The Advanced Water Management course builds on our 30 year legacy in Environmental Water Management. It includes contemporary issues and innovations in water management and a unique integrated skills training programme to better prepare students for a challenging career in water.

Why study an MSc in Advanced Water Management?

Managing water is one of society’s greatest challenges. Droughts, floods, poor water quality and uneven water provision have social, economic and environmental consequences. Through our strong industry connections, students gain the up-to-date knowledge and skills needed to propose sustainable policy, practice and technological solutions now and for our changing future.


  • Start dateFull-time: October. Part-time: October
  • DurationOne year full-time, two-three years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group project 20%, Individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

If you want to help solve the complex environmental and water management problems our society faces, this course will provide you with the knowledge and skills to do so. It builds on your existing strengths and expands and deepens your knowledge of science, policy and practice on the management of this vital resource for people and the environment. 

Recent students have come from a wide range of backgrounds, including engineering, natural and environmental sciences, and geography. Some are recent graduates and others have several years of work experience and are looking to enhance or change their careers.

What makes this course unique?

  • Postgraduate-only environment – Learning is custom designed to the course and level, meaning you get exactly the skills and knowledge you need. 
  • Diverse teaching and learning – The course uses interactive sessions, field trips, laboratory and computer practicals, group exercises, lectures and projects to provide you with a stimulating learning experience.
  • Compressed blocks of teaching – Teaching is concentrated into 2-3 day blocks to facilitate independent learning and part-time study. A part-time student needs to attend the university, on average, 13 days per year.
  • Integrated technical and professional skills programme – You develop advanced intellectual and practical skills relevant to industry, such as climate science, GIS, data management and analysis, social and economic appraisal, and written and oral communication through technical sessions and activities that link across modules and projects. 

Our strong industry links make the course particularly suited for those looking to work in the water industry, government or environmental and engineering consultancy, and in a wide range of roles including water quality, water resources, aquatic habitat and wildlife, flood defence, and policy.

8 reasons to study Water at Cranfield

The option to undertake the course on a part-time basis allows you to extend your professional development within your current employment.

Your future career

Hear from Cyndi Lou about her experience of studying Water at Cranfield.

Cranfield University Advanced Water Management graduates are found all over the UK, EU and world working at all levels of the water industry, government, environmental and engineering consultancy, and charitable sector. By completing this course, you will become part of a long line (>30 years) of environmental water management alumni who can now be found across the entire water sector, from entry-level scientists to senior managers and regulators, in the UK, Europe and beyond. Learn more in the careers section of this page.

Successful graduates have been able to pursue or enhance careers in a variety of key areas such as:

Environmental Consultant, Hydrologist, Flood Risk and Drainage Engineer, Flood Risk Officer, Flood and Coastal Risk Manager, Environmental Hydrologist, Research Scientist, Civil and Water Management Engineer, Agricultural Engineer, Water Resource Modelling Specialist, Hydrogeologist, Water Quality Scientist, Team Leader Fisheries & Biodiversity, Water Resource Manager, Senior Consultant, Principal Consultant, Asset Strategy and Investment Programme Manager, Principal Water Resources Planner, Regional Director (Water).

Cranfield Careers Service

Our Careers Service can help you find the job you want after leaving Cranfield. We will work with you to identify suitable opportunities and support you in the job application process for up to three years after graduation.We have been providing Masters level training for over 20 years. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. The increasing interest in sustainability and corporate and social responsibility has also enhanced the career prospects of our graduates.

Previous students have gone on to jobs within prestigious institutions including:

Consultancy - Mott MacDonald, Atkins- SNC Lavalin, Jacobs, Royal Haskoning, WSP, JBA, AECOM, MJA Consulting, OHES, Thomson Ecology. 
Water companies - Thames Water, Anglian Water, Severn Trent Water. 
Government/Charity/Other – Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, National Resources Wales, National Grid Canal and River Trust, Hertfordshire County Council, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Geological Survey.

Informed by Industry

Cranfield has unrivalled links with industry. Our students benefit from our extensive contacts and track record of close collaboration with government agencies and the water and environmental sector. These links include industrial advisory panels, group project sponsors and thesis consultants.

Our courses are reviewed each year by a panel of industry advisors from leading companies and institutions in the sector. This ensures that the skillls you acquire are up-to-date and what employers want. Some of the companies on our panel include: Anglian Water, CIWEM, Environment Agency, Future Water Association, International Medical Corps, JBA Consulting, Mott Macdonald, PumpAid, RRC, Save the Children and Severn Trent.

Course details

Your course is organized into four modules, a group project and an individual thesis project. 

  • Modules – You develop your knowledge of topics and methods in core areas: hydrology, water quality and ecology, water-related risks, and catchment and urban water management. 
    All students start their course with the taught modules that provide you with a foundation in science, policy and practice. Each module takes place over 4 weeks, with the teaching concentrated into 2-3 day blocks during the first 3 weeks. This structure helps both full and part time students, providing everyone with sufficient time for independent study and making it easier for part-time students to fit the module into their existing commitments.
  • Full-time students take the modules over the first five months of the full time MSc (Oct-Feb). Part-time students select 20-40 credits of modules per year that fit into their ongoing commitments.
  • Group project - You apply the learning developed in the modules to a real-world problem, working in an interdisciplinary group on a consultancy project for a client. 
  • Thesis project – With the support of your supervisor, you chose a topic to delve into for the individual research project, helping you to specialise your knowledge and skills for your future career.
The option to undertake the course on a part-time basis allows you to extend your professional development within your current employment.


Water course structure diagram

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group project 20%, Individual project 40%

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 workplace 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.

Interested? Find out more about the past group projects.

Individual project

Students select their individual project in consultation with the thesis project coordinators. 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. Students have the choice to work on projects sponsored by industry or related to current Research Council, EU or industry funded research. Find out more about the past individual projects.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course

Surface and Groundwater Hydrology: Processes, Measurement and Modelling

Module Leader
  • Professor Ian Holman

    This module concentrates on the conceptualisation, quantification and modelling of surface and groundwater hydrological processes. You will gain an understanding of rainfall, evapotranspiration, runoff, discharge, groundwater recharge, groundwater storage, and groundwater movement, all essential for those involved in the science, engineering or management of the water environment.  The module further addresses how this understanding can be embedded within a range of different types of numerical models to address environmental and management challenges. The module offers you the opportunity to strengthen your analytical abilities with a specific mathematical emphasis, including programming and modelling, which are key skills to launch future careers in science, engineering and technology. 

    This module is 20 credits.
    • Land-atmosphere interactions: measurement of precipitation amount and intensity, spatial analysis. Interception and depression storage.  Evapotranspiration, actual evapotranspiration and soil water availability. Runoff processes; water balances.
    • 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.
    • Discharge measurement; velocity area methods. Structures; hydraulic principles of weirs & flumes. Stage measurement. Rating curves and other methods. 
    • Groundwater: Aquifer properties (transmissivity, storage coefficient, significance); recharge, groundwater movement including flow lines and equipotentials, natural flow, flow to wells; conduct and analysis of pumping tests including limitations and assumptions.
    • 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.
    • Model parameterization, sensitivity testing, calibration/validation, model uncertainty, model performance evaluation, predictions and scenarios. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Explain the processing governing the surface and sub-surface movement of water within a catchment.
  • Select and apply appropriate measurement techniques and understand their measurement uncertainty.
  • Analyse and interpret a range of hydro-meteorological data.
  • Identify and evaluate the standard types of numerical models in use in hydrological sciences.
  • Apply a process of hydrological model design, building, calibration and validation to a catchment to meet stated objectives, and critically evaluate the usefulness and uncertainty of the model 

Good Ecological Status

Module Leader
  • Dr Pablo Campo Moreno

    Water bodies are fundamental features of the landscape. Whether they are rivers, canals, wetlands, ponds, lakes, estuaries or the open coast, they are important habitats that support diverse ecological communities and provide essential services to society. Therefore, countries have developed regulations to protect the quality of these water bodies and methods to assess status. Around the world, quality is increasingly being assessed based on a wide set of physical, chemical and biological attributes of the water body. In the UK, quality is assessed based on its ecological and chemical quality under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which became part of UK law in 2003. This module will provide you with an overview of WFD and other relevant water quality regulation and policy that govern the management and assessment of surface waters. It will also provide you with a background in ecological processes, aquatic communities, and survey design and data analysis to help those working in environmental water management to interpret water quality data in the context of the catchment characteristics and pressures.

    This module is 20 credits.
    • Importance of water quality for human health, drinking water and the environment.
    • Water quality regulation and standards.
    • UK methods to assess the status of surface water bodies.
    • The physical and chemical attributes and processes structuring the biological community in aquatic ecosystems in the landscape (e.g. rivers, lakes, floodplains, estuaries and coastal zones).
    • Design of water quality monitoring programmes: sampling strategies, sampling methods, quality assurance, and data handling.
    • Water quality sampling & analysis: field sampling techniques and laboratory analysis methods.
    • Statistical analysis of ecological and water quality data.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Explain the chemical, biological and hydromorphological processes and their interactions that determine the ecological status of a surface water body.
  • Evaluate water quality and ecological data based on knowledge of the sampling and data analysis methods, and analyse them to identify significant spatial and temporal differences.
  • Interpret ecological and water quality data based on scientific understanding of aquatic organism occurrence, movement and distribution and natural and anthropogenic influences from the river network and catchment. 

Water in Cities and Catchments

Module Leader
  • Dr Robert Grabowski
    There is a growing recognition that sustainable solutions to environmental water management problems require a coordinated approach. With climate change, aging infrastructure, and an increasing human population growth with its increased demand for urban development, food and water, we require creative and effective policy, management and technological solutions that address multiple problems and increase the resilience of our natural, economic and social systems. In this module, you will develop the skills to critically evaluate and analyse environmental data and information in a spatial context and to assess them in light of current drivers (e.g. regulatory and socioeconomic) to develop integrated solutions for water supply, wastewater treatment, water quality, flooding, conservation of aquatic ecosystems, etc.

    This module is 20 credits.

    • Global challenges for water management.
    • Policy and regulatory framework for integrated water management (UK, EU).
    • Future of water and wastewater services.
    • Management and technological solutions applicable at different spatial scales.
    • Strategic catchment and urban planning.
    • Natural capital and ecosystem service. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this study you should be able to:

  • Describe the spatial dimensions and linkages between the main global challenges for water management and explain the underlying and associated social, economic and environmental factors and interactions.
  • Evaluate evidence and conclusions from key regulatory and planning documents from regulators, managers, municipalities and industry to identify possible conflicts or unrealised synergies in management and development goals.
  • Develop integrated solutions within the spatial context of the catchment and city, considering the natural environment and socio-economic factors, and assess their impacts using appropriate appraisal methods.

Managing Flood and Drought Risks

Module Leader
  • Dr Dolores Rey Vicario
    Extreme weather events are considered top global risks. Every year, many places around the world are affected by droughts and floods leading to severe impacts on people, the environment, agricultural and industrial production, and water supply infrastructure. Climate change will increase the frequency and severity of these natural hazards. Thus, we need to improve our ability to characterise and understand their occurrence, duration and intensity; and to effectively implement management responses to reduce vulnerability and minimise their impacts. In this module you will concentrate on droughts and floods, covering their definition, forecasting, impacts and management options. You will also focus on impact and management responses in three key sectors – domestic, businesses and the environment.
    This module is 20 credits.
    • Introduction. Definition of risk. Roles and responsibilities.
    • Drought metrics (Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI), SPEI, Drought Palmer Severity Index (DPSI), Potential Soil Moisture Deficit (PSMD) and their spatio-temporal relevance to different sectors.
    • 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.
    • Soft and hard engineering strategies to mitigate drought/flood risk at local (individual business) and catchment scales.
    • Management approaches to tackle drought/flood risk at different levels.
    • Cost-benefit analysis for assessing different management options to tackle weather extremes.
    • Climate change and water-related weather extremes.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Define drought and flood risk, their main characteristics and impacts, and policy landscape.
  • Calculate and apply different drought indicators(metrics) including assessing their utility and limitations.
  • Determine the likelihood of a flow of a given magnitude for gauged and ungauged catchments and catchments using the Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH and ReFH) methods.
  • Critically evaluate the role of alternative approaches to managing drought/flood risks.
  • Explain the impacts of climate change on the frequency and severity of drought/flood risks.

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 Dolores Rey Vicario, Lecturer in Water Policy and Economics External experts from industry, environmental agencies and the third sector are also invited throughout the course to share their experiences and knowledge.


The MSc of this course is 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.

CIWEM logo


After the induction week, I knew I had enrolled at one of the best postgraduate universities in the United Kingdom. Cranfield University’s tenacious link with industries all over the country was a chance for me to practically and effectively make an impact.
The academic set-up and structure of lectures so far have made it interesting and educating for me, as it has impacted and ameliorated my thinking skills, writing skills and problem-solving approach. I have also made new friends from around the world. 


What I enjoyed the most about Cranfield was the people I have met here. I'm still in contact with all of them, not just Spanish students, but international students as well.
As a Civil Engineer I had the technical background to solve engineering problems, but I really wanted to develop myself as a water manager, with an emphasis in environment, and get the necessary practical knowledge to start working as an engineer, that’s what I achieved in Cranfield and now I feel completely ready for it.

How to apply

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