Water Resources MSc/Diploma

  • Delivery: Full Time, Part Time, Distance Learning
  • Programme type: Taught Programme
  • Study location: Edinburgh
  • Entry date: January, September


Recent floods and droughts across the world highlight the need for our water resources to be better managed. The aim of this programme is to provide a sound understanding of sustainable water resources issues by developing the knowledge and skills necessary for the planning and management of these resources to meet the needs of society and the environment within the context of climate change.

Our students and graduates

The programme is mainly designed for graduates in civil engineering, earth sciences or other related disciplines and are typically looking to broaden their knowledge base, extend their technical expertise or gain further learning to meet the needs of the professional institutions. Applicants from other backgrounds planning to develop a career in water resources will also be considered. On completion, graduates will be able to offer employers a broad range of skills and advanced knowledge in a number of important areas of water engineering.  

Part-time and Distance Learning study options

This programme can be studied on a part-time basis or via Independent Distance Learning (IDL), ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. As an IDL student you will not be required to attend any lectures, tutorials or other events at any of Heriot-Watt University’s campuses.

The Institute for Infrastructure and Environment (IIE)

This programme is delivered by Heriot Watt University’s Institute for Infrastructure and Environment . As a Water Resources postgraduate student you will be part of the Institute’s Graduate School, connecting you with staff, research associates and fellow students engaging in cutting-edge research in areas such as water management, ultra-speed railways, construction materials, geomechanics and more.

Professional recognition

This MSc degree is accredited as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired an Accredited CEng (Partial) BEng(Hons) or an Accredited IEng (Full) BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See www.jbm.org.uk for further information.

Industry links

Where possible MSc dissertation projects are set up in collaboration with industry, the aim being to encourage contact between the student and industry, and to underpin the industrial relevance of the projects. Students are also encouraged to suggest their own topics and projects may be undertaken at overseas laboratories. 

This programme is supported by the Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from major multi-national employers AECOM, ARUP, Balfour Beatty, Halcrow, Jacobs and WSP Group. This committee convenes regularly and advises on the programme content and structure, ensuring quality, up-to-date content and relevance to industry needs.

Teaching and research excellence

Our teaching staff is engaged in a wide range of research within the field of civil engineering, with 50% of that research recognised as being internationally excellent by the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008).

With a history dating back to 1821, Heriot-Watt is one of the UK’s leading universities, and Scotland’s most international. Find out more about Heriot-Watt University’s reputation, rankings and international profile.

Programme content

This programme, led by Dr Alan Cuthbertson, consists of eight courses which are selected from the list below. Some of these are mandatory, while others are optional. The choice of courses varies slightly with the distance learning option.

Course Choice Semester 1Course Choice Semester 2

Mandatory course:

  • Environmental Hydrology & Water Resources

Optional courses:

  • Marine Water Discharges
  • Sustainability in Civil Engineering
  • Water Conservation – optional
  • Computer Simulation of River Flows

Mandatory courses:

  • Water & Wastewater Treatment
  • Urban Drainage & Water Supply
  • Integrated Water Resource Management

Optional courses:

  • Irrigation Water Management 
  • Construction Financial Management 
  • Desalination and Water Re-use - Dubai campus only

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 (mandatory)

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.

Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Semester 1 (optional)

This course aims to equip students with the interdisciplinary attitudes, skills and knowledge necessary to allow them to contribute to the delivery of sustainable development within the civil engineering industry. This will include a broad introduction to the concepts, drivers and definitions associated with sustainability, as well as an overview of the history of sustainable development. More specific topics covered in the course syllabus include:

Urban design qualities and sustainable cities; the planning & leglislative framework; strategic environmental & environmental impact assessments; project design and planning; national and international sustainability indicators; audits and certification for sustainability and available assessment tools and methodologies. 

Water and Wastewater Treatment

Semester 2 (mandatory)

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).

Urban Drainage and Water Supply

Semester 2 (mandatory)

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.

Construction Financial Management

Semester 2 (optional)

The aim of the course is to enable students to appreciate and make an intelligent contribution towards the managerial and financial aspects of construction companies in general and construction projects in particular. This includes developing awareness and understanding of the need for financial planning and monitoring and the cost control process. The following subjects are covered within the course syllabus:

Financial management and control in contracting; corporate strategies in construction; financial management at company level; cash flow forecasting; costing; cost/value reconciliation at project level; production of financial accounts for construction companies; corporate analysis and ratio analysis; economic comparison; profitability measurement; construction plant financial appraisal; development appraisal techniques.


After successfully completing the taught elements at the end of Semester 2, the MSc students then embark on an independent research project for about 3 months, leading to the production of a dissertation. To qualify for the award of the MSc, the student would need to also pass the dissertation. 


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.

MSc and Diploma candidates are expected to pass all eight courses, although the average pass mark required for the MSc is higher (50%) than that of the Diploma (40%). Postgraduate Certificate students only need to pass in four courses. Most courses have compulsory coursework elements and written examinations.

Your career

Miguel M Piedra

  • Degree MSc in Water Resources Engineering Management
  • Present Job Senior Engineer, Rivers and Coastal at ARUP

Miguel completed his MSc in Water Resources Engineering Management in 2001 and he has worked in flood risk management, hydrology and hydraulic modelling ever since. He currently works as a Senior Engineer, Rivers and Coastal at ARUP.

Can you tell us about your current job?

I am a senior hydraulic modeller and hydrologist in Scotland, working in a variety of flood risk management projects for public and private clients throughout the UK and overseas. Applying current research and guidance in climate change impacts and hydrological data analysis are important parts of my job, but the aspect I enjoy most is thinking, drawing from my knowledge and experience to analyse and interpret data and model outputs and communicating them to colleagues and clients.

What was your experience of doing a postgraduate degree at Heriot-Watt University?

It was very good in terms of experiencing education in the UK, dramatically improving my language skills and gathering new knowledge and skills in my subjects of interest. It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet students from other countries, who are now friends.

Do you think your Heriot-Watt postgraduate experience gave you an edge in your chosen field and why?

Definitely, a large component of the course was focused on hydraulics, hydrology and hydraulic modelling, precisely the core of my current job. I am convinced that obtaining a degree from a UK university was key to starting a career in Scotland.

What advice would you give to a postgraduate student considering embarking on their studies at Heriot-Watt?

Take advantage of the opportunity, learn as much as you can on the subjects but also on the professional industry of your interest and - importantly - make contacts, relate to as many people as you can, it will help both your social and professional life.

Peter Robinson

  • Degree MSc Water Resources
  • Present Job Regional Director - Scotland Water District Lead at AECOM

Peter Graduated with a MSc in Water Resources Engineering Management in 1997 and now is responsible for AECOM's Water Business Line in Scotland and the Water Technical Practice Area Lead across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.        

Can you tell us about your current job?        

I currently have responsibility for a Business Unit operating in Scotland, employing circa 80 people delivering a wide variety of water related projects, from Flood Risk Management programmes in the Middle East to Pumping Stations in East Kilbride, Asset Management in the Central Belt to Sydney.  My role has a large element of business management, but also a technical side, working in Flood Risk and Surface Water Management.        

What was your experience of doing a postgraduate degree at Heriot-Watt University?        

My MSc provided me with the opportunity to seriously consider everything that I had learned as an under graduate and focus on the aspects of engineering that I enjoy, whilst also getting a better understanding of some technological aspects of water management.

Do you think your Heriot-Watt postgraduate experience gave you an edge in your chosen field and why?        

Taking the opportunity to explore more of a speciality provided me with a solid background and being able to choose the right position for my career to start, I started work during the tail of a recession and appreciate that my career has relied on a degree of luck, some good decisions, but also a solid background.

What advice would you give to a postgraduate student considering embarking on their studies at Heriot-Watt?        

Make sure you don’t sit back and let the opportunity pass by, the world of engineering is moving at an ever increasing pace and this is your opportunity to get on, get involved and take it in the right direction.    

Career opportunities

Training is provided in water resources engineering, environmental engineering, flood risk management, integrated water resources management, environmental implications of water engineering schemes, and industrial software packages. The programme is suitable for graduates in civil engineering, earth sciences and related disciplines. On completion, graduates will be able to offer employers a broad range of skills and advanced knowledge in a number of important areas of water engineering.  

The programme builds on the experience and reputation which the programme team has established over several years.

Primary employment destinations include: 

  • Leading UK and international consultants (e.g. Jacobs, HR Wallingford, JBA, Halcrow, Hyder Consulting and Fairhursts) 
  • Local and National Government (in the UK and elsewhere)
  • Environmental regulators (e.g. SEPA & EA) 
  • Academic institutions (including PhD study and research associate posts) 
  • Non-Governmental Organisations

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 programmes, 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. 

Distance Learning 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.

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 programmes delivered in the medium of English language will be required to provide documentary evidence of this.  Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree programme.   A minimum of one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

Distance learning students

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

Tuition fees

Tuition fees for 2014 entry (by residency status)
Status* Full-time Part-time Distance Learning**
Scotland / Non-UK EU 4980 2690 1050/750
England/Northern Ireland/Wales 5880 3180 1050/750
Overseas 16120 8390 1050/750

* 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.

** Fee per course

Additional fee information

** £1050 per course, £750 per research project.

Scholarships & bursaries