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Future-Proofing Scotland’s Water Security: Delivering Safe and Resilient Water Supplies

Hydro Nation

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Dr M Glendell , Dr Sarah Halliday , Dr Paola Ovando Pol , Dr L Avery No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project represents an exciting opportunity to make a difference and help Scotland to adapt to climate change by addressing critical questions of water security within a multi-disciplinary framework. You will gain highly sought-after skills in both socio-economic and environmental analysis, mathematical modelling, environmental science and management, stakeholder interaction and systems analysis. You will have the opportunity to build professional networks with a wide range of organisations, take ownership of the project and influence the direction of the research. You will be trained to develop as a highly skilled independent researcher well equipped for a successful competitive career in academia, public, private and non-governmental sectors.

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.1 aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. However, even in a developed nation such as Scotland, climate change, and our water systems resilience to it, is putting achieving this goal at risk. Until recently, drought research in the UK has been relatively neglected, with research on climate extremes focused on understanding and mitigating flood events. Although the UK Climate Projections 2018 indicate wetter winters in Scotland, they also indicate that Scotland’s climate will become warmer, with drier summers, and increased occurrence of drought, especially in the North and East. Recent studies suggest that certain parts of Scotland, especially less resilient headwater catchments, may be most vulnerable. However, these studies have only evaluated the impact of climate change on river flows, they have not addressed the issue from a water security perspective, considering implications for water supply and associated water quality issues. In addition, interacting factors such as land use change, population increase, economic development and changing balance of supply and demand have not been assessed in relation to understanding Scotland’s water supply networks’ vulnerability to drought events.

Water supply in Scotland is largely managed by Scottish Water (SW) through their network of drinking water supply catchments. However, private water supplies are also critical. While they provide drinking water for 3.6% of the Scottish population, they are of strategic importance for tourism, as some of these water supplies serve hotels and tourism accommodation. In recent years, concerns over the drought resilience of these supplies have emerged, with 500 supply owners contacting local authorities to seek emergency assistance when their supplies ran dry in 2018. Meanwhile, understanding the overall likely impact of future droughts on Scotland’s water security is critical to facilitate planning for effective, resilient action to ensure access to sufficient quantities of future clean water to maintain health, livelihoods and production and meet SDG 6.1.

This project will:

• Relate past drought periods to observed water quality in drinking water supply catchments (chemical and biological status) to examine empirical evidence of drought impacts in Scotland in terms of water quantity, quality and ecosystem resilience, with a special focus on private water supplies and users.
• Develop a national-scale risk-based decision support tool to evaluate the vulnerability of water supplies (quantity, quality) to drought, including socio-economic and environmental drivers, to provide an evidence base to target investment and sustainable mitigation measures
• Evaluate the effectiveness and resilience of water quality mitigation measures for key nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, organic carbon) and faecal contamination under drought conditions in two contrasting study catchments in the context of changing climate, water demand and land use change in the near (up to 2040) and medium (2050 to 2100) term, considering the potential cost-effectiveness and environmental trade-offs of grey and green solutions.

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted at the University of Dundee.
Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees.
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject (e.g.environmental science, biology, geography, economics, maths) or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in February 2020.


Rudd et al. 2017 National-scale analysis of simulated hydrological droughts (1891-2015) J. Hydrol
Gosling 2014 Assessing the impact of projected climate change on drought vulnerability in Scotland. Hydrol. Res.
Kay et al. 2018 National-scale analysis of low flow frequency: historical trends and potential future changes. Clim. Change
Holdsworth 2019 Private Water Supplies in a changing climate : Insights from 2018 Key findings
Smith et al. 2019 A multi-objective ensemble approach to hydrological modelling in the UK: an application to historic drought reconstruction. Hydrol. EARTH Syst. Sci.
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