Two PhD positions for the project ‘Global water quality and Water use under present and future droughts and heatwaves'

Utrecht University
Utrecht, Netherlands
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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The Department of Physical Geography externe link is searching for two PhD-candidates with the aim to improve understanding of water scarcity under present and future droughts and heatwaves, by quantifying the interactions between water quality, sectoral water use and water availability in regions worldwide. The project, funded by a NWO VIDI grant, will make use of the latest development in water resources (hydrological, water quality, sector water use) modelling and global change research, and will be executed in close collaboration with other leading research groups in the field of water scarcity research.

Worldwide two billion people suffer from water scarcity and even more are affected during droughts and heatwaves. During these events water scarcity is not only driven by decreasing water availability, but also by deterioration of water quality and increasing water use (e.g., irrigation, domestic, energy). These drivers are interrelated, for instance, decreasing surface water availability and increased sectoral water use adversely impact water quality. In turn, degraded water quality reduces the usability for sectors, thus increasing water scarcity. This interplay between water availability, use and quality is complex and poorly understood. With heatwaves and droughts occurring more frequently across the globe, there is an urgent need to improve water management plans. This requires improved understanding of water scarcity and the interrelation between its drivers.

We are searching for two PhD-candidates: PhD1 focusing on water quality and PhD2 focusing on sectoral water use responses and feedbacks under drought-heatwave events. You will analyse water quality (PhD1) and sectoral water use (PhD2) based on in-situ and new satellite-derived monitoring data for recent droughts-heatwaves in river basins worldwide. In addition, you will further develop a globally-applicable surface water quality model (PhD1) and sectoral water use model (PhD2), coupled to the PCR-GLOBWB2 global hydrological model. You will combine these models with global change scenarios to assess water scarcity evolution and the interactions between water availability-quality-sectoral water use under future drought-heatwave events (PhD1 and PhD2). Moreover, you will test suitable management options to alleviate water scarcity.

You will work in a multi-disciplinary team with a focus on fundamental research in water scarcity, water quality and global change. There will be ample opportunity to cooperate with researchers in the team. Principle appointment will be at Utrecht University, but it is expected that you will work also in close collaboration with researchers at different institutes (e.g. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis).


We are looking for candidates with:

  • a MSc in Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Civil Engineering, Environmental Sciences or a related field;
  • affinity with numerical modelling and data analysis;
  • proficiency in a computer programming or scripting language (e.g., Python, C++, R);
  • the ability to work in teams;
  • excellent English oral and writing skills. You should be able to demonstrate excellent English language proficiency. We require a qualification English at C1 level (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) or you should be willing to obtain this level by training.


You will be offered a full-time (1.0 FTE) PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period.

The gross salary starts with €2,395 per month in the first year and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment.

Besides that, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment externe link, supporting work-life balance and personal development as well as providing an excellent pension scheme. More information on working at Utrecht University can be found here externe link.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching.

At Utrecht University externe link, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Sustainability, Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies and Life Sciences.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences externe link studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Physical Geography externe link strives to excel in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. Its research focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations.

Aanvullende informatie

For more information about this position, please contact:
Dr Michelle van Vliet (Assistant Professor), via externe link or Prof M.F.P. Bierkens, via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

Our department is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce, and we strongly welcome women to apply.
To apply, please send your application via the ‘apply’ button below.
We will consider your application if it includes:

  • your curriculum vitae;
  • your letter of motivation;
  • at least two referees (with e-mail contact addresses and phone numbers);
  • your explicit preference for the PhD-position on water quality (PhD1) or the PhD-position on sectoral water use (PhD2).

The interviews will be scheduled in March and will probably be digital (in MS Teams).

The intended starting date for both PhD projects is 1 September 2021.

Uiterlijk reageren op 28 februari 2021.