Securing drinking water supplies: the role of organic matter on water treatability

A PhD project at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe)

This exciting fully funded PhD, with an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, will deliver innovative science to meet future water resource challenges, ensuring that we can continue to produce high quality drinking water. Focusing on water treatment, this research project will help develop strategies that will increase the resilience of drinking water supplies in the UK against a back-drop of population growth and climate change impacts.

Students will benefit from being part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe), a world leading collaboration between three UK universities. The WIRe programme includes a bespoke training programme in technical and personal skills development, and provides opportunities for overseas travel and access to world leading experimental facilities (PhDs under this scheme are for a duration of four years full time). More details of the CDT WIRe.

We are an inclusive and diverse doctoral centre and welcome applications from all highly motivated individuals, regardless of background, identity or disability.

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The East and South-East of the UK face acute challenges associated with their drinking water supply-demand balance as a region of low rainfall and an area where significant population growth is expected in the next 20 years. This has resulted in the development of comprehensive water resource management plans.

Complex water transfers will be required that will include resources that are more challenging to treat and contain pollutants that may require more extensive water treatment. For example, the organic carbon content of a drinking water source is known to change temporally and spatially and as such water transfers will invariably result in blends of water that contain different types of organic matter that have different removal potentials by usual treatment processes.

Understanding the characteristics of source waters will therefore be of paramount importance in effectively managing and treating new resources and blends. In this work you will undertake operationally relevant characterisation of water using a range of cutting-edge methods to develop organic matter profiles and fingerprints. You will then undertake detailed treatment investigations at bench and pilot scale to understand how these water quality profiles link to treatment mechanism and process selection.

The aim of this work will therefore be to determine the features of organic matter in surface water that controls their removal in water treatment processes. This will allow for proactive management of water treatment systems to make more informed decisions on water blending and transfers, as well as future WTW operation and treatment process selection.

The project is an exciting collaboration between Cranfield University and Anglian Water (AW). AW is one of the largest utilities in the UK, supplying high quality drinking water and recycling treated water back into the environment in the East of England. You will engage fully with the Innovation team within AW, with opportunities for site visits and practical placements within the company.

The successful applicant will make use of the laboratories and Drinking Water Pilot Plant facility at Cranfield University to translate the lab results to full-scale. Additionally, as part of the CDT WIRe, students will benefit from an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, have the opportunity to undertake an international placement, and complete a bespoke training programme within a cohort of up to 15 students.

At the end of the project the successful applicant will be very well positioned to have a highly successful career in the water sector or in an academic role. We will help you develop into a dynamic, confident and highly competent researcher with wider transferable skills (communication, project management and leadership) with an international network of colleagues.

At a glance

  • Application deadline12 Apr 2021
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date27 Sep 2021
  • Duration of award4 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSWEE0134

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a minimum equivalent to a UK upper second class degree (2.1) and preferably an MSc in a relevant subject such as chemistry or chemical engineering. The ideal candidate should have some understanding of water chemistry and water treatment. The candidate should be self-motivated, have good communication skills for regular interaction with other stakeholders, with an interest in applied scientific research. Prior experience in the water sector would be advantageous but is not essential.


Sponsored by EPSRC and Anglian Water, this studentship will provide a bursary of £19,000 per year with fees paid. All training and placement (overseas/industry) costs will also be covered, subject to supervisor approval.

Eligibility - The studentship is open to UK and international students (including EU countries) however due to funding rules, no more than 30% of the projects in this cohort can be allocated to international students.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:

Name: Prof Peter Jarvis 


T: (0) 1234 750111 Ext: 8318

If you are eligible to apply for the PhD, please complete the online PhD application form stating the reference No. SWEE0134