This exciting fully funded PhD, with an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, will deliver innovative insights around domestic water use behaviours and the use of ‘smart’ water use sensors, in order to support more resilient water services well into the future against a backdrop of significant challenge. 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 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). 

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Like many parts of the world, the UK (and the South East in particular) is facing significant impending challenges around water scarcity. Available fresh water resources are predicted to decrease due to the effects of climate change while demand is predicted to rise. If nothing changes, significant demand shortfalls are predicted by 2040. The water sector (including water companies and regulators) increasingly recognises that behaviour change among domestic water users must be part of the solution to reduce overall water demand. Average per capita consumption in the UK has hovered around 150 litres/person/day for many years, but recent national policy has set a target to reduce that figure to 100 l/p/d. However, our understanding of domestic water use behaviours, and how/why they might change (particularly at larger scales and over longer time periods) is still limited.

Evidence is especially sparse around the role of in-home 'smart' devices, which can provide tailored, data-driven feedback to users based on their actual usage habits, as well as near real-time data on usage and the potential effectiveness of and interventions to promote behaviour change.

This project seeks to better understand domestic water use behaviours, and particularly washing behaviours; both personal washing (showering, bathing) and household washing (dishes, laundry); and their contribution to overall water conservation. Washing behaviours are a useful focus because they are typically 'hidden' (in that they occur mainly within the household) and therefore not necessarily subject to the same social pressures as more publicly visible behaviours (such as the use of plastic bags). The aim will be to understand the situatedness of, and potential influences on, such behaviours (with a focus on the UK context), and explore the potential role of smart in-home water use sensors, using quantitative and qualitative approaches. Depending on the specific skills and interests of the successful candidate, this project could make a contribution of the fields of behavioural psychology, society and technology studies, human-environment interactions and 'big data' analytics.

The project is an exciting collaboration between Cranfield University and a multi-national industrial sponsor, as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe).

The project will deliver innovative insights around domestic water use behaviours and the potential effectiveness of different techniques and approaches to promote behaviour change, including use of ‘smart’ water use sensors. There is also the potential to help Cranfield University develop innovative strategies to support more sustainable water use behaviours on campus, as part of the university's ambitious environmental targets.

By looking at water use behaviours in the context of more resilient water services, this project is uniquely positioned at the interdisciplinary boundary between social sciences and engineering. The successful applicant will make use the suite of water use sensors installed on the Cranfield campus as part of the UKCRIC urban observatory. Additionally, as part of the WIRe doctoral centre, students will benefit from an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, have opportunities for placements with international partners, undertake a bespoke training programme within a cohort of up to 12 students and have access to world leading experimental facilities and observatories, as well as close collaboration with industry and end-user partners.

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) and an international network of colleagues, that will be highly desirable for future employability.

At a glance

  • Application deadline17 May 2020
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date28 Sep 2020
  • Duration of award4 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU
  • Reference numberSWEE0100

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or upper second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as environmental psychology, human geography, environmental studies, or water science. The ideal candidate should have some understanding of water supply services and/or sustainable behaviour. The candidate should be self-motivated, have good communication skills for regular interaction with other stakeholders, with an interest in applied social research. Prior experience in the water sector would be advantageous but is not essential.


Sponsored by EPSRC and an industrial partner, this studentship will provide a bursary of £19,000* per annum plus fees for four years.                      

To be eligible for this funding, applicants must be a UK national. We require that applicants are under no restrictions regarding how long they can stay in the UK i.e. have no visa restrictions or applicant has “settled status” and has been “ordinarily resident” in the UK for 3 years prior to start of studies and has not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals). Due to funding restrictions all EU nationals are eligible to receive a fees-only award if they do not have “settled status” in the UK.

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: Dr Heather Smith

(0) 1234 750111  Ext: 4853

If you are eligible to apply for the PhD, please complete the online PhD application form stating the reference No. SWEE0100