Smart operational control for reduced discolouration risk in self-cleaning water distribution systems, Engineering – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3107

About the award


Prof. Zoran Kapelan, University of Exeter
Dr Michele Romano, United Utilities

Project Description:
Water discolouration (i.e. occurrence of a yellow/red/brown water) is a major issue worldwide and it is the single largest source of customer complaints in the UK water industry. This is mainly a consequence of the old, deteriorating pipe network with many corroded metal pipes, dating back to Victorian times, still being used for water distribution. Discolouration events have been traditionally dealt with in a rather reactive manner waiting for the customers to complain first and then sending the teams out to flush the nearby water pipes. Water companies do also proactively flush their pipe networks periodically but this is costly.

The new smart technology that will be developed as part of this project will result in a more effective discolouration risk management by enabling self-cleaning of pipe networks. This will be achieved via smart operation of valves and pumps in these networks and by using the pressure, flow and other sensing data received in near real-time. The technology developed in this project will be tested and validated on the pilot areas within the United Utilities region.
The net result of the new technology will be improved customer water service via reduced number of discolouration complaints. Other benefits include reduced operational and maintenance costs via more proactive management of these events and reduced regulatory fines associated with discolouration customer complaints.

This PhD studentship is funded as part of the WISE Centre for Doctoral Training (see As such, it provides a substantially enhanced student experience, including additional training and opportunities to develop a whole range of additional skills. The generous travel budget also provides opportunities for attending conferences and other UK and international events, including a placement abroad for up to 3 months.
The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 4 years of full-time study to commence in September 2018 and is subject to confirmation of funding

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, currently £14,777 per annum, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the EPSRC.  Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.  Further information about eligibility can be found here.

Prof. Zoran Kapelan, University of Exeter
Dr Michele Romano, United Utilities

Entry requirements

We are looking for highly motivated applicants that must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in Engineering or related fields (Computer Science, Physics or Applied Mathematics). Previous experience in water systems and/or software programming are desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 

• CV
• 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)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• 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 29/05/ 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).

Please quote reference 3107 on your application and in any correspondence about this project


Application deadline:29th May 2018
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research Office