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PhD Studentship: Understanding how the Deterioration of Cast Iron Pipes Evolves into Leakage

University of Sheffield - Sheffield Water Centre

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £19,000
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th February 2020
Closes: 31st March 2020

The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Water Centre in collaboration with UKWIR and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience.

EPSRC PhD Studentship in:

Understanding how the deterioration of cast iron pipes evolves into leakage

Stipend: This post will fully cover university tuition and provide a tax-free stipend for UK students of £19,000 per year.

Start Date: 28 September 2020 (contract duration 4 years)

Water distribution systems are a vital infrastructure for society, but are comprised of ageing, deteriorating buried assets. Despite large amounts of investment in the networks by the UK water companies, leakage of treated water from buried pipes remains a major problem for the UK water industry. Although major improvements in leakage levels have been made over the past 25 years, the overall level of leakage in the UK is still equivalent to 20% of the volume of water produced.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, UK leakage levels have almost plateaued, with very little reduction having been achieved over that period. However, Ofwat are now requiring every company to make further reductions of at least 15% over the period 2020 to 2025, and additional reductions will be demanded in the subsequent 5-year periods. These reductions cannot be achieved by water companies using current processes. However, a major barrier to the achievement of significant reductions is the almost total lack of understanding of the physical and mechanical processes by which leaks form and develop, and the impact of environmental factors on this.

In this challenging scenario, this PhD project will focus on the formalisation and experimental validation of innovative strategies suitable for minimising the occurrence of new leaks on existing cast iron networks.

The research programme to be completed in this project will be undertaken as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (CDT WIRe). CDT WIRe is a collaboration between the three leading UK Universities in water resilient infrastructure. Students will benefit from a bespoke training scheme delivered by world leading experts from academia and industry, access to world leading experimental and computational facilities as well as close and regular contact with industry and end user partners.  CDT WIRe is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community, and offer a range of family friendly, inclusive employment policies. For further information on the CDT WIRe scheme visit the web site at:

The project will be supervised by Prof. Luca Susmel ( in collaboration with partners from UKWIR.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Normal EPSRC funding eligibility applies to this award, so students must have a relevant connection with the UK (usually established by residence).

Selection Criteria

  • An upper second class honours degree, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience equivalent to that level - The successful candidates for this position must hold a good relevant undergraduate or MSc degree (Civil/Structural/Mechanical Engineering, Computational Mechanics, Materials Science).

How to apply

Interested candidates should email a covering letter and their Curriculum

Vitae to Lindsay Hopcroft (

For information and informal enquiries please contact: Prof Luca Susmel (

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