PhD: The role of demand in Net Zero water UK via FindAPhD

University of Manchester

Manchester, , GB

About the Project

While there is now strong international momentum on climate change mitigation, it is clear that critical targets (including remaining within a 1.5°C or even 2°C rise) will be missed without fundamental changes to the way people live. UK water companies have subscribed to ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with achieving Net Zero by 2030, however as yet do not have a clear strategy to reduce residential water use. This PhD will contribute to developments in Net Zero water, conducting a mixed method analysis of the role of demand-side mitigation options including overall reduction, relocation and shifting the timing of water use. Typically, water demand management places emphasis on water companies, the regulators and consumers as agents of change. However, in order to achieve the systemic changes needed to deliver Net Zero, there is a need for a broader perspective on demand that accounts for the multifaceted role of organisations and explores the full range of their influence. Therefore, one aspect of this PhD will be to demonstrate the value of a practice-oriented approach to demand-side management in the water sector (see Hoolohan & Browne, 2020).

Project aims and objectives:

The project will deliver high-quality research that will inform the UK water industry’s transition to Net Zero and contribute to achieving sustainability and resilience in water systems. A co-productive approach will ensure that the research informs decision -making and policy-making across the water sector.

Research objectives:

• Characterise the relationships between water demand and UK greenhouse gas emissions. 

• Synthesise findings from social science research (e.g. on social practices, socio-technical transitions and sustainable consumption) to understand further potential for water demand management.

• Critique and develop existing plans for Net Zero in the water sector.

• Identify system-wide opportunities for intervention and estimate emissions reduction potential.

• Working with the public and industry stakeholders develop a pathway for water demand reduction in the UK. 

• Optional: develop an international agenda on Net Zero and water demand management, connecting to active debates in geographic areas including South Africa, Australia, California and the global south.

Working within the Tyndall Centre, the CAST Centre and with an existing network of policy- and industrial-stakeholders this PhD position is well placed to inform decarbonization strategy in the UK water sector.

 Research Group:

The successful candidate will benefit from a place within the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation, two world-leading centres for interdisciplinary climate change research. Sitting at the interface of science and policy, researchers within these centres work with business leaders, policy advisors, the media and the public to influence the design of climate policy. The Tyndall Centre and CAST offer highly supportive and stimulating research environments in which to study and connects PhD researchers to others within the UK. This means that the successful candidate will have access to unrivalled specialist expertise and opportunities to develop transferable skills to enhance their future employability. In addition, the University of Manchester offers an extensive training and development package, and support for the effective completion of a PhD.

Candidates should have a good first degree in geography or social science subject with good written and analytical skills and an interest in climate change, low-carbon lifestyles and sustainability transitions. Experience with both qualitative and quantitative research methods is desirable. Additional University of Manchester entry requirements for PhD research degrees can be found at:

 This research will take place within a highly interdisciplinary research centre, candidates are encouraged to apply from all academic backgrounds and will have the opportunity to steer the direction of the research.

The successful candidate will ideally start by Sept/Oct 2021. Please send a CV and cover letter to before making a full application through the University of Manchester admissions department. 

As an equal opportunities employer, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons. As the School is committed to the principles of the Race Equality Charter Mark and Athena SWAN, we would particularly welcome applications from women and the black and minority ethnic (BME) community, who are both currently under-represented at this grade. All appointments will be made on merit.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year studentship covers tuition fees at the Home fee rate and provides a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI rate (£15,609 in the 2021/22 academic session) for a PhD starting in September 2021. EU and overseas students can apply but will need to source additional funding themselves to cover the difference between the tuition fee rates. Self-funded students interested in a relevant topic are also welcome to contact the supervisory team.
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