Towards resilient small water supply infrastructure

Start date

1 October 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

UKRI and/or University of Surrey

Funding information

We are offering the UKRI standard stipend (currently £18,622 per year) with an additional bursary of £1,700 per year for full 3.5 years for exceptional candidates. In addition, a research, training and support grant of £3,000 over the project is also offered. Full home or overseas tuition fees (as applicable) will be covered.


Practices that involve the installation of poor-quality components and enable rapid corrosion of handpumps undermine the resilience and maintenance of the handpumps that commonly supply small water supply systems. Climate change projections are often presented as changes in temperature and precipitation level; however, their impact on infrastructures during their lifetime is often oversimplified. Hence there is a significant gap in the existing converting mechanism to translate climate data to infrastructure loading demand. For small water supply infrastructure, the climate change impacts on are mainly assessed using statistical analysis of previous events without reflection on material characteristics and their physical response to changing operation and environmental condition. Additionally, the assessment of climate change on infrastructures is generally conducted in silos, either with over-generalisation or bespoke assessment for a certain type of infrastructure without considering the impact on dependent assets. To this end, the project will investigate and assess the change in loading and load effects under different climate projections using a campaign of physical and numerical models to assess and formulate the failure projection patterns for probable and plausible failure mechanism of local materials and infrastructure.  

Using data collected in the field and laboratory, the results of this research will significantly contribute to the understanding of climate hazards faced by communities that rely on groundwater-sourced small water supply, as well as provide key insights into how materials will behave in the face of climate change and anthropogenic stress, which is the basis for recommendations on the use of more resilient materials. Ultimately, this can reduce breakdowns, downtime, and the deterioration of infrastructure, boosting the resilience of communities (MacAllister et al., 2020 

By feeding the results into ongoing initiatives like the Uptime consortium ( and through global knowledge networks such as the Rural Water Supply Network (, the research has a wide outreach to improve the wider understanding of these issues among implementers, Governments, regulators, importers, distributors and communities in a variety of countries. 

Eligibility criteria

Open to both UK and international candidates.

Up to 30% of our UKRI-funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees. Find out more about eligibility.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme.

This PhD will suit a candidate with a background in civil and environmental engineering, hydrology or hydrogeology and an interest in improving the livelihoods of small water supply users in low-income countries. The successful candidate will need: 

  • A willingness to undertake field work.  
  • An ability to understand and develop software for data analysis and mapping techniques.  
  • An organised approach to work with strong problem-solving skills. 
  • Interest and enthusiasm for understanding a real-time environmental problem. 
  • Good oral and written communication skills and in particular the ability to work with multi-disciplinary teams.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal, you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Katherine Pond
06 AA 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689918

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