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Dam impact and management in an era of change: the case of the TAMS Hydropower Project in Ethiopia (Advert Reference: RDF19/EE/MCE/MOTTA)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The TAMS hydropower project is a proposed multipurpose project located in the Baro River basin in Southwestern Ethiopia. The project area is at the junction zone between the lowering, thickly wooded highlands of the Baro River basin and the alluvial, fertile plains of the lower Baro River. The planned TAMS reservoir would have a live storage of 4.8 billion m³, a dam height of 248 m and a 76 km2 reservoir area. The hydropower plant would widely satisfy the energy demand of the region, in a country whose development is crippled by power shortage.

This research aims to develop a quantitative and spatially-based approach for evaluation of the impact of a dam and reservoir on the secondary impact zone (downstream of the dam), to replace traditional tabular/qualitative approaches. Changes in the hydrologic/hydraulic regime due to the presence and operation of dam and reservoir will be evaluated using a suite of numerical models (for upstream hydrology, two-dimensional hydraulics downstream of the dam, and irrigation network management) to compute magnitude/extent of flooding and duration of flows and flooding for baseline scenario (prior to dam construction) and reservoir operation scenario(s). The results of these models will be mapped against the spatial distribution of vegetation (riparian wetlands), services (navigation, irrigation) and access to natural resources (agriculture, fisheries) for a spatially-based and quantitative comparison of baseline and reservoir operation scenarios. The proposed methodological approach for impact evaluation is analogous to flood hazard mapping, but will be based on socio-environmental indicators and allows for both positive and negative impact.

This research project has industrial support from ELC Electroconsult (, an Italian engineering consultant in hydropower, with experience in over 90 countries including the TAMS project. The project will also seek involvement of the Water Hub @ Northumbria University (interdisciplinary group of staff with interest in water).

The principal supervisor for this project is Davide Motta.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]) in Civil Engineering (Water Resources), Environmental Engineering, Physical Geography, or similar; or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

This project is well suited to motivated and hard-working candidates with a keen interest in Hydrology & Hydraulics (H&H) modelling, flooding-related issues, dams, and interdisciplinary problems where socio-environmental aspects are important. The applicant should have excellent communication skills including proven ability to speak and write in English.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF19/EE/MCE/MOTTA) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019

Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa).


Dr. Motta has extensive experience in conducting studies and writing reports on evaluation of external flooding hazard for nuclear power plants, levee certification/freeboard uncertainty, dam breach modelling, dam rehabilitation assessment, and flood mapping, accumulated while working as Water Resources Engineer at Studio Pacheco - Hydraulic Engineering in Milan, Italy (2004-2006) and later as Water Resources Engineering Professional at Wood (formerly Amec Foster Wheeler, formerly Amec) in Blue Bell/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Chantilly, Virginia (2013-2017).

His main clients were, among others, nuclear energy companies, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Agency for 2006 XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, and local municipalities.

Selected relevant publications by Principal Supervisor:

Motta, D., Langendoen, E.J., Abad, J.D., Garcia, M.H., 2014. Modification of meander migration by bank failures. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 119, 1026–1042. doi:10.1002/2013JF002952
Motta, D., Abad, J.D., Langendoen, E.J., Garcia, M.H., 2012. The effects of floodplain soil heterogeneity on meander planform shape. Water Resources Research 48, 1–17. doi:10.1029/2011WR011601
Motta, D., Abad, J.D., Langendoen, E.J., Garcia, M.H., 2012. A simplified 2D model for meander migration with physically-based bank evolution. Geomorphology 163–164, 10–25. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.06.036

Relevant grey literature:

ELC Electroconsult has recently completed a Feasibility Study of the TAMS Hydropower Project expanding upon two previous studies from 1990 and 1997 by other consultants.

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