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BA Geography / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Hydrology and Catchment Systems

Unit code GEOG20081
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Environment, Education and Development
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Hydrological systems such as river catchments represent a fundamental component of our landscapes. The environmental and hydrological processes which operate in river catchments influence important ecosystem services such as water supply, the provision of high water quality, and high (flood) and low flow regulation. The effective management of these systems is dependent on our scientific understanding of these processes and their dynamics. This course covers the key principles of hydrology and catchment systems and introduces key principles for monitoring and managing catchment systems.


  • To develop students’ understanding of catchment hydrology and hydrological processes.
  • To acquaint students with processes of runoff generation and river flow regimes.
  • To develop an understanding of the key issues associated with hydrological systems, including flooding and water quality.
  • To describe and explain the strategies used to manage hydrological systems such as river catchments.
  • To prepare students to undertake an investigation involving river catchment and hydrological processes, including the development of a range of lab- and computer- based practical skills.


Learning outcomes




Each week there will be a two-hour lecture on a key topic, plus a lab- or computer- based practical session, or seminar discussion. Topics include:

  • Catchment hydrology and hydrological processes
  • Runoff production and river discharge
  • Flooding
  • Water quality: solutes and sediments
  • Measuring and monitoring catchment systems
  • Catchment management.


Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through a range of classes including lecture classes with student interaction, seminars, computer-based and laboratory-based practical classes. Students are expected to read widely to support these classes and undertake the support activities indicated for each class. Learning will be supported via the course Blackboard site.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Appreciation of the dynamic nature of hydrological systems.
  • The ability to describe and explain the interactions among the components of the hydrological cycle.
  • An appreciation of the key runoff generation process for water, with understanding of how different pathways relate to river flow regimes
  • The ability to describe and explain the major issues relating to water quality.
  • Understanding of the range of methods employed by catchment researchers and managers to evaluate hydrological processes and water quality.
  • Critical scientific insight into contemporary issues of water management in river catchments.

Intellectual skills

  • Reading, learning and independent study skills.
  • Critically judging and evaluating scientific evidence.
  • Abstracting and synthesising ideas and information.

Practical skills

  • Laboratory skills
  • Computer skills: the ability to manipulate, display, and analyse environmental datasets.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Developing a reasoned, well-structured argument in written form.
  • Numeracy skills


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • Written and verbal feedback on the coursework exercise
  • Written feedback on examination.
  • Verbal feedback through Q&A and discussion within classes.
  • Verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Claire Goulsbra Unit coordinator

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