Study a Water MSc at Cranfield

Although much progress has been made over the last three decades, still more than one billion people lack access to a safe, reliable and affordable water supply; and more than twice that number still lack access to basic sanitation. This course provides the essential skills and knowledge required to plan and implement water supply and sanitation projects and programmes in any part of the world, particularly in low and middle income countries.


  • Start dateFull-time: October. Part-time: October
  • DurationOne year full-time, two-three years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules MSc 40%, PgDip 66.6%, Group project (dissertation for part-time students) MSc 20%, PgDip 33.3%, Individual project MSc 40%.
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Course details

The modules include lectures, tutorials, practicals, simulations and workshops and are assessed through appropriate assignments. There is an emphasis on analysis of real problems, with practical field work, including a week of drilling, to reinforce learning.

Water course structure diagram

Course delivery

Taught modules MSc 40%, PgDip 66.6%, Group project (dissertation for part-time students) MSc 20%, PgDip 33.3%, Individual project MSc 40%.

Group project

The group project provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, while working under academic supervision. Success is dependent on the integration of various activities and working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. 

Recent examples:

Individual project

Students select the 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 in water management. Many of the projects are supported by external organisations such as WaterAid, Oxfam and Excellent Development and are based in low and middle income countries.


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reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons.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

Water and Wastewater Treatment for Development

Module Leader
  • Dr Francis Hassard

    Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is a headline topic within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These set aspirational targets to be accomplished by 2030, including: adequate access to sanitation and ending open defecation; substantially increasing water-use efficiency; halving the discharge of untreated wastewater; expanding capacity and support for water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies. However, inadequate technical translation between high and low income contexts and insufficient bridging of the gap between pilot and commercial processes remain primary obstacles to the successful implementation of established and emerging technologies that could aid the delivery of the SDGs.

    As future workers in this sector, students should be equipped with a technical understanding of water and wastewater treatment processes but also a critical appreciation of their applicability within different scenarios and contexts. This module addresses this need by providing the technical principles of water and wastewater treatment (established and emerging), both for the processes themselves and for critical monitoring of water quality. This will be complemented by a visit to the Cranfield University wastewater works and a Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) workshop, which will provide a structured methodology to assess the suitability of different processes within specified scenarios.  

      • Water Quality & Public Health
      • Drinking Water, Chemicals & Health
      • Water Quality & Aquatic Ecosystems
      • Community Considerations for Appropriate Water Treatment
      • Water Treatment Challenges
      • Wastewater Treatment
      • Resource Recovery from WS&S Technologies – Nutrients, Water & Energy
      • Interactive Flowsheet Exercise Drinking Water
      • Interactive Flowsheet Exercise Wastewater treatment and resource recovery.
    Intended learning outcomes

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

    • Describe different water quality parameters and how they are measured.
    • Describe the basic principles of drinking water treatment and how these can be used at different scales including household, community and municipal.
    • Evaluate simple methods of wastewater treatment and reuse, as well as how these are applied to conventional waterborne sewage as well as in faecal sludge management.
    • Assess how different treatment technologies might be applicable in different contexts.
    • Develop treatment flowsheets to meet specific treatment targets.

    Management and Governance for Water and Sanitation

    Module Leader
    • Dr Paul Hutchings

      This module is focused upon delivering improved water and sanitation to the urban poor in lower-income countries. To that aim, it introduces participants to the theory and practice of management and appropriate governance strategies, particularly the role of public, private and community management systems along with economic regulation, to support viable services in resource poor urban and rural situations. It focuses on examining how the best-practice approaches shape or contrast to the decision-making that is found in the real-world sector, where political, cultural and social biases often distort decision-making processes. The overall aim is to equip participants with the relevant knowledge and tools to one day become effective and realistic managers of, and advisors to, WASH service providers in lower-income contexts. 

      • Institutional models for water supply and sanitation including the role of urban utilities and rural water supply options
      • Governance, sector-level change processes and the enabling support environment
      • Service delivery approaches - privatisation/Public Private Partnerships and Public Operator Partnerships
      • Introduction to the economic value of water, cost-reflective pricing and tariff principles, including understanding of basic subsidies
      • Demand responsiveness: Ability to pay and Willingness to pay
      • Decision-making for financial management: The Waterman Simulation

    Intended learning outcomes

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

    • Describe the economic and social drivers for the effective, equitable and efficient management of water and sanitation services
    • Explain the different institutional models for water and sanitation services, understanding strengths and weaknesses in different contexts
    • Assess the principle cost-categories for sustainable water and sanitation services, with respect to capital and recurrent costs
    • Evaluate different governance strategies for water and sanitation services, including centralisation, decentralisation and the appropriate use of regulation (or other accountability measures)
    • Evaluate decision-making regarding appropriate financial management of water utilities (via simulated game)

    Health, Hygiene and Sanitation

    Module Leader
    • Professor Sean Tyrrel

      A wholesome water supply and good sanitation are essential for a healthy life.  Poor sanitation is a significant cause of the diseases which millions in low-income countries / communities suffer from.  Promoting hygienic behaviour and sanitary excreta management techniques and technology is an important component of proactive public health development.  This module explores the links between water, excreta related behaviour and health and the related technologies that are appropriate in low and middle income communities. 

      • Health: classification of water- and excreta-related disease; relationship between water, sanitation and related disease; risk behaviours in relation to water-and excreta-related disease; hygiene evaluation and promotion.
      • On-site excreta disposal systems: Why they are not used, benefits of their use, pit latrines, VIP latrines, pour-flush latrines, composting latrines, septic tanks, soakage systems, ecological sanitation.
      • Urban sanitation: Conventional and low-cost sewerage, faecal sludge management. 

    Intended learning outcomes

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

    • Identify the principal transmission routes of water and excreta-related diseases
    • Critically assess the disease risks associated with water and excreta-related behaviours
    • Design a basic programme for hygiene evaluation and promotion
    • Select, design and evaluate sanitation systems for a specific situations

    Communities and Development

    Module Leader
    • Dr Paul Hutchings

      Development must be understood both as a general social phenomenon – the result of complex processes of change that are going on around us every day – and as a kind of goal or desired outcome: the sustained improvements in human wellbeing that programmes of guided change seek to bring about in a particular place. Students of development need to have a good understanding of the current paradigms of development, and the various factors that impact development inventions at a policy, programmatic and community level. This unit addresses these issues with reference to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions, especially within rural contexts, providing a critical overview of the historic and emerging trends in the WASH sector. It will also equip participants with relevant tools and methodologies for the management and implementation of WASH development interventions. 

      • Key Concepts in Development
      • Community Management of WASH
      • Sustainability in WASH
      • Multiple-Use Services
      • Behavioural Change
      • Institutional Change
      • Quantitative and Qualitative Social Research Methods
      • Theory of Change & Logical Frameworks. 

    Intended learning outcomes

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

    • Critically discuss the concepts of development, community and community development, and evaluate how these shape the WASH sector
    • Identify and explain historical and emerging trends in the practices and policies of rural water supply and sanitation in low and middle income countries
    • Explain the complexities of "getting things done" in development, especially at the community level (knowing our limits!)
    • Apply relevant tools and methodologies (e.g.. LogFrames, Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks ) that can (sometimes) help "get things done" in development
    • Apply quantitative and qualitative social research methods that can be used to monitor and evaluate WASH development interventions. 

    Water Resource Engineering

    Module Leader
    • Dr Alison Parker
      Water management professionals need detailed knowledge of the design, construction and management of water sources for domestic and small-scale agricultural use, as well as of the engineering of water pumps, open channel and piped distribution systems. This needs to be underpinned by an understanding of rainfall, evapotranspiration, runoff, groundwater recharge, groundwater storage, and groundwater movement. This module aims at providing the students with the theoretical basis for the design of water resources capture and distribution systems, together with comprehensive practical experience.   This focus is on rural areas of lower-income countries.
        • 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.
        • Water sources: surface water abstraction; rainwater harvesting; surface water storage; protected springs – principles and practices; wells and boreholes.
        • Open channel and gravity and pumped pipe systems for water conveyance: - hydraulic principles, design practices.
        • Mud rotary, cable percussion and manual drilling techniques including record keeping (logging).
        • Exploration and investigation techniques available for groundwater studies.
        • Post-drilling activities - borehole development, test pumping, water quality sampling and testing.
      Intended learning outcomes

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

      • Explain the basic hydraulic principles of static and moving water and hence design piped water distribution systems, specifying appropriate pipe sizes, materials, and pumps configuration.
      • Measure point and estimate areal rainfall; estimate potential evapotranspiration from weather data and explain the relationship between actual and potential evapotranspiration.
      • Differentiate between various runoff processes and identify the conditions under which each are important.
      • Design a borehole from a set of site data.
      • Supervise a borehole drilling rig, assist and record the installation of well lining into a drilled borehole and explain the necessary post-drilling activities.
      • Evaluate the working principles and requirements of selected handpumps.
      • Design rainwater harvesting systems at household and community level

      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.

      Emergency Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation


        Given the frequency of displaced populations as a consequence of conflict and the inevitable occurrence of natural disasters, there is a need for a basic knowledge in the provision of safe water supply and introduction of environmental sanitation under difficult circumstances.

        • Nature & type of emergency (natural and man-made disasters, rapid- and slow-onset, complex emergencies)
        • The relief “system”; refugees & IDPs, humanitarian standards e.g. SPHERE and Common Humanitarian Standards (CHS)
        • Phases of emergency (acute, post-acute, transition to development/normality)
        • Water supply – refugee camp supplies (sources & appropriate/specialist kit), non-camp situation requiring emergency distribution (tankers, bottles), rehabilitation of damaged supplies (mobilisation, communication, information requirements)
        • Water treatment in above contexts e.g. camp scale, household water treatment
        • Public health in emergencies:
        • Excreta disposal – mainly refugee camp situation (acute versus post-acute phases)
        • Solid waste management – hazardous materials e.g. hospital waste
        • Environmental sanitation – solid waste including medical waste, vector control, hygiene education/promotion
        • Disaster management: refugee camp logistics, coordination with other sectors e.g. shelter, food security, medical supplies & services, electricity.
        • Public information needs e.g. health risks, water disinfection, location of emergency centres etc.
        • Safety & security issues – acceptance, deterrence and protection. Personal, organisational and served population security. Ambushing, kidnapping, theft, mines, ongoing conflict, building collapse and natural threats, for both local population and aid workers.

      Intended learning outcomes

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

      • Differentiate and describe the characteristics of different types of emergency situation and phases
      • Discuss the main issues surrounding logistics and management of emergency situations
      • Evaluate, select and design appropriate emergency water supply including its treatment
      • Design & establish measures to address public health issues in emergencies and minimise risks of epidemics: environmental sanitation, solid waste and vector control measures.
      • Evaluate alternative points of view and demonstrate an ability to summarise clearly to others

      Why this course?

      On successful completion of this option students will be able to:

      • Plan and design water sources in rural areas of lower-income countries, so the quality and quantity of water available is sustained
      • Evaluate water resource management methods
      • Plan and design sanitation facilities in lower-income countries and appraise different management methods
      • Explain different management and finance models for water, sanitation and hygiene services and evaluate how these might ensure access for the poorest.
      • Assess how water, sanitation and hygiene services might vary in different contexts, specifically rural, urban and emergencies.
      • Critically evaluate water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, research and technologies.
      Water splash

      Cranfield is well known in the international NGO sector. My studies helped me gain the knowledge needed to work for WASH NGOs and Cranfield has introduced me to some professionals in the WASH industry.

      Micki Johns, Alumni, Community Water and Sanitation MSc, 2017

      Graduate destinations

      Water and Sanitation for Development students are found at leading WASH institutions across the world. Previous students have gone on to jobs within other prestigious institutions including:

      UNICEF, WaterAid, Mott MacDonald, McKinsey, Concern, Itad, Programme Solidarité Eau (pS-Eau) and many more.

      We recognise the importance of identifying a clear career path when deciding to study for a postgraduate degree.  Here at Cranfield you will receive full support in creating an effective career strategy from our dedicated careers service. Whether you are looking to secure your first role in the Water sector or you want to take your career to the next level, our careers service is tailored to you and your career goals.

      Our courses are based on cutting edge research, so you can be sure that they are relevant in today’s employment market. This course is suitable for graduates who wish to work in the planning, implementation and management of sustainable water supply and sanitation projects with rural and urban communities in low and middle-income countries. The part-time option allows practitioners to extend their professional development within their current employment. 

      Cranfield graduates leave with the skills to make an immediate contribution in the international water industry, and many enjoy long-term careers in diverse roles such as consultants, managers, engineers, sanitation specialists and project managers. Some of our graduates went on to work in water and sanitation development with non-governmental organisations, emergency relief agencies, UN and similar international bodies such as UNICEF, Water Aid, CAFOD and SOIL. Graduates are also going on to work with global private sector organisations such as Mott MacDonald and Mckinsey & Company as well as take positions in government roles. The course also provides an ideal grounding for research positions and PhD programmes.

      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.

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

      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:

      • CARE International
      • CIWEM
      • Mott MacDonald
      • Oxfam
      • Practical Action
      • Skat
      • Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor
      • OFWAT
      • Anglian Water
      • Environment Agency
      • Institute of Water
      • Jacobs

      Teaching team

      You will be taught by our internationally renowned research and academic staff with skills in natural and social sciences and engineering, all of whom have extensive experience of solving real-life water management problems. Many staff are actively involved in the preparation and evaluation of water supply and sanitation programmes in developing countries on behalf of non-governmental and international organisations. They successfully combine professional experience with high-quality teaching and research skills. Most are members of the Higher Education Academy. As well as external contributors from the WASH sector, our regular external lecturers include: Toby Gould (Independent Consultant in Emergency WASH) Sean Furey, Visiting Teaching Fellow in Appropriate WASH Technology (SKAT, Switzerland) Dr Foyeke Tolani, Visiting Teaching Fellow in Behavioural Change and Hygiene (Oxfam GB) Dr Richard Franceys (Independent Consultant in WASH financing) Ian Ross, Visiting Teaching Fellow in Sustainable WASH Services (Oxford Policy Management)

      Who is it for?

      This course is ideal for graduates who wish to progress their career in the planning, implementation and management of sustainable water supply and sanitation projects to low and middle income countries.  The course comprises assessed modules, group projects and an individual project. The modules include lectures, tutorials, practicals, simulations and workshops with an emphasis on analysis of real problems, with practical field work to reinforce learning.

      Find out how Cranfield alumnus Sean Furey has used his Cranfield Water and Sanitation for Development MSc since graduating.


      The MSc of this course is accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

      CIWEM logo

      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.