PhD: Upscaling Household Level Nature-Based Solutions to the City Scale to Mitigate Surface Water Flood Risk via FindAPhD

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

Urbanisation, with increased impermeable surfaces and artificial drainage systems, has resulted in greater risks of flooding which poses a major threat to the economy and wellbeing of communities across the UK.

Domestic gardens, which cover up to a third of the urban area, are ideally suited for providing a sustainable solution to stormwater runoff control, offering distributed green spaces within the urban landscape to capture and store rainwater, whilst also contributing additional benefits for biodiversity, the urban microclimate, and health and wellbeing. 

However, with new garden sizes generally decreasing, and existing gardens being paved over to provide off-street parking, these vulnerable urban green spaces, may not be providing the expected flood mitigation within cities as may be anticipated. Furthermore, there continues to be a significant lack of knowledge and understanding of the role of domestic gardens within the overall urban flood burden, particularly at the neighbourhood and city scales.

We will focus on the following research objectives:

1)   Assess operational performance of selected nature-based sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) appropriate for application to household-level stormwater management, including characterisation of rainwater capture and retention for a range of vegetation types typically found in UK gardens;

2)   Assess the impact of domestic garden adaptation in terms of city-scale flood mitigation.

We will use a combination of field-based monitoring of household gardens and SuDS within Edinburgh, and numerical hydrological modelling to develop guidance for how diffuse household level nature-based solutions can be designed to achieve optimal flood mitigation and implemented at city spatial scales.


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 formPlease 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.


The closing date for applications is Monday 31 January 2022. 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.