This is a vocational programme relevant to graduates with good Honours degrees in appropriate subjects (for example, Geosciences, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biosciences, and Environmental Sciences). It is important to have a good knowledge of mathematics.
The lecture component of the programme encompasses the full range of hydrogeology. Modules cover drilling, well design, aquifer test analysis, laboratory test analysis, groundwater flow, hydrogeophysics, inorganic chemistry of groundwaters, organic contamination of groundwater, contaminated land and remediation, groundwater modelling, contaminant transport, hydrology, and groundwater resources assessment.
These lecture modules are supported by practical field sessions, and by computing and hydrogeological modelling based on industry standard software. Integration of concepts developed in the taught programmes is facilitated through student-centred investigations of current issues linked to a diverse range of hydrogeological environments.
Examinations are held in January and April. From May onwards, you undertake a project, a report on which is submitted in September.
Projects may be field-, laboratory-, or modelling- based, and are usually of an applied nature, although a few are research-orientated. Our chemical (inorganic and organic), rock testing, computing, geophysical and borehole-logging equipment is available for you to use during this period.
Career openings include those with consulting engineering and environmental firms, government scientific services and regional water companies, both in this country and abroad. Demand for hydrogeologists is substantial and students from the course are highly regarded by employers.
Atkins Summer Placements
As a current student you will have the opportunity to apply for a placement with Atkins, the largest engineering consultancy in the UK, the largest multi-disciplinary consultancy in Europe and the seventh largest design firm in the world.
Atkins is able to offer paid summer placements within their teams of hydrogeologists, geologists and environmental scientists in several of their offices with flexibility to support other Atkins offices across the UK and internationally. These placements will provide excellent experience working on real projects for candidates who are committed to careers in hydrogeology. See the flyer for more information (PDF 103KB)
Download the MSc Hydrogeology Brochure
Why study this course
The course covers all major areas of groundwater resources, groundwater pollution and remediation, and groundwater engineering. Groundwater conditions are treated on an international basis and there are usually opportunities each year for students to undertake project work abroad.
The course is the longest established hydrogeology course in the UK, having been set up in the early 1970s, and as such its alumni are spread throughout the industry. Around 24 students in total take the course each year, coming from a wide range of backgrounds, from the UK, other parts of Europe, and further afield.
Over its 40 year history, the MSc Course in Hydrogeology has changed considerably, keeping in step with major changes in the subject, the concerns of the industry, and vastly increased computer power. Uniquely for a UK university department, there are now six core members of hydrogeological staff, specialists covering chemical, microbiological, geological and modelling aspects of the subject.
The course runs over 12 months from September to September. In the Autumn and Spring terms the subject is developed in lectures and practical sessions interspersed with fieldwork, a seminar series and at least one visit to a national hydrogeological meeting.
There is also a ‘split registration’ option in which it is possible to study the taught elements of the course over two consecutive years, the independent project being completed before the end of September in the second year.
The Course has 10 taught modules, each representing either 10 or 20 credits. The individual project is worth 60 credits.
Groundwater Hydraulics (20 credits)
Aim: to develop a sound understanding of the physical processes controlling groundwater hydraulics and solute transport, the mathematical models used to describe them, and the full range of laboratory and field hydraulic tests to characterise the subsurface hydrogeologically.
Content: Principles of flow and storage in porous media; groundwater flow and storage in aquifers; solute transport; finite difference models; laboratory hydraulic property measurements; small scale field tests; large scale field tests; computer, field, and laboratory work.
Surface Water Interactions (10 credits)
Aim: to explore the interactions between surface and subsurface water systems including streams, rivers and lakes, and how to measure and quantify the fluxes at the interface.
Content: The hydrological cycle. Meteorology, precipitation and evapotranspiration. Unsaturated flows and groundwater recharge. Stream flows and stream/aquifer interactions. Lumped catchment water balance modelling (requiring an introduction to Visual Basic for Applications programming).
Borehole Design, Construction, and Maintenance (10 credits)
Aim: to develop a working understanding of the theory and practice of the design, construction and maintenance of boreholes for water supply.
Content: Methods of groundwater abstraction; drilling, logging, and sampling; borehole geophysics; pump technology and design; tube well design and construction; and well maintenance and rehabilitation.
Environmental Geophysics (10 credits)
Aim: to explain and demonstrate the theory and practical application of surface geophysical methods in groundwater assessment, together with developing skills in the use of geographical information systems and remote sensing.
Content: Principles of geophysical techniques for shallow subsurface imaging with emphasis on electrical and electromagnetic surveys. Principles and applications of spatial data analysis with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing.
Groundwater Management and Exploitation (10 credits)
Aim: to extend the principles introduced in Groundwater Hydraulics to cover a range of more complex and challenging flow systems and methods of analysis in the context of the management of groundwater. The emphasis is on issues of current interest to groundwater professionals worldwide.
Content: Flow through fractures and fracture networks; saline groundwater movement; heat transport; further development of recharge and surface water / groundwater interaction theories and their applications; groundwater aspects of clean carbon technologies.
Inorganic Chemistry and Groundwater (10 credits)
Aim: to understand aqueous inorganic chemistry and to interpret groundwater chemistry data sets in the context of water-rock interactions to solve problems of regional flow, pollution and well design.
Content: Theory of dissolution/precipitation, acid-base, redox, and sorption reactions. Isotopes. Application to water resources and contaminant hydrogeology.
Groundwater organic contaminant pollution and remediation (20 credits)
Aim: to provide the organic contaminant hydrogeological knowledge base that will underpin a student’s potential future professional activity in the field of groundwater contamination by synthetic organic chemicals.
Content: Contaminant source terms; toxicology, environmental standards, and legislation; organic contaminant phase partitioning to air, water, solids; conceptual models of contaminant migration; processes of sorption, chemical reaction, biodegradation; non-aqueous phase flow; contaminated land / groundwater legislative frameworks; groundwater risk assessment; site investigation and groundwater monitoring practice; and groundwater remediation.
Regional Groundwater Flow Modelling (10 credits)
Aim: to provide an introduction to regional groundwater flow modelling; to refine skills in conceptualising groundwater systems from limited data; and to introduce professional groundwater modelling software.
Content: Conceptual modelling. Mathematical models. Numerical modelling methods and approximations. Modelling practice. Case studies. Flow modelling project using a proprietary modelling system - G/W Vistas (+MODFLOW).
Contaminant Transport Modelling (10 credits)
Aim: to extend the basic theory introduced in Groundwater Flow and Transport Theory, and to introduce and apply the methods commonly used in modelling solute transport in different types of aquifer.
Content: Review of conservative and reactive transport principles. Models for dual porosity and multi-phase systems. Application of contaminant transport software - MODPATH and MT3D.
Water Resources Studies (10 credits)
Aim: to understand how hydrogeological assessments are structured and to develop ability in hydrogeological interpretation and water resources assessment for different geological settings, physical domains and exploitation proposals. To understand how the various aspects of hydrogeological investigation are integrated. To gain an introduction to the UK hydrogeological research and industry community.
Content: uided research on various hydrogeological environments in the context of different applied problems: includes sandstones and chalk in temperate climates; hard rock aquifers in developing semi-arid environments; wetlands; karst; and nuclear waste disposal. Seminars from external speakers. Attendance at a national meeting.
For those requiring it, there are additional supporting sessions at the start of the year on those mathematical concepts relevant to the course.
Fees and funding
The tuition fees for 2013/14 are £5,430.
Learn more about fees and funding
In previous years this course was awarded 11 NERC advanced programme studentships, but from the 2011/12 entry, NERC has decided to end provision of all such studentships to UK MSc courses.
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.
For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Student Funding Office via the online enquiries system.
Scholarships and studentships
Water Conservators Bursary
The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators has generously awarded the MSc Course a bursary of £4000 per year to assist a student or students who may find themselves in difficulty with the payment of their course fees. Find out more about the Water Conservators Bursary and how to apply (PDF 113KB).
SRK Consulting (UK) is pleased to announce their scholarship programme commencing in 2013, created to assist students undertaking scientific and engineering MSc’s which can be applied in the mining industry.The value of the scholarship is up to a maximum of £5,000 which will be payable directly to the University for course fees. Find out more about the SRK scholarship and how to apply (PDF 85KB)
The course is open to graduates who hold a good honours degree or an equivalent qualification from the full range of science, engineering and environmental disciplines. The course is quantitative and teaches the principles underpinning Hydrogeology to a high level. It introduces participants to many quantitative skills and methods and applicants are required, therefore, to demonstrate an adequate level of ability in mathematics that will allow them to gain the most from the Course and to work effectively in their future career. An AS or A-level in Mathematics or an equivalent through their degree course or through appropriate tuition is sufficient.
Learn more about entry requirements
We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language requirements
You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:
How to apply
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