LEC glasshouses

Water Science

The Water Sciences group undertakes pure and applied research to help improve our understanding of processes that control the movement, availability and quality of water, and the modelling of their influence on other environmental systems. We work in a broad range of environments: from headwater streams, through agricultural soils, tropical rainforests, deep groundwater, lakes, rivers and wetlands, to the coastal waters.


Through the development of scientific tools and techniques within the group we are able to solve problems related to water the management of water, coastal and aquatic environments in the UK and overseas.


We are committed to providing high quality training for students and industry, an example of which is our accredited postgraduate training in flood, coastal risk and water management with industry partner JBA.


Our approach to tackling our research problems is often highly interdisciplinary, working alongside aquatic chemists and ecologists, plant and soil scientists, biogeochemists, social scientists, members of the world-wide water industry and policy makers. Our research findings are often a result of combined laboratory experimentation, field observations and modelling.


We have extensive laboratory and field facilities and access to a wide range of UK and overseas research observatories.


Examples of our current research include:

  • Quantifying likelihood of widespread and extreme flooding, in collaboration with Lancaster statisticians and industry partner JBA to underpin government's national review of flood resilience.
  • The transport and fate of macronutrients at the groundwater-surface water interface
  • Understanding the impact of changes in land management in the Chinese Loess Plateau on water quality and availability.
  • Development of methods to optimise the effectiveness of nature-based measures for reducing flood risk at catchment scales.
  • Improved quantification of dynamic rainfall vs catchment controls on flood response using Lancaster’s data science tools.
  • Development of geophysical techniques for mapping crop water uptake.
  • Understanding interactions of renewable energy devices with marine and fresh-water environments.
  • Understanding generation mechanisms of extreme waves.
  • Development and application of remote sensing techniques for quantitative assessments of coastal vulnerability and resilience to storms, climate and man-made changes.
  • Improving the design of coastal protection and coastal management through numerical and physical modelling of near-shore coastal processes.
  • High-frequency monitoring and dynamic data science modelling of water quality and hydrology that underpins biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Laboratory flume studies of flow-biota interactions and their hydrodynamic and ecological implications (notably seagrasses and bivalve filter feeders).
  • Field, laboratory and modelling studies of hydraulics-macrophyte interactions in rivers, in search of the optimal balance between flow conveyance and ecological health.
  • The impact of invasive species (notably Himalayan balsam) on river channel soil properties and erodibility.
  • Modelling the (climate change-influenced) impact of changing patterns of mixing and stratification in lakes on plankton population dynamics.