The new course title from October 2020 will be Advanced Water Management. If you would like to apply for the course in October 2020, please click on Apply Now for October 2020.

Study a Water MSc at Cranfield

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?

The course is ideal for graduates wishing to develop the expertise needed to solve environmental water management problems. It is designed to complement and expand your existing knowledge of science, policy and practice, making it suitable for students from a range of backgrounds. Recent students have joined us from undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in engineering (civil, hydraulic, agricultural), physical geography, chemistry and environmental sciences, as well as from professional careers.

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 career

Ranj Rihal from Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies at Cranfield Careers fair.

Cranfield University Environmental 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. Therefore you will join a large and supportable alumni network.

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.

Why this course?

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

At the UK’s only exclusively postgraduate university, students get the unique experience to work with researchers whose primary purpose is to understand the needs of their sector. Therefore all components of the Advance Water Management course are designed with the same end goal in mind: to produce the best graduates for jobs in water resources, hydrology, water quality, habitat conservation and creation, and flood risk management.

To do this, you will first reinforce your knowledge of topics and methods in eight core areas (hydrology, ecology, water quality, modelling, drought, flood risk, urban water, and catchment management). You then integrate this learning and apply it to a real-world problem in the group project. Over a 10-week period, you will work in a team of 6-8 students from a range of MSc courses on a consultancy project, handling all stages of project design and delivery from initial meetings to scope out the work to the final report and presentation. Topics vary yearly as they respond to the needs of our industrial partners, put typically relate to water resources, aquatic ecology and flood risk management. Finally, you will delve into a single topic for your individual thesis project, strengthening your skills in project design and management; data collection, analysis and interpretation; and report writing, all of which are essential for your future career.

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 at the bottom of this page.

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, CWIEM, Environment Agency, Future Water Association, International Medical Corps, JBA Consulting, Mott Macdonald, PumpAid, RRC, Save the Children and Severn Trent.

Course details

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

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. Recent sponsors of individual projects include:

  • AB Sugar
  • ASDA
  • Atkins
  • British Geological Survey
  • British Sugar
  • Canal and River Trust
  • Catchment Partnerships
  • Environment Agency
  • Innocent
  • Luton Borough Council
  • Marks & Spencers
  • River Restoration Centre
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • WSUP
  • WWF-UK


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

Module Leader
  • Professor Ian Holman

    This subject concentrates on the quantification of surface and groundwater hydrological processes.  An understanding of rainfall, evapotranspiration, runoff, groundwater recharge, groundwater storage, and groundwater movement is essential for those involved in the science, engineering or management of the water environment.  This module provides a conceptual and quantitative understanding of hydrology and the basic principles of hydraulics as a basis for later applied studies of water quality, water engineering, 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. 
    • 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.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  • Apply appropriately, 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
  • Select and apply appropriate flow measurement techniques for different types of watercourses
  • Describe and conceptualise the occurrence and movement of groundwater and apply Darcy’s Law to simple groundwater flow problems
  • Design and carry out groundwater pumping tests, and analyse the resulting data.

Catchment Water Quality

Module Leader
  • Dr Pablo Campo Moreno

    Water of good quality is necessary for domestic, environmental, industrial, recreational and agricultural applications. As result of the conditions prevailing in the catchment area, natural and anthropogenic constituents in water bodies will define potential uses according to established criteria. Hence, for those working in water management a comprehensive understanding of regulations applying to water quality is needed. If quality is to be adequately monitored, it is also important to acquire knowledge about sampling and measurement of water parameters as well as interpretation of acquired data.

    • Water quality regulation (UK, EU)
    • 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 a student should be able to:

  • Evaluate water quality by using physical/chemical determinands, biological characteristics and hydromorphological quality elements.
  • Differentiate water uses based on quality properties and stakeholders needs
  • Classify major point and non-point sources of water pollution derived from natural sources and human activities, and identify emerging threats to water quality.
  • Apply water quality regulations in the design of a water quality monitoring plan for a water body.

Aquatic Ecosystems

Module Leader
  • Dr Robert Grabowski
    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. These water bodies are intimately tied to the surrounding terrestrial environment, and have their own internal processes and patterns, created by the interaction of the hydrological, morphological and biological attributes, which determine the ecological features evident at different scales within the aquatic landscape. Understanding the links and the causes and consequences of changes that occur spatially and through time both naturally and through human activity are fundamental to an integrated approach to aquatic ecology. The module provides the necessary background in ecological processes, aquatic community structure and function, survey approaches, and assessment methods to design ecological studies and interpret their results within the context of current environmental regulation.
    • Fundamentals of lentic (still water) and lotic (running water) ecosystems
    • Aquatic ecosystem elements within the landscape (e.g. rivers, lakes, floodplains, estuaries and coastal zones)
    • Spatial and temporal scale in aquatic systems
    • Energy movement through the ecosystem (e.g. food web and trophic dynamics)
    • Methods to quantify aquatic systems and their attributes (e.g. river hydromorphology; lake community structure)
    • How humans influence 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:

  • Summarise the key elements of aquatic ecosystems in the landscape
  • Describe the linkage between biological, chemical and hydro-morphological attributes of a water body, comparing how they differ between ecosystem types
  • Discuss the ecological and hydromorphological processes that determine the ecological status of a water body
  • Explain how aquatic related organism occurrence, distribution and movement are determined by the aquatic landscape
  • Evaluate methods to determine ecological attributes and construct a monitoring plan relevant to the location, species and spatial temporal scale of investigation.

Modelling Environmental Processes

Module Leader
  • Dr Andrea Momblanch
    An introduction to the full suite of environmental models and modelling methods that are currently used to describe and predict environmental processes and outcomes. The objective of this module is to give an overview of the different types of models currently being used to describe environmental processes and how they are being applied in practice. The module will offer the students the opportunity to strengthen their analytical abilities with a specific mathematical emphasis, including programming and modelling, which are key skills to launch future careers in science, engineering and technology. In addition, throughout various interactive learning events as well as the group-work based assignment, the student’s social skills will be intensively trained.
      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 module a student should be able to:

    Examine the major environmental models currently being applied in soil, water, ecosystems and atmosphere
    Identify and evaluate the standard types of numerical models in use in environmental sciences
    Formulate the generic process of model design, building, calibration and validation. Recognize some of the uncertainties introduced in this process
    Evaluate the process of model development might be undertaken in different programming environments
    Undertake a systems analysis. Assess the model building process in the context of the system under consideration
    Construct a model of environmental processes and modify it into a user friendly environment
    Determine the impact and relevancy of environmental models to policy and scientific discourse.

    Drought and Water Scarcity

    Module Leader
    • Professor Jerry Knox
      Droughts and water scarcity collectively represent a substantial threat to our natural environment, agricultural and industrial production, water supply infrastructure and societal well-being. The ‘risk’ of drought can be considered as the product of the probability of a drought occurring and the consequences of the drought. However, our ability to characterise and understand their occurrence, duration and intensity, and to effectively implement management responses to minimise their impacts, is often inadequate or inappropriate. A better understanding of the characteristics of these hazards and their associated impacts is needed in order to make more informed management decisions regarding trade-offs between competing water demands under conditions of water scarcity or drought.
      The module focuses on impact and management responses in three key sectors, domestic (public water supply), agriculture (rainfed and irrigated cropping) and the environment (aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems).
      • Introduction: terminology and definitions of drought and water scarcity; drought risk, and national policy frameworks for managing water scarcity and drought risk;
      • 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;
      • Approaches to the assessment of drought risk and water scarcity impacts in domestic, agriculture and environment sectors;
      • Soft and hard engineering and management strategies to mitigate drought risk at local (individual business) and catchment scales;
      • Economic impacts of drought (cost – benefit evaluation) within different sectors;
      • Climate change, future drought risks and how to adapt to these challenges.

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

    • Evaluate the relevance of the various definitions of drought, including meteorological, agricultural, hydrological and socio-economic, and the current policy drivers for managing water scarcity and drought risk;
    • Explain how to calculate and apply different drought indicators(metrics) including assessing their utility and limitations;
    • Critically evaluate and compare different approaches to assessing drought risk and water scarcity impacts within the domestic (public water supply), agriculture and environment sectors;
    • Assess alternate engineering and management strategies to mitigate drought risk at local (individual business) and catchment scales;
    • Appraise drought adaptation responses to climate and socio-economic change.

    Flood Risk Management

    Module Leader
    • Professor Tim Hess
      Recent years have seen an apparent increase in flood events in the UK and the rest of Europe. The ‘risk’ of flooding can be considered as the product of the probability of a flood occurring and the consequences of the flood. This module considers the techniques for estimating flood probability, engineering and non-structural measures to reduce flood probability, economic techniques for evaluating flood consequences and current approaches to managing flood risk.
      • Introduction. Definition of risk. Roles and responsibilities for flood defence in the UK. Flood risk management policy in the UK. Source – Pathway – Receptor model.
      • Evaluating flood damage costs. Cost – benefit evaluation.
      • 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.
      • 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 successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

    • Explain the current policy drivers for managing flood risk.
    • Critically evaluate the role of alternative approaches to managing flood risk.
    • Select and apply appropriate methods to 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.
    • Evaluate the impacts of alternative channel designs and flood storage for flood alleviation.
    • Critically evaluate the approaches to “Natural Flood Risk Management” at the catchment scale.

    Water in Cities

    Module Leader
    • Dr Heather Smith

      There is growing recognition that, as a result of rapid urbanisation, many of the key global challenges in water management will be faced by cities. The UN recently predicted that nearly all of the global population growth from 2016 to 2030 will be absorbed by cities, creating about 1.1 billion new urbanites. This creates significant challenges for urban areas in terms of how to supply a growing population (in planned and/or unplanned settlements), how to manage ageing infrastructure, how to recover resources from wastewater, and how to interact with the natural environment. This module will examine these challenges and provide students with the skills to identify, contextualise and evaluate different urban water management technologies and approaches.

      • Global challenges for urban water management
      • Complex systems
      • The future of urban water and wastewater services, including innovative treatment and sanitation technologies and alternative water sources
      • Managing urban water networks and infrastructure, including integrated urban drainage and SUDS
      • Introduction to water sensitive urban design
      • Involving citizens in urban water management
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

    • Explain key global challenges for urban water management (including climate change, population growth, ageing infrastructure) and compare their implications for urban water and wastewater systems
    • Describe the social and political context for urban water management in cities (UK, EU, global) and distinguish between the various stakeholders involved
    • Identify emerging technologies and approaches in urban water management, evaluate their relative strengths and weaknesses, and propose a solution to a water management challenge in a real city.

    Integrated River Basin Management

    Module Leader
    • Dr Robert Grabowski

      There is growing recognition that sustainable solutions to environmental water management problems require a coordinated approach centred on the river basin scale. This is reflected in the holistic nature and administrative structure of current regulations (e.g. river basin management plans for the Water Framework Directive) and government initiatives and policies (e.g. Defra’s catchment sensitive farming, the Environment Agency’s Catchment Based Approach). In this module, students will develop the skills to analyse and interpret environmental data within a spatial context and to assess them in light of current drivers (e.g. regulatory and socioeconomic). 

      • Introduction to GIS, geographical data and spatial analysis
      • Policy framework for integrated catchment management in the UK
      • Strategic catchment planning – identification of pressures, management priorities, and stakeholders to develop integrated solutions
      • Natural capital and ecosystem services: policy context, role in integrated river basin management, geospatial valuation tools.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module a 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

    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

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

    Dr Kemi Adeyeye (University of Bath) Daniel Burbidge (Hydrologist, Environment Agency) Steven Baker (Technical Specialist Hydrometry and Telemetry, Environment Agency) Dr Di Hammond and Simon Whitton (River Restoration Experts, Affinity Water) Martin Janes and Jasmine Errey (River Restoration Centre) Ilias Karapanos (Hydrogeologist, Affinity Water) Dr Cat Moncreiff (Freshwater Specialist, WWF) Dr Mike Morecraft (Climate Change Science Lead, Natural England) David Owen (Yorkshire Water) Dr Mark Svoboda (Director, National Drought Mitigation Centre, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) Jenny Wheeldon (National River Restoration Advisor, Natural England, Environment Agency) Kat Wysocka (Local Flood Authority Manager, Luton Borough Council) Simon Bunn (Sustainable Drainage Engineer, Cambridge City Council).


    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

    Environmental Water Mangement MSc alumnus Beatriz Garcia Navarro

    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.

    Beatriz García Navarro, Graduate Engineer

    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.

    Pauline Gorgery

    The University possesses close links to the industry and institutions. My group project and thesis project were both sponsored by the Environment Agency which allowed me to have close links with the world of work and concrete projects

    Pauline Gorgery, Current student