PhD: Remediation of eutrophic waters through passive adsorption via FindAPhD

University of Portsmouth

Portsmouth, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

Applications are invited for a three year full-time (or up to six year part-time) PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, and will be supervised by Dr Peter Cruddas.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Environmental surveys to identify sources of nitrate pollution in the South Hampshire catchment region and develop high-level nutrient flow data
  • Technical investigation of potential nitrate remediation technologies and practices, focused on the use reactive media in environmental waters, and a comparison of its suitability compared to alternative options
  • Engagement with local stakeholders such as developers, local authorities, and government bodies to discuss and develop a holistic approach to nutrient neutrality and improvement of waters under the Water Framework Directive.

Project description

High nitrate concentrations in sensitive water bodies, such as the harbours and Solent around Portsmouth, cause environmental degradation through eutrophication and are now a major issue affecting development in the region. An EC legal ruling has led to all new development projects in sensitive catchments to be ‘nitrate neutral’, which has subsequently been extended to ‘nutrient neutrality’, incorporating phosphorus pollution across catchments through the UK. In light of this focus on nutrient reduction in environmental waters, research at the University of Portsmouth has initiated with the Environment Agency on passive methods for removing nutrients directly from the water bodies of concern.

The proposed research will create enhance understanding of nitrate sources and flows, field-trial reactive media for nitrate removal. Whilst reactive media have been used for nutrient removal in controlled settings such as wastewater treatment plants, their performance in unconstrained environmental waters such as harbours, lakes and rivers is still unknown. This research will provide councils and developers with greater options for achieving nitrate neutrality with long-term viability, as well as generate targeted improvement the water quality of environmentally sensitive areas.

The project will address three areas: 

  1. Improving understanding of nitrate sources and their impact on water bodies, through a case study on the East Hampshire catchment.
  2. Field study of novel nutrient removal methods directly from the affected water bodies, and an evaluation of their potential when compared to existing nitrate reduction strategies. 
  3. Collaboration with stakeholders in the nutrient neutrality and Water Framework Development implementation, to co-create effective and sustainable remediation practices.

The project will work closely with university colleagues from different disciplines, as well as local stakeholders such as the Environment Agency, Natural England, and local authorities and developers.

General admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

A background in, or knowledge of, environmental engineer, water quality/treatment or environmental chemistry would be preferred but not essential.

How to Apply

We encourage you to contact Dr Peter Cruddas ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the ‘Apply now’ link on the Civil Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code: SCES7770123.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available; these may provide tuition fee discounts and/or a stipend. This project is also available to students who are self-funded or hold (or likely to hold) scholarships from other organisations or governments.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development