The course

Distance learning
Course award
Entry date
September, January



Our Water and Environmental Management course offers a multi-disciplinary understanding of water resources and environmental issues. It’s designed to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to plan and manage resources within the context of climate change and the environment. With growing worldwide issues over water resources, this sector is becoming ever more important.

The Water and Environmental Management course is delivered by experts in the field of water and environmental management, covering a wide range of relevant disciplines. It’s designed for graduates in civil engineering, earth sciences or other related disciplines. Career opportunities include water resources engineering, environmental engineering, flood risk management and industrial software packages.

Flexible study options

This course can be studied via Online Learning, ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. View our How online learning works pages to find out more. It can also be studied on-campus full-time or part-time.

Programme duration

Online Learning: 3-8 years


The course meets the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates with an accredited CEng (Partial) BEng (Hons), or an IEng (Full) BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See for further information.

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Course content

This course, led by Prof. Bhaskar Sen Gupta, consists of eight courses. MSc students also complete a research dissertation.

Online Learning students study four mandatory courses in Semester 1 and four optional courses in Semester 2.

Programme structure
Semester 1 Semester 2
Students choose 4 courses from the following optional courses:
  • Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources
  • Computational Simulation of River Flows
  • Water Supply and Drainage for Buildings
  • Environmental Geotechnics
  • Innovative Technologies and Global Water Challenges
Students choose 4 courses from the following optional courses:
  • Urban Drainage and Water Supply
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment
  • Marine Waste Water Discharges
  • Statistical Modelling of the Environment
  • Irrigation Water Management

Course descriptions

Please find below the course descriptions. For more information on courses, please contact the Programme Leader.

Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources

Semester 1 (optional)

The aim of this course is to provide the students with a thorough understanding of the hydrological basis of water resources assessment, planning and management. In this regard, the course is designed to provide the learners with a board introduction to hydrological modelling, as well as a detailed appreciation of the following topics:

Methods of meteorological data collection & analysis techniques; surface water resources; collection and analysis of low stream-flow data; reservoir planning & design; uncertainty analysis in water resources planning; groundwater occurrence, evaluation & management.

Computer Simulation of River Flows

Semester 1 (optional)

This course will help students to develop an understanding of the theory under pinning and application of one-dimensional computer models for river flow prediction, as well as an understanding of the concept of sustainability applied to the design of flood protection schemes. Topics covered in the syllabus include:

Introduction to river modelling; GIS in river modelling; Governing St Venant equations; Data requirements; Model calibration; Hydraulic structures; Conveyance estimation system; Explicit finite difference schemes; Implicit finite difference schemes; Mathematical properties of finite difference schemes.

Water Supply and Drainage for Buildings

Semester 1 (optional)

This course aims to enable students to understand the drivers for water conservation and how conservation measures are best implemented at the small-scale end of the spectrum (i.e. at the property or development scale). The course will focus on both the technologies available for water conservation, as well as on the implications of implementation. Students will be encouraged to develop skills in tailoring water conservation solutions designed not only to comply with legislation but that also provide best benefit within the context of their use.

Drivers for water conservation; relevant legislation; implications of climate change; in-building consumption and implications for systems; attenuation principles; rainwater harvesting; greywater recycling; green/living roofs; storage, control and distribution of reclaimed water; treatment of reclaimed water.

Environmental Geotechnics

Semester 1 (optional)

This course aims to give students an appreciation of the role of contaminated land within geotechnical engineering, developing understanding of current UK legislation and government policy relating to methodologies for dealing with contaminated land. In this regard, the course enables learners to understand the practical relevance of the remediation technologies within the context of site contamination and to gain knowledge of the engineering measures adopted at landfill sites for the safe disposal of waste. Subjects and topics covered include:

Historical pollution sources and extent; qualitative and quantitative risk assessment; site investigation; remediation methods; legislative background; characteristics of landfill sites and wastes.

Environmental Energy and Economics

Semester 1 (optional)

This course looks at how particular analytical techniques can be applied to understanding energy markets and environmental issues - carbon emissions and climate change in particular. It also look at how to use the results from this analysis are used to understand, critique, and formulate policy relating to environment issues, carbon emissions and energy markets.

Innovative Technologies and Global Water Challenges

Semester 1 (optional)

This course aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the global water issues and challenges, developing knowledge and understanding of currently available sustainable, innovative technologies and solutions to confront these challenges. Through examples of the Instructor’s project implementations across 4 continents, the students will develop understanding of barriers to technologies implementation and roadmap for their validation, market deployment and adoption.

Global water issues (e.g. water availability, water pollution, geopolitics, effects of climate change); water/energy Nexus (water use for energy production; risks, challenges and opportunities in the water/energy relationship); innovative technologies for water pollution mitigation; water governance; barriers to innovation; and solutions for overcoming these barriers.

Urban Drainage and Water Supply

Semester 2 (optional)

This course introduces the learner to the broad theme of Urban Drainage and Water Supply, with the aim of providing understanding of the following topics: runoff estimation, rainfall estimation, system layout/design, pump system design, sediment transport, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, the role of computer simulations, service reservoirs, water distribution practice and groundwater supply. The course includes instruction on the use of Infoworks CS. Subjects covered in the course syllabus include:

Performance requirements (e.g. technical, public safety, whole-life operational, amenity and sustainability); combined and separate sewerage systems; rainwater quantification/climate change; overview of sewer sediments; storm Sewer Design; hydrodynamic flow models; SuDS; service reservoirs; water distribution practice; groundwater supply; leakage.

Water and Wastewater Treatment

Semester 2 (optional)

The aim of this course is to enable learners to understand the processes and technologies for water treatment including conventional and advanced wastewater treatment and the sizing of various treatment units. The course also provides awareness for the learner of the importance of effective wastewater treatment for river pollution control. Specific topics covered in the course syllabus include:

Introduction to water & wastewater characteristics; fresh water treatment (e.g. coagulation and sedimentation, filtration, disinfection); desalination technologies for sea water treatment; wastewater treatment (e.g. preliminary treatment design, primary tank design/secondary treatment, advanced wastewater treatment); land-based, low-energy and sustainable wastewater treatment systems; sludge handling, treatment & disposal; effluent disposal (including re-use).

Marine Wastewater Discharges

Semester 2 (optional)

This course will provide students with a good understanding of the underlying physical processes controlling wastewater disposal in the marine environment and an awareness of commercial software available (e.g. CORMIX) for modelling wastewater discharges. It will also demonstrate the role of marine outfalls as part of a wastewater management strategy and provide students with an awareness of the relevant legislation controlling wastewater disposal. Topics in the syllabus include:

Introduction to turbulent buoyant jets and plumes (e.g. jet trajectories and dilution equations); Multi-port diffuser discharges in the marine environment (e.g. near-source merging of multiple 3D jets, dilution characteristics); Integral methods for buoyant jet modelling; Commercial software available for wastewater discharge modelling); Specific characteristics associated with hypersaline and particulate-laden discharges; The hydraulics of sea outfall design and performance (e.g. hydraulic requirements, outfall pipe sizing and diffuser arrangement, prevention of sea water intrusion, purging flows); The role of marine outfalls in wastewater management strategies; Legislative and social issues associated with marine wastewater discharges.

Statistical Modelling of the Environment

Semester 2 (Optional)

The aim of this course is to learn and apply a range of Statistical Modelling and Time series analysis techniques for analyses and modelling of environmental related topics. This course has been designed to exploit R (software environment for statistical computing and graphic) for effective learning and application of theoretical methods and techniques. The emphasis is on incorporating elements of critical thinking and reasoning for solving real world problems in the area of environmental science.

Exploratory data analysis, data collection and experimental design, descriptive statistics, statistical dispersion, random variable, probability, expectation, probability distribution (discrete) and density (continuous), joint and multivariate distribution and density, statistical model, explanatory and response variable, correlation, linear and multiple regression model, logistic regression, binomial regression and Poisson regression, time-series analysis and forecasting, moving average and smoothing, stationary, seasonality, Box-Jenkins model.

Irrigation Water Management

Semester 2 (optional)

This course is designed to equip the students with the background knowledge and techniques required for managing soil and irrigation water in their own nations for crop production. After successfully completion of the course, students will be able to describe basic irrigation systems, assess plant water requirements in terms of water quality and quantity, and implement basic hydraulics principles for irrigation systems. The course will also focus on the evaluation of irrigation systems in terms of efficiency, economy, energy-use and environmental impact, defining the advantages and disadvantages of major irrigation systems and recognising the importance of efficient irrigation drainage as well as water supply.

The importance of irrigation and drainage for agriculture worldwide; water supply potential for the development of irrigation systems; climatic factors including rainfall, evaporation, evapotranspiration in irrigation development; irrigation and hydrology relationship; plant water use and crop water requirements, soils and water, soil moisture retention and movement, soil moisture measurement; irrigation scheduling; types of irrigation systems, deciding the most suitable irrigation system; irrigation drainage; re-use systems, management of irrigation systems.

Environmental Planning

Semester 2 (optional, on-campus only)

The course aims to provide students with an understanding of environmental management within planning systems both in the UK and internationally, within a context of climate change and improving the environmental and social sustainability of cities. The specific learning outcomes are to understand (i) different theoretical approaches to understanding the challenges of environmental sustainability, including theories of sustainable development, welfare economics and theories of governance; (ii) contemporary challenges to delivering and improving environmental sustainability in terms of water management, conservation and natural heritage, urban green and open space, pollution control and contaminated land; and (iii) the management and governance of these challenges across the globe and important contextual differences between developed, rapidly developing and developed nations. Students will also gain professional skills in presenting complex technical information to a lay audience.

Theories of sustainable development, governance and management; relationship between urban development and green space; design and management of urban green space for people and nature; inter-relationship between biodiversity and human well-being; organisational and financing models; management of ecosystems and rural space; urban water management and integrated water resource management; sustainable urban drainage systems; pollution and risk management in the urban context.

Flood Inundation Modelling

Semester 2 (optional, on-campus only)

The course aims to develop an understanding of the various techniques available to simulate flood inundation in two-dimensional space. Students will create an appreciation of the role of the various types of two-dimensional flood models in different areas of decision-making, for example, uncertainty analysis, catchment flood management, dam break simulations, flood mapping, and the design of flood defences. The course will also provide understanding of the role of two-dimensional models in underpinning simulation of other processes such as sediment transport and water quality.

Two-dimensional shallow wave equations and numerical solution methods; the representation of turbulence and parameter estimation; the importance of grid generation and its impact on accuracy and model run time; simplifications of the shallow wave equations; application of two-dimensional flood inundation models in practice; sediment transport simulation; water quality simulation; limitations of two-dimensional flood inundation models.


MSc students are also required to submit a research dissertation, the research topic normally aligns with the research interests of the staff in the School but can be tailored to suit the interests of the student or student’s employer. Distance learning and part time students are encouraged to suggest project topics based on their own work experience.


In the MSc marks are gathered from a combination of examination and project work – overall 66% examination and 33% project work. Students are supported and guided by coursework to prepare them for taught course examination assessments.

Entry requirements

For MSc level entry applicants must have:

  • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in cognate and semi-cognate subject area. For PG conversion courses, non-cognate degrees will be considered. Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered.

For PG Diploma level entry applicants must have:

  • Third class honours degree in a cognate or semi-cognate subject area PLUS 2 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level completed post qualification.
  • Cognate or semi-cognate ordinary degree PLUS 3-4 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level following graduation.
  • Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Admissions and the number of successful applicants will be restricted.

There is no entry at PG Certificate level except through exceptional agreement with approved learning partners.

Non-graduating study at masters level:

  • Entry is based on CV or on formal academic qualifications or graduate (or incorporated) membership of a relevant professional institution.

Recognition of Prior Learning

We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study. 

English language requirements

If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.

Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree course. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters course:

  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)

Additional information

January entry

Distance learning students can choose to start their studies in January or September. The January intake is not available to students studying on-campus.

Online Learning students

Please note that Online Learning students who access their studies online will be expected to have access to a PC/laptop and internet.


Tuition fees for 2020 entry (by residency status)
Status* Online / distance learning**
Scotland / Non-UK EU £1400/1800**
England / Northern Ireland / Wales £1400/1800**
Overseas £1400/1800**

* If you are unsure which category you fall in to, you should complete a fee status enquiry form, which allows us to assess your fees.

Additional fees information

**Students pay £1400 per course and £1800 for the Dissertation. This programme consists of 8 courses (modules). MSc students are also required to submit a Masters dissertation.

For questions about Heriot-Watt Online fees, please contact our Student Support Team:

Financial support

Tuition fee loans of £5,500 are available to Scottish distance learning students on taught postgraduate courses. Full-time distance learning postgraduate students can also access a £4,500 living cost loan. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.