Water Sciences

Triple panel image of water plant, man walking through field and large agricultural machineryA supradisciplinary research base that uses cutting-edge approaches to address key water challenges in a changing world. The Water Science research theme at Birmingham addresses the wicked water problems that societies are facing around the world, developing innovative and sustainable solutions to address this global grand challenge. We work at the interfaces between systems and disciplines to address the threats posed by extreme events and multi stressor interactions, to determine system responses and resilience to disturbance.

Much of our work seeks to make advances by linking research that has traditionally been viewed as separate, so creating artificial boundaries between systems. We seek to challenge these conventions by identifying key ‘interfaces’ within the environment and explicitly investigating the processes and feedbacks that occur across them. Our research investigates the response of river morphodynamics, ground/surface water flows and ecosystems to droughts and floods, using empirical observations of natural events and experimentation in mesocosms, to develop new theory and numerical models. Research looks at the natural and human response to a range of disturbances including fracking activities for shale gas, pollution events, wildfire, floods and droughts.

Research within Water Sciences within the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science is recognised through the Birmingham Hero’s campaign due to its impact on the lives of people regionally, nationally and globally. The group further provides a central hub of transdisciplinary water sciences research taking place across the University of Birmingham that is both recognised through the Birmingham Research Spotlights and as a core theme of the Institute of Global Innovations, with its focus of on Water Challenges in a Changing World.


Academic Staff

David Hannah

Stefan Krause

Nick Kettridge

Greg Sambrook Smith

Mark Ledger

Alexander Milner

Nicholas Barrand

Josh Larsen

Kieran Khamis

Chris Bradley

Simon Dixon


Postdoctoral researchers

Berta Bonet


Giulio Curioni

Holly Nel

Raquel Arias Font

Funding and projects

We have a diverse funding portfolio with grants from NERC, BBSRC, EU, Royal Society, Leverhulme, as well as grants from industry.

  • PyroLife, training the next generation of experts in integrated wildfire management (EU ITN)
  • Toward a UK fire danger rating system: Understanding fuels, fire behaviour and impacts (NERC Highlight)
  • 100 Plastic Rivers - a global investigation (Leverhulme)
  • DANUBIUS-PP – a project to develop a European distributed research infrastructure linking rivers to seas (EU CSA)
  • The hydrodynamics of microbial landscapes (NERC Standard)
  • International Freshwater Microplastics Network (NERC Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund)

Public Engagement

Water Sciences is central to the Birmingham in Action campaign, sharing our understanding and knowledge of the hydrological environment and supporting local communities to become involved in the addressing the some of the greatest challenges that faces our society. Notably, we are sharing our state of are research into the transport and storage of plastic pollution within our river environment and its impact on people and the environment at events across the world.

PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities are available annually through the CENTA doctoral training programme, and are often advertised on an ad hoc basis by different members of the group at various points.

We are always keen to talk to potential students about opportunities.


In this section you can find a selection of relevant publications by the Water Science group in the last three years. See the pages of individual staff members for more comprehensive lists.


Abbott, B.W., Bishop, K., Zarnetske, J.P., Minaudo, C., Chapin, F.S., Krause, S., Hannah, D.M., Conner, L., Ellison, D., Godsey, S.E., Plont, S., Marçais, J., Kolbe, T., Huebner, A., Frei, R.J., Hampton, T., Gu, S., Buhman, M., Sara Sayedi, S., Ursache, O., Chapin, M., Henderson, K.D. & Pinay, G. (2019) Human domination of the global water cycle absent from depictions and perceptions. Nature Geoscience, 12, 533-540.

Aspin, T.W.H., Khamis, K., Matthews, T.J., Milner, A.M., O’Callaghan, M.J., Trimmer, M., Woodward, G. & Ledger, M.E. (2019) Extreme drought pushes stream invertebrate communities over functional thresholds. Global Change Biology, 25, 230-244.

Croghan, D., Van Loon, A.F., Sadler, J.P., Bradley, C. & Hannah, D.M. (2019) Prediction of river temperature surges is dependent on precipitation method. Hydrological Processes, 33, 144-159.

Dara, R., Kettridge, N., Rivett, M.O., Krause, S. & Gomez-Ortiz, D. (2019) Identification of floodplain and riverbed sediment heterogeneity in a meandering UK lowland stream by ground penetrating radar. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 171, 103863.

Khamis, K., Bradley, C. & Hannah, D.M. (2019) High frequency fluorescence monitoring reveals new insights into organic matter dynamics of an urban river, Birmingham, UK. Science of The Total Environment, 135668.

Mackay, J.D., Barrand, N.E., Hannah, D.M., Krause, S., Jackson, C.R., Everest, J., Aðalgeirsdóttir, G. & Black, A.R. (2019) Future evolution and uncertainty of river flow regime change in a deglaciating river basin. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 23, 1833-1865.

Rangecroft, S., Van Loon, A.F., Maureira, H., Verbist, K. & Hannah, D.M. (2019) An observation-based method to quantify the human influence on hydrological drought: upstream–downstream comparison. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 64, 276-287.

Sambrook Smith, G.H., Nicholas, A.P., Best, J.L., Bull, J.M., Dixon, S.J., Goodbred, S., Sarker, M.H. & Vardy, M.E. (2019) The sedimentology of river confluences. Sedimentology, 66, 391-407.

Van Loon, A.F., Rangecroft, S., Coxon, G., Breña Naranjo, J.A., Van Ogtrop, F. & Van Lanen, H.A.J. (2019) Using paired catchments to quantify the human influence on hydrological droughts. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 23, 1725-1739.

White, J.C., Krajenbrink, H.J., Hill, M.J., Hannah, D.M., House, A. & Wood, P.J. (2019) Habitat-specific invertebrate responses to hydrological variability, anthropogenic flow alterations, and hydraulic conditions. Freshwater Biology, 64, 555-576.



Beria, H., Larsen, J.R., Ceperley, N.C., Michelon, A., Vennemann, T. & Schaefli, B. (2018) Understanding snow hydrological processes through the lens of stable water isotopes. WIREs Water, 5, e1311.

Comer-Warner, S.A., Romeijn, P., Gooddy, D.C., Ullah, S., Kettridge, N., Marchant, B., Hannah, D.M. & Krause, S. (2018) Thermal sensitivity of CO(2) and CH(4) emissions varies with streambed sediment properties. Nature communications, 9, 2803-2803.

Horton, A.A. & Dixon, S.J. (2018) Microplastics: an introduction to environmental transport processes. WIREs Water, 5, e1268.

Jackson, F.L., Fryer, R.J., Hannah, D.M., Millar, C.P. & Malcolm, I.A. (2018) A spatio-temporal statistical model of maximum daily river temperatures to inform the management of Scotland's Atlantic salmon rivers under climate change. Science of The Total Environment, 612, 1543-1558.

Rangecroft, S., Birkinshaw, S., Rohse, M., Day, R., McEwen, L., Makaya, E. & Van Loon, A. (2018) Hydrological modelling as a tool for interdisciplinary workshops on future drought. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 42, 237-256.

Thornhill, I.A., Biggs, J., Hill, M.J., Briers, R., Gledhill, D., Wood, P.J., Gee, J.H.R., Ledger, M. & Hassall, C. (2018) The functional response and resilience in small waterbodies along land-use and environmental gradients. Global Change Biology, 24, 3079-3092.

Tibbetts, J., Krause, S., Lynch, I. & Sambrook Smith, G.H. (2018) Abundance, distribution, and drivers of microplastic contamination in urban river environments. Water, 10, 1597.



Berghuijs, W.R., Aalbers, E.E., Larsen, J.R., Trancoso, R. & Woods, R.A. (2017) Recent changes in extreme floods across multiple continents. Environmental Research Letters, 12, 114035.

Garner, G., Malcolm, I.A., Sadler, J.P. & Hannah, D.M. (2017) The role of riparian vegetation density, channel orientation and water velocity in determining river temperature dynamics. Journal of Hydrology, 553, 471-485.

Milner, A.M., Khamis, K., Battin, T.J., Brittain, J.E., Barrand, N.E., Füreder, L., Cauvy-Fraunié, S., Gíslason, G.M., Jacobsen, D., Hannah, D.M., Hodson, A.J., Hood, E., Lencioni, V., Ólafsson, J.S., Robinson, C.T., Tranter, M. & Brown, L.E. (2017) Glacier shrinkage driving global changes in downstream systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 9770-9778.

Stagge, J.H., Kingston, D.G., Tallaksen, L.M. & Hannah, D.M. (2017) Observed drought indices show increasing divergence across Europe. Scientific Reports, 7, 14045.