Identification of the precursors and the potential to minimise Nitrogenous Disinfection PhD

Cranfield, Bedford
26 May 2021
11 Jun 2021
Contract Type
Full Time

Enhanced funded opportunity: Identification of the precursors and the potential to minimise Nitrogenous Disinfection By Products and their Toxicological Importance PhD

Water resources are coming under increasing pressure. The greatest pressure on water supply is from population growth and development. Climate change is making these pressures even more challenging. This puts water companies in a position where the water they abstract for the production of drinking water is more likely to be impacted by sewage treatment works effluent, and climate change impacts such as algal growth and agricultural run-off will increase.

All these factors mean that the organic nitrogen levels are at significant and increasing concentrations in water being used as a drinking water source. These compounds are recalcitrant to removal by conventional treatment technologies resulting in elevated organic nitrogen levels in treated waters. This in turn impacts on the formation of nitrogenous disinfection by products (NDBPs). Disinfection by products are formed when organic matter present in treated drinking water sources reacts with the disinfectant (often sodium hypochlorite or chlorine gas). In addition to organic matter, the reactants include bromide, iodide and organic nitrogen. Although NDBPs are not regulated in the UK, legislation requires that DBP concentrations must be kept as low as possible without compromising the effectiveness of the disinfection process. In addition, a prescribed concentration of 100 µg L-1 has been set for the sum of the concentrations of the four trihalomethanes measured at the consumers tap with regulation for haloacetic acids included in the revised EC Drinking Water Directive with a likely UK standard of 60µg L-1 for HAA-5.

The aims of this project are to:

  • Develop analytical methods for organic nitrogen, haloacetonitriles, halonitromethanes, haloacetamides and nitrosamines.
  • Determine the impact of source waters containing different types of organic nitrogen on NDBP formation.
  • Investigate the impact of treatment processes on removal of organic nitrogen compounds and subsequent formation of NDBPs at bench, pilot and full scale.


The Water Infrastructure and Resilience Centre for Doctoral Training (WIRe CDT) is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and companies who sponsor research projects to train 60 PhD students to deliver a resilient water future.

Globally, one in four cities is facing water stress, and the projected demand for water in 2050 is set to increase by 55%. Placing an inspirational student experience at the centre of our delivery model, the Water Infrastructure and Resilience Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) will nurture a new generation of research leaders to provide the multi-disciplinary, disruptive thinking to enhance the resilience of new and existing water infrastructure. In this context, the CDT will seek to improve the resilience of water infrastructure which conveys and treats water and wastewater as well as the impacts of water on other infrastructure systems which provide vital public services in urban environments.

The need for the CDT is simple: water infrastructure is fundamental to our society and economy in providing benefit from water as a vital resource and in managing risks from water hazards, such as wastewater, floods, droughts and environmental pollution. Recent water infrastructure failures caused by climate change have provided strong reminders of our need to manage these assets against the forces of nature. The need for resilient water systems has never been greater and more recognised in the context of our industrial infrastructure networks and facilities for water supply, wastewater treatment and urban drainage. Similarly, safeguarding critical infrastructure in key sectors such as transport, energy and waste from the impacts of water has never been more important.

Centred around unique and world-leading water infrastructure facilities, and building on an internationally-renowned research consortium (Cranfield University, the University of Sheffield and Newcastle University), the CDT will produce scientists and engineers to deliver the innovative and disruptive thinking for a resilient water infrastructure future. This will be achieved through delivery of an inspirational and relevant and end user-led training programme for researchers.

Being a PhD student in the WIRe programme is a special and unique experience, offering opportunities beyond most doctoral training. In return you will need to be fully committed to the CDT, attending an induction semester at Cranfield University, a transferable skills programme and a Summer Challenge. 

Our partners are drawn from a range of leading sector and professional organisations and have been selected to provide targeted contributions and added value to the CDT.


Entry requirements:

Applicants should have a first or upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in a related discipline, such as chemistry or chemical engineering. The ideal candidate should have some understanding of watershed chemistry and water treatment. The candidate should be self-motivated, have good communication skills for regular interaction with other stakeholders, with an interest in applied scientific research. Prior experience in the water sector would be advantageous but is not essential.

Start date: 27 Sep 2021

Application deadline: 11 Jun 2021

Duration of award: 4 years

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