The University of Sheffield
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

Benefits Of Cooperation In Transboundary River Basins

Supervisor: Dr Charles Rouge

This is an ideal project for a resourceful and driven individual. The successful candidate will develop and hone first-rate analytical, computational and communication skills that will enable them to choose their subsequent career path, whether in academia or industry.

This project will look at developing methods to evaluate the benefits of cooperation for the use of water resources in transboundary river basins, i.e., basins where water is shared between several countries. Increasing water demands, along with a variable water supply and a changing climate, mean water is becoming more valuable. Many decision-makers plan investments to bolster water security, but often with an exclusive focus on their country or region. How can we plan the construction and management of new infrastructure to ensure that instead of causing conflicts in a river basin, it ushers in an era of prosperity shared by all riparians?

The PhD will look at large-scale river systems in the Global South, and confront two types of methods to have a full picture of the trade-offs between the water uses of different countries. On one hand, hydro-economic analysis has been largely developed by water engineers to combine hydrological fluxes and the management of water infrastructure with economic considerations. It enables policy makers to understand how water availability and demand impact the value of water across space and time, and helps in water resources planning and management. On the other hand, water use for economic efficiency must be balanced with other uses that are generally more difficult to quantify, such as the provision of essential ecosystem services. Multi-objective evolutionary algorithms (MOEA) enables a quantification of these trade-offs.

The project will focus on developing new and powerful methodologies to support sustainable planning and management of water resources:
1) Extending stochastic dual dynamic programming (SDDP), one of the rare hydro-economic optimisation methods that work for large-scale reservoir systems, to account for the non-cooperative management of their water resources by each country.
2) Developing methods to explore trade-offs between countries when several objectives are considered and not given an a priori monetary value. Due to the system's scale, these methods will combine SDDP with state-of-the-art multi-objective evolutionary algorithms (MOEA), e.g., by using SDDP to guide the MOEA's progression.

This project will include national but also international cooperation opportunities, including with top research groups abroad and with international organisations such as the United Nations’ FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation).

This project is NOT FUNDED, although Departmental/University scholarships are available for applicants who can demonstrate strong evidence of research potential.

Pre-requisite qualification

Suitable for candidates holding or anticipating award of an MSc, or 1st/2.1 undergraduate degree in an engineering or numerical/physical sciences discipline. A taste for programming is essential and prior experience is a plus.