Environmental Water Management MSc/MTech/PgCert/PgDip


Water Management Masthead

This course will provide you with the essential skills and knowledge required to solve the complex water management problems our planet faces today. You will learn about hydrology, aquatic ecology, water quality, water resources, flood risk management, environmental regulation and river basin management in eight taught modules. Then you will apply this knowledge to solve real problems for real clients in a group project and to scientific research in an individual thesis project.

What makes this course unique?

  • We are the longest running environmental water management MSc courses in the UK (>30 years), and therefore our graduates are found across the entire water sector, from entry-level scientists to senior managers and regulators.
  • We are a recognised leader in water research, with excellent ties to the water industry, environmental regulators and policy-makers, and conservation charities.
  • Because of these close ties, the course is continually updated to meet the needs of your future employer

This MSc, PgDip and PgCert has been accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.

CIWEM logo

Our graduates are found all over the world addressing issues from vulnerable wildlife habitats to irrigated agriculture and from industry water supply to recreation.

Environmental Water Management MSc Testimonials

Dr Bob Grabowski, Environmental Water Management, Course Director

Watch video in full screen.

Course overview

Around the world, the quality and quantity of water in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and underground is significantly affected by human activity. This can result in habitat degradation, shifts in ecosystem composition and functions, and in the utility of water resources for domestic, industrial or agricultural supply.

This Environmental Water Management postgraduate course provides students with essential skills and knowledge required to solve complex problems involving vulnerable wildlife and their habitats, water supply, irrigated agriculture, industry, recreation and the natural environment. It addresses issues related to water resources, hydrology, flooding and water quality management, habitat creation and management, and the economic and policy environment in which water manager's work.

The course comprises eight assessed modules, a group project and an individual project. The modules include lectures and tutorials, and are assessed through appropriate assignments and examinations. There is an emphasis on analysis of real problems, with practical field work to reinforce learning.

Group project

A unique component of a Cranfield University taught MSc is the Group Project. Group projects are usually sponsored by industry partners and provide students with experience of working on real challenges in the work place along with skills in team working, managing resources and developing reporting and presentation skills. Experience gained is highly valued by both students and prospective employers.

For part-time students a dissertation usually replaces the group design project.

Individual Project

Students select the individual project in consultation with the Course Director. The individual project provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge, and overcome genuine problems. Many of the individual projects are sponsored.


The course comprises eight assessed modules, a group project and an individual project.

The Environmental Water Management course is being relaunched in 2016-17 with new and redesigned modules:
• Drought and Water Scarcity – water supply and allocation (agricultural focus)
• Water in Cities – water supply, treatment reuse and sustainable water design (urban focus)
• Catchment Water Quality – combines the best elements of the Soil Plant Environment Science and Water Quality Monitoring modules.


  • Surface and Groundwater Hydrology
    Module LeaderProfessor Ian Holman - Professor of Integrated Land and Water Management
    • The hydrological cycle and the influence of man
    • Basics of hydraulics: SI Units, properties of fluids, basic mechanics. Hydrostatics: Pressure, pressure measurement, pressure and forces on submerged surfaces. Fluids in motion: Types of flow. Continuity, energy and momentum equations and their applications. Behaviour of a real fluid
    • Precipitation, measurement of precipitation amount and intensity, spatial analysis. Interception and depression storage. Evapotranspiration, Penman approach, actual evapotranspiration. Runoff processes; overland flow, interflow, base flow
    • Runoff measurement; velocity area methods. Structures; hydraulic principles of weirs & flumes. Stage measurement. Rating curves and other methods
    • Groundwater occurrence: porosity, permeability, water holding formations, aquifers, aquicludes, aquifer types, aquifer boundaries, springs and streams in relation to groundwater. Aquifer properties: transmissivity, storage coefficient, significance and typical magnitudes of these properties
    • Groundwater movement: flow lines and equipotentials, natural flow, recharge, flow to wells, drawdown, cone of influence, radius of influence, interference
    • Pumping tests: aquifer and well tests, conduct, measurement of variables, precautions. Pumping test analysis: Theis and Jacob approaches, well efficiency. Dupuit-Forchheimer and Theis assumptions, deviations from these, and alternative methods
    • Groundwater recharge: processes, main methods of estimation.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand the basic hydraulic principles of static and moving water
    • Measure point and estimate areal rainfall. Estimate potential evapotranspiration from weather data and understand the relationship between actual and potential evapotranspiration
    • Differentiate between various runoff processes and identify the conditions under which each are important
    • Choose the appropriate flow measurement technique for different types of watercourses
    • Calculate the discharge of a watercourse by the velocity area method and by use of weirs and flumes
    • Describe and conceptualise the occurrence and movement of groundwater
    • Apply Darcy's law to simple groundwater flow problems
    • Design and carry out groundwater pumping tests, and analyse the resulting data
    • Explain the mechanisms of groundwater recharge in different climatic environments.
  • Water Quality Monitoring
    Module LeaderDr Sean Tyrrel - Director of Education for SEEA
    • Water quality issues: acceptability for human consumption, agricultural use, ecology. Water quality standards
    • Monitoring fundamentals and approaches. Sampling strategies. Sampling methods: surface and groundwater. Quality assurance. Data handling and interpretation
    • Water quality sampling & analysis: practicals / demonstration of selected, basic measurements/methods.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Evaluate water quality data and the monitoring strategies that generate them.
  • Soil Plant Environment Science
    Module LeaderDr Jacqueline Hannam - Senior Research Fellow in Pedology

    • Soil functions and ecosystem goods and services
    • Plant responses to solar radiation, temperature, drought and aeration stress
    • Water potential, flow and rates of movement and infiltration; water release characteristics
    • Soil texture, 3-phase soil model, bulk density, soil moisture content, porosity
    • Soil chemistry: pH, CEC, salinity and the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
    • Soil biology: diversity, and functional importance
    • Soil sampling and soil diversity in the field and landscape (LRR)
    • Agricultural soil management, diffuse pollution and soil erosion (EWM)
    • Land capability for agricultural production, inputs and yields (FCS)

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to….
    1. Describe the role of soil systems in the context of soil functions and ecosystem services
    2. Explain the principal responses of plants to solar radiation, temperature, drought and aeration stress.
    3. Quantify key soil physical properties (i.e. soil texture and structure, bulk density, porosity and volumetric and gravimetric water content)
    4. Explain the transport of water and gases through soil
    5. Assess the role and contribution of soils in nutrient cycling
    6. Describe the main classes of organisms in soil and their functional importance in soil systems.
    7. Evaluate the impact of land management on soil functions for agricultural production (FCS), water quality and regulation (EWM) and land restoration (LRR).

  • Modelling Environmental Processes
    Module LeaderDr Ronald Corstanje - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Informatics
    • Introduction to the wide range of applications of numerical models in environmental sciences. Lectures will cover examples of models applied in climate, soil, water, natural ecosystems and atmosphere and others
    • Overview of the types of models applied; mechanistic, semi-empirical and empirical models. Why these different forms exist, their strengths and weaknesses, how they are applied?
    • Introduction to systems analysis. Overview of the basic concepts and how this relates to model design
    • Introduction to numerical solutions and empirical solutions to model parameterization and calibration
    • Identifying what makes models powerful. Predictions, Scenario and Sensitivity testing
    • Recognizing limits and uncertainties; validating the model. Recognizing the importance of good data
    • Practical applications of environmental models. How this is done, in what programming language?
    • Illustrating the impact of models and model outputs on current policy and scientific discourse from global climate change to local flooding risk.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Examine the major environmental models currently being applied in soil, water, ecosystems and atmosphere
    • Recognize the standard types of numerical models in use in environmental sciences
    • Formulate the generic process of model design, building, calibration and validation and recognize some of the uncertainties introduced in this process
    • Explain how the process of model development might be undertaken in different programming environments
    • Undertake a systems analysis. Relate the model building process to the system under consideration
    • Apply a model of environmental processes into a user friendly environment
    • Demonstrate the impact and relevancy of environmental models to policy and scientific discourse.
  • Aquatic Ecosystems in the Landscape
    Module LeaderDr Andrew Gill - Senior Lecturer
    • Fundamentals of lentic (still water) and lotic (running water) ecosystems
    • Aquatic ecosystem elements within the landscape (e.g. rivers, lakes, floodplains)
    • Spatial scale in aquatic systems
    • Temporal scale in aquatic systems
    • Methods to quantify aquatic systems and their attributes (e.g. river hydromorphology; lake community structure)
    • Human influences on lentic and lotic ecosystems
    • Field sampling techniques and design of survey/monitoring programmes for aquatic ecosystem status.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Explain the key elements of aquatic ecosystems in the landscape
    • Understand the linkage between biological, chemical and hydro-morphological attributes of a water body
    • Discuss the ecological and hydromorphological processes that determine the ecological status of a water body
    • Understand how spatial and temporal scale influence aquatic ecosystem connectivity in the landscape
    • Explain how aquatic organism occurrence, distribution and movement are determined by the aquatic landscape
    • Select the appropriate methods to determine ecological attributes at the relevant scales.
  • Environmental Policy and Risk Governance
    Module LeaderDr Simon Jude - Lecturer
    • Risk governance
    • Problem definition
    • Environmental risk analysis and management
    • Implementation within organisations
    • Environmental policy development and appraisal
    • Policy instruments.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Define the technical, organisational and human features of good environmental risk governance
    • Understand the environmental policy cycle of implementation and the basics of policy development and appraisal
    • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the range of policy instruments, namely regulation, economic, voluntary and other measures
    • Understand the role of environmental risk management in policy development and appraisal
    • Compare and contrast environmental risk management techniques, selecting tools appropriate the character of the risk in question
    • Identify the requirements of risk management maturity and the pre-requisites of good corporate risk governance
    • Contextualise their knowledge in case studies of environmental policy and risk governance
    • Apply their knowledge through a group exercise, developing and appraising policy options to manage environmental risk. 
  • Flood Risk Management
    Module LeaderDr Tim Hess - Reader
    • Introduction. Definition of risk. Roles and responsibilities for flood defence in the UK. Flood risk management
      policy in the UK. Source-Pathway-Receptor model
    • Flood probability. Storm hydrographs and unit hydrographs. Probability and return period analysis of hydrological events
    • Design floods. Estimation of peak flows using Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH) methods
    • Flood impact in urban and rural areas. Depth / damage relationships. Cost - benefit evaluation
    • Engineered solutions. Flood routing and flood alleviation: channel & reservoir routing. Flood banks, channel
      improvements, diversion schemes, flood storage on-stream and off-stream
    • Land management and runoff control. Agricultural land management, Planning control, Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS)
    • Climate change and flood risk.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Select the appropriate method to determine the likelihood of a flow of a given magnitude for ungauged catchments and for catchments with some historical data
    • Critically use the Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH) method to estimate the likelihood of peak flows in ungauged catchments in the UK
    • Evaluate the impacts of alternative channel designs for flood alleviation
    • Understand the technical and non-technical approaches to flood risk management at the catchment scale
    • Understand the current policy for flood risk management in the UK and elsewhere.
  • Integrated River Basin Management
    Module LeaderDr Robert Grabowski - Lecturer in Catchment Science
    • Legal and policy framework for integrated catchment management in the UK Introduction to GIS, geographical data and spatial analysis.
    • Water quantity – balancing human and ecological needs for water, balancing flood risk and hydromorphological function.
    • Water quality - diffuse and point source pollution (sources, pathways, impacts, and control measures).
    • Aquatic ecosystems – habitat conservation and restoration.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Explain the spatial dimensions to and linkages between major environmental water management problems, including water supply, flood risk, water quality and habitat conservation and restoration.
    • Describe the socio-political context for integrated river basin management, including the relevant policy environment and the role of stakeholders.
    • Analyse and interpret geospatial  and temporal data, drawing appropriate, justifiable conclusions in the context of integrated catchment management.
    • Evaluate evidence and conclusions from key management and planning documents from industry and regulators.
    • Identify catchment-based solutions and devise an integrated river basin management plan based on existing data and documentation.


The three elements of the course are assessed as follows:
Taught modules: 40%
Group project: 20%
Individual project: 40%

Start date, duration and location

Start date: Full-time October, part-time throughout the year

Duration: Full-time MSc - one year, Part-time MSc - up to three years, Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

Teaching location: Cranfield


The course is suitable for graduates wishing to develop the expertise needed to solve environmental water management problems through integrated understanding of the major issues and the factors affecting them, at different scales. The option to undertake the course on a part-time basis will allow you to extend your professional development within your current employment.


The course will take you on to a wide range of roles including management of water quality, water resources, aquatic habitat and wildlife, flood defence, and policy within organisations.

Accreditation and partnerships

This MSc, PgDip and PgCert has been accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). As a graduate of the MSc course, you are eligible for graduate membership in this leading professional body.

Informed by industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

Industry and Consultancy

  • Adas
  • AECOM (formerly URS)
  • Atkins
  • Environmental Resources Management (ERM)
  • Golder
  • Mott MacDonalds
  • JBA Consulting
  • Unilever


Public sector

  • Environment Agency
  • Natural England
  • Canals and Rivers Trust
  • Hertfordshire County Council


  • Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group
  • National Trust
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Water Companies

  • Thames Water
  • Anglian Water
  • Severn Trent Water


  • British Geological Survey
  • BlueTech Research
  • PhD, PGCE
  • Cranfield University
  • Joint Research Centre, Ispra

Your teaching team

You will be taught by our internationally renowned research and academic staff with skills in hydrology, ecology, engineering and policy, who have extensive international experience of solving real-life water management problems. They successfully combine professional experience with high-quality teaching skills, and all members, or are working towards membership, of the Higher Education Academy.

Course Director: Dr Robert Grabowski, Lecturer in Catchment Science

Robert Grabowski

Lecturers include:

External experts from industry, environmental agencies and the third sector are also invited throughout the course to share their experiences and knowledge.

Facilities and resources

The School of Energy, Environment and Agrifood operates facilities and associated equipment which are often unique to Cranfield. Students on the Water postgraduate programmes benefit from this infrastructure which includes:

  • State-of-the-art clean water, fermentation, microbiology, wastewater and water chemistry laboratories
  • Soil science laboratories
  • The on-site sewage treatment works, with its own dedicated pilot-plant hall
  • An erosion and sedimentation laboratory
  • A groundwater training facility
  • Farm land used for field trials and research investigations
  • A containerised laboratory, which operates at one of the University's halls of residence where grey water treatment pilot plants are stationed.

Entry Requirements

Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a 1st or 2nd class UK Honours degree in a relevant science, engineering or related discipline, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications. Other relevant qualifications, together with significant experience, may be considered.

English Language

If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5

TOEFL - 92 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

Cambridge English: Advanced - C

Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.


Home EU Student Fees

MSc Full-time - £9,000

MSc Part-time - £1,500 *

PgDip Full-time - £7,200

PgDip Part-time - £1,500 *

PgCert Full-time - £3,600

PgCert Part-time - £1,500 *

Overseas Fees

MSc Full-time - £17,500

MSc Part-time - £17,500 **

PgDip Full-time - £14,000

PgDip Part-time - £14,000 **

PgCert Full-time - £7,000

PgCert Part-time - £10,800 **


The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,300 per module is also payable.


Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


To help students in finding and securing appropriate funding we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. Scholarships and bursaries are available to contribute towards fees, and/or living costs for graduates applying for full-time Masters courses in the themes of Agrifood, Energy and Environmental Technology. Please see below for the specific funding that is available and the eligibility criteria. Visit the funding finder.

Prestige Scholarship

The Prestige Scholarship provides funding of up to £11,000 to cover up to £9k fees and a potential contribution to living expenses. This scholarship has been designed to attract exceptional candidates to Cranfield University so we welcome applications from UK or EU graduates with a first-class honours undergraduate degree. Prestige Scholarships are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Merit MSc Bursary

The Merit MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be UK or EU graduates with a first class honours, 2:1 honours or in exceptional circumstances 2:2 honours undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. Merit MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

International MSc Bursary

The International MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be from outside the EU with a first class honours or upper second class honours undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. International MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia)

Cranfield offers competitive scholarships for Mexican students in conjunction with Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) in science, technology and engineering.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

Students from developing countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK can apply for Commonwealth Shared Scholarships for Master’s study, jointly supported by UK universities.

Marshal Papworth Scholarships

Marshal Papworth provide opportunities for students from developing countries to gain the agricultural and horticultural skills needed to achieve a sustainable future for themselves and their communities

The Lorch MSc Student Bursary

The Lorch Foundation is an educational trust supporting Cranfield students with bursaries of up to £5,000. Applicants should be UK citizens and possess a minimum 2:1 UK Honours degree in Engineering or Physical Sciences or related discipline.

The Lorch International MSc Student Bursary

The Lorch Foundation is an educational trust supporting Cranfield international students with bursaries of up to £5,000. International applicants should have an equivalent to a 2:1 UK Honours degree in Engineering or Physical Sciences or related discipline.

Application Process

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

Career opportunities

The Environmental Water Management MSc is a long-established course which has a highly regarded reputation within the sector. On completion, graduates have a broader network of global contacts, increased opportunities for individual specialism in their chosen career, and the capability to make an immediate and real contribution to improved water management. Cranfield graduates are highly sought after by employers.

Graduates find employment with:

  • Regulatory bodies - a large proportion go on to work for a regulatory body (such as the Environment Agency in England and Wales or SEPA in Scotland) in a wide range of roles including water quality, water resources, flood defence, abstraction licensing and policy
  • Environmental and engineering consultants - about half of our course graduates go on to work for consultancies in UK and the rest of Europe.
  • UK and European water companies.

Career paths for recent Environmental Water Management students include:

Canal and River Trust, Thames Water, British Geological Survey, Mott MacDonald, Normandy Environment Agency, WS Atkins, Binnie, Black & Veatch, Entec, The Environment Agency of England & Wales, Essex & Suffolk Water, Ewan Associates, Ghana EPA, Halcrow, Hannah-Reed Associates, Hyder Consulting, HydroLogic, JDIH, Jeremy Benn Associates, Lyonnaise des Eaux, Ondeo, Posford-Haskoning, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Severn Trent Water, UNDP, and United Utilities.