PhD: Diving the Urban Water Cycle to Net Zero via FindAPhD

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

The aim of this research is to investigate how to ensure sustainable demands are placed on the urban water cycle, a drive it towards net zero. This will be achieved by answering three key research questions:

1. To what extent can water usage be reduced without impacting on quality of life?

2. To what extend can wastewater be reduced and be treated at the development scale?

3. To what extend can urban drainage be managed at development using nature based solutions.

Key to the success of the project is the recognition that water supply, wastewater treatment and urban drainage are all interrelated and that optimizing their carbon footprint cannot be achieved unless they are considered holistically.

In the UK, approximately 107m3 of rainfall falls on each domestic roof top per year and Water Supply Companies (WSCs) spend approximately £6bn each year safely disposing of it in a manner which manages the risk to the public, the economy and the natural environment. Notionally clean rainwater is often mixed with sewage and pumped several miles to centralised wastewater works at the periphery of urban developments. WSCs also expend a further £6bn conveying 164m3 of treated rainwater which has fallen outside the urban area to each household for domestic consumption; 35% of this volume is used to flush WC’s. As water is a rather dense material, pumping it around the country in this manner makes WSCs the UKs heaviest energy users – Scottish Water uses 442 Gigawatt hours of electricity each year 


To be eligible, applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent experience). Additional criteria may apply so please check the specific project details before applying. Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.

We recognise that not every talented researcher will have had the same opportunities to advance their careers. We therefore will account for any particular circumstances that applicants disclose (e.g. parental leave, caring duties, part-time jobs to support studies, disabilities etc.) to ensure an inclusive and fair recruitment process.   

How to Apply

Please complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Civil Engineering and include the project reference, title and supervisor names on your application. If these details are not included your application may not be considered. Please note that applicants may only submit ONE proposal.

Please provide a supporting statement outlining how you would approach the research and upload this to the research proposal section of the online application. You will be required to upload a CV, a copy of your degree certificate(s) and relevant transcript(s). You may also upload an academic reference to further support your application.

You must provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.


Applications will be reviewed throughout March and applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by the end of April 2022. Applicants MUST be available to start the course of study on a full-time basis in September/October 2022.

Please refer to the website for further information

Funding Notes

The scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £15,609 for the 36 month duration of the project and is available to applicants from the UK, EU and overseas.