PhD High-resolution water resource modelling to better quantify human water interactions within Europe (1.0 FTE)

PhD High-resolution water resource modelling to better quantify human water interactions within Europe (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
25 May 30 Jun Utrecht

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Job description

As part of the European project SOS-WATER, we are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate who is interested in applying hydrological models to make novel high resolution water simulations over the European continent. 
Water scarcity, water quality degradation and the loss of freshwater biodiversity are critical environmental challenges worldwide, which have primarily been driven by a significant increase in water withdrawals during the last century. In the coming decades, climate and societal changes are projected to further exacerbate these challenges in many regions around the world. As such, defining a safe operating space (SOS) for water resources in a changing climate and society is urgently needed to ensure a sufficient and reliable supply of water of a quality acceptable for human activity and natural ecosystems. 

The large SOS-Water project is a multi-disciplinary project executed by a consortium of ten organisations in eight countries that aims to create the foundation for a holistic and participatory assessment framework of the SOS for the entire water resources system, accounting concurrently for all relevant water dimensions across multiple sectors and spatial scales under the influence of socio-economic, policy, technological, and climatic changes. This framework will help to operationalise and downscale the global freshwater SOS to the continental and river basin levels and to ultimately streamline water planning and management at local to regional levels and beyond such that the allocation of water among societies, economies, and ecosystems will be economically efficient, socially fair, and resilient to shocks.

What will you be doing?
In many areas of the world, water resources are overexploited, leading to the depletion of water volumes in aquifers, reservoirs and rivers. This, in turn, leads to greater pressure on the remaining water resources and more water scarcity indifferent sectors. As a PhD, you will develop new methods that analyse the impact of increased water demand on the availability and use of the remaining fresh water resources. You will take into account the water demand for different sectors and the changing hydrological conditions as a result of climate change. You will incorporate these processes in a state-of-the-art global hydrological model (PCR-GLOBWB) developed by the hydrology group in Utrecht. Your model developments will be validated and tested against local observations and knowledge for different case study regions in Europe in close collaboration with our consortium partners. For a number of hotspot regions, you will perform further in-depth analyses that will be supported by high-resolution simulations of your improved modelling framework and compared to other modelling efforts by our project partners.

These results will elucidate trade-offs between different water source and the impact of hydrological extremes on the water scarcity. You will collaborate closely with the other consortium partners within Europe as well as local PhDs and software support engineers who are working on the model developments within our large-scale hydrological modelling efforts.


Utrecht University


Who are we looking for?
You have an interest in global water and sustainability challenges and are enthusiastic about working with global datasets and models. You are a team player and will be part of a multidisciplinary team with the larger SOS-WATER project and supported locally by scientific and technical support staff. Together with the team, you will work on making large scale hydrological models available at fine resolutions to be implemented in local assessments while still benefiting from the global applicability. Your focus will be on improving the existing PCR-GLOBWB model that is developed in Utrecht and together with our partners in Europe provide high-resolution water simulations that include dynamic human water interactions (e.g., abstraction for irrigation, industry, households).

We are looking for candidates with:

  • an MSc in Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Civil Engineering, Environmental Science or a related field;
  • affinity with numerical modelling;
  • prior knowledge/experience in handling large scale (hydrological) datasets;
  • the ability to work in a team;
  • demonstrable English language proficiency (oral and writing);
  • willingness to start 1 October 2022.
PhD candidates at Utrecht University are expected to follow courses as part of their own academic development and to assist in teaching courses at Bachelor's and Master's level at our faculty. Both activities amount to approximately 10% of the contracted time.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,443 per month in the first year and €3,122 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) for full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year, see working at the university for more information.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively on major societal themes. Our focus is on the Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.
Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education at BSc, MSc and PhD level. Our research focuses on the processes, patterns and dynamics of the Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. We are a lively department that hosts an active PhD candidate community of more than thirty PhD students. 


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1190752



Heidelberglaan 8, 3584CS, Utrecht

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