, Sünnenberg G & Vrain E (2020) Temporal hydrochemical dynamics of the River Wensum, UK: Observations from long-term high-resolution monitoring (2011–2018). Science of the Total Environment. 724, 138253.
  • Cooper R, Hiscock K, Lovett A, Dugdale S, Sunnenberg, G, Garrard N, Outram F, Hama-Aziz Z, Noble L & Lewis M (2018) Application of high-resolution telemetered sensor technology to develop conceptual models of catchment hydrogeological processes.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2023. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 11th January 2023.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

Apply now