PhD Studentship: Development of water retention technology for flash floods in arid regions

University of Southampton

Southampton, UK 🇬🇧

Qualification Type:PhD
Funding for:UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount:£17,668 per annum
Hours:Full Time
Placed On:13th March 2023
Closes:1st August 2023

Project description

Water shortage is a serious and increasing problem in many countries. The development of technology to reduce water shortage is therefore of prime importance. At Southampton University, we are developing solutions for water retention to alleviate this situation using an approach inspired by Roman technology.

In arid regions, the yearly rainfall is often focussed into two or three events. This means that large volumes of water are collected in otherwise dry riverbeds (“Wadis” or “Canyons”), where the water flows away rapidly. Current engineering practice is to channel these “flash floods” to guide them through or around settlements and to allow the water to flow towards the sea as quickly as possible.

Clearly, this is an undesirable state in dry regions which suffer from acute water shortage. However, projects to investigate flash flood management including water retention are few are far between. 

In the times of the Roman Empire, this was different. The Roman engineers built so-called soil retention dams, shallow dams which retained the sediment transported by the flash floods to create farmland. The farmland then also served as water retention ”sponge”, absorbing the water from flash floods and retaining it. The systems were very complex and, judging by the estimated lifespan of the dams, they also were successful.

In this 3.5 year fully-funded PhD project you will investigate the flash flood management systems built by the Romans as well as current approaches. An analysis of the current situation and needs will be conducted, physical model tests of flash floods, sediment transport and the interaction with retention dams will provide engineering information necessary for the design of new systems based on the antique concepts. with retention dams will provide engineering information necessary for the design of new systems based on the antique concepts.

We are looking for a driven applicant with a strong Bachelors and/or Masters degree in Physics or Engineering, and expertise and interest in environmental fluid dynamics, and who is also motivated to widen their knowledge to understand complex interactions between fluid flow, the environment and human needs.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Gerald Muller, Water and Environmental Engineering Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2465.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 01 August 2023 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £17,668 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

Applications should include:

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts/Certificates to date

For further information please contact:





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development