Data analytics for predicting and detecting blockages in pipe networks, Water Engineering, PhD (Funded) Ref: 3048

About the award

The EPSRC-funded STREAM Industrial Doctoral Centre, in collaboration with South West Water are funding a PhD studentship to begin in September 2018. The studentship will cover UK/EU fees and a stipend of £19,000 for years 1 and 2, and £20,000 for years three and four. UK students will be offered full fees and the stipend.This project is not available to non-UK applicants who do not meet residency requirements (see


Engineering, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter


Water Engineering


Professor Zoran Kapelan, University of Exeter

There are approximately 366,000 blockages in the UK per year on more than 390,000 km of sewers. These blockages cause 80% of sewer flooding incidents and many pollution incidents including most serious ones.  Around £88 million is spent each year on clearing blocked sewers in the UK. Historically, water companies have relied on customers to report blockages and have responded to these by using reactive repair and maintenance approach.

New water level and other sensors and related information and communication technology that enable wireless transmission of this data to the company control room in near real-time are becoming increasingly available and affordable. This project will develop new data analytics type technology that will utilise the latest water level sensor and other data and Artificial Intelligence type techniques to predict/detect occurrence of blockages in wastewater networks and hence enable much more proactive management of these events resulting in major breakthrough in the field. The technology developed in this project will be tested and validated on the data provided by the South West Water.

South West Water provides wastewater service to 1.85 million residents and 0.9 million tourists visiting the area each year by managing 15,600 km of sewers. The new technology for near real-time prediction/detection of blockages will provide the company with objective and scientifically sound methodology to achieve a whole range of benefits including improved customer service, reduced operational and maintenance costs and improved protection of the natural environment.

We are looking for highly motivated applicants that should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Engineering or related fields (Computer Science, Physics, Applied Mathematics). Previous experience in wastewater systems and/or building data analytics and/or software programming are desirable.


Application deadline:22nd March 2018
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on 22nd of March 2018.  If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730. 

If you wish to further discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. Zoran Kapelan (email:; phone: 01392 724054).