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Digital twins for the flexible resilience-informed planning of water strategy

   Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Resilience is becoming a ubiquitous concept even as it remains poorly defined from an integration perspective. Moreover, trade-offs between resilience objectives exist, implying that to avoid unintended consequences, we need a unifying approach that integrates both hazards and the infrastructure (green, blue, grey, social, etc.) that it interacts with. One of the major areas of concern for the UK is the management of its water resources. Water management is typically organised into separate systems, encompassing delivery of clean water and the disposal of sewage. The reality is that these are only two aspects of a much wider picture of interactions that cover a wide range of stakeholders with many technological, societal, economic, and environmental concerns that affect the water sector. Due to the multifaceted nature of these systems and their complex interactions with the water cycle it becomes the perfect exemplar of a systems of systems that would benefit from the implementation of resilience formed planning.

To represent this complex environment of water-land systems and understand the effect of multi-stakeholder objectives we argue that a framework needs to be developed to combine systems methods including integrated modelling and monitoring with uncertainty assessment and outcome-oriented resilience metrics. This will enable a range of decision-makers to analyse long-term implications of their regulatory, operational, and planning decisions that include design of multifunctional solutions (e.g., Green Infrastructure with real time control). This is particularly timely in the context of the highly contemporary challenges such as sewage pollution from storm overflows and plans set under the Environment Bill to reduce the frequency and harm associated with storm overflows.

The focus this PhD is on development of a modelling framework that enables Systems of systems modelling of the water eco-system. It will be based upon further development and application of Imperial College London’s Water Systems Integration Modelling Framework (WSIMOD, through the concept of a Water Digital Twin. The project will include: 

(1) Development of a WSIMOD implementation for a selected case study; model developments will include more detailed modelling of water supply and allocation algorithms.

 (2) Design of controls that can be used to improve the key selected indicators in the system (i.e., river water quality, low and high flows), including innovative design and operational options, such as Abstraction Effluent Discharge ( and 

(3) Development a multi-objective optimisation process to simultaneously create a portfolio of future options that builds in flexibility and adaptability of operation into the water systems design and planning process under future uncertainties. 

The PhD student will work closely with the industry supervisors from the Costain Systems Engineering (Dr Graham Bleakley) and Water Sector teams. As the subject of the Ph.D. relates to the strategic goals of Costain in this sector, one of the intended outcomes is that the student selected, will, upon successful completion of the Ph.D. and an interview, be offered a role within Costain. 

Academic Supervision will be provided by Dr Ana Mijic and Dr Barnaby Dobson (Imperial College London, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering). 

Entry requirements:

The applicants should hold first class degree in a relevant discipline and ideally have a Master’s degree in a relevant subject such as civil or environmental engineering. Experience in programming is essential because of the computational nature of the work (ideally Python, however other languages will be accepted). Experience in simulation models of water systems and understanding the water cycle and water infrastructure will be particularly advantageous. 

How to apply:

Applicants wishing to be considered for this opportunity should send the following application documents to Dr Jeni Giambona :

1. Current CV including details of their academic record, and if possible, class ranking

2. Covering letter explaining their motivation, suitability, skills and/or experiences (1 page maximum)

3. Contact details of two academic referees

Application via the Imperial College Registry is not necessary at this stage. Applications will be regularly reviewed until the position is filled. 

Funding Notes

The studentship will provide funding for up to 4 years including tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI London rate (£18,062 for the 2022/23 academic year). Full funding is available to Home students.

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