Surface Water Quality Processes

The information contained within this module sheet is subject to change at any time.

Module Code
CIV4747 / CIV6747
Credits 15
Semester AUT
Pre-requisites -
Level Level 4 / MSc

Module Description:

Water becomes contaminated with substances that pose risks to living organisms and the environment as it moves through the hydrologic cycle. This module aims to address the transport and transformation processes of chemical and microbiological contaminants that pollute water. The module focuses on developing qualitative understanding of mechanisms as well as describing quantitative tool and modelling approaches used to to describe and predict water quality processes. The module also will discuss water quality issues, monitoring and sampling techniques, laboratory and field methods related to the quality of water and regulatory development.


The unit aims to develop a technical understanding of environmental transport processes and chemical processes within surface water systems, as well as demonstrate the relevance of these processes to environmental management. In addition students will develop practical understanding of how such processes can be quantified and how the inherent uncertainties within modelling tools impacts on the design process and water management practice. 

Learning Outcomes:

[1] Students will demonstrate systematic knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms by which substances are transported and transformed within river and open channels

[2] Students will apply knowledge of river mechanics to design field and laboratory experiments in which to quantify transport processes and be able to describe, design and propose methods to quantify and monitor water quality. Students will demonstrate an ability to analyse field data in order to quantify transport processes and make water management recommendations.

[3] Students will demonstrate an awareness of how the understanding and techniques gained can help water engineers and environmental managers to better manage rivers, as well as the implications of modelling uncertainty impacts environmental management.

[4] Research and evaluate current water quality problems from a global and local perspective, discuss issues using fundamental concepts and propose solutions within a regulatory framework


Coursework based on the application of theoretical aspects to data collected during field and lab work. Coursework will also cover relevance of the measured processes to environmental management decision making. 

Please note, these assessments may be subject to change.




Individual Coursework, this includes lab reports, designs etc (LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4) 100

Assessment Preparation:

CIV Assessment Submission Deadlines (Please use this link to access assessment submission deadlines for CIV modules)

Data will be collected during group activities in the laboratory and field. This must be analysed and reported and then extended through further individual design solution and consideration of wider context. Threshold pass will be achieved by completing the basic specified tasks with little or no interpretation or discussion. Scope is included for extensive extension of the work in a variety of areas for individual developing showing wider appreciation, critical evaluation and discussion.

Exam Preparation Folder (Please use this link to access assessment preparation material including past exam papers)


During tutorials, field and lab classes.

Teaching Methods :

Lectures will be used to introduce fundamental concepts and current techniques used for the monitoring and evaluation of water quality. The lectures will include solving in class problems to provide the quantitative skills required to perform an evaluation of the importance of physico-chemical processes on fate and transport of pollutants.
Students will gain first hand experience of quantifying transport process and chemical analysis  by laboratory and fieldwork activities. Analysis of gathered data-sets will be supported within tutorial classes

Please note, these are the approximate hours spent on each teaching activity.




Lectures 25
Field Work 9
Tutorials 15
Laboratory Sessions 3
Independent Study(including Prep for Assessment) 98

Outline of Syllabus:

Overview of water quality processes, advection, mixing and chemical

Introduction to water quality issues: global and local problems, sources of water pollution, control and prevention of water pollution, Fundamentals of physical-chemical processes, Quantification of water pollution: physical and chemical measures, quantification of nutrients, oxygen, solids, microbial contamination and pathogens.

Introduction to mixing processes and relation to hydrodynamics.

Concepts and definitions (Concentrations, dimensional analysis, Fickian diffusion,
one-dimensional Fickian diffusion), Momentum transfer and shear stresses
The Turbulent Advective-Diffusion Equation (ADE)The advective zone

Mixing in surface waters

Solutions of the ADE relevant to environmental managementVertical, transverse and longitudinal mixing and dispersion
Estimating mixing coefficientsAlternatives to the ADE 
Dye studies, field and laboratory experimental design, frozen cloud approximation

Water quality modelling

Application within water quality modelling, Uncertainty within models, Regulatory framework: the water framework directive, EU and UK context of water quality management for monitoring and pollution prevention.

Health & Safety:

Recommended Reading:

View the reading list via the MOLE page for this module.