BA Geography / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Hydrology & Catchment Systems

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG20402
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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.


• develop students’ understanding of catchment hydrology and hydrological processes.
• acquaint students with processes of runoff generation and river flow regimes.
• develop an understanding of the key issues associated with hydrological systems, including flooding and water quality.
• describe and explain the strategies used to manage hydrological systems such as river catchments.
• 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.


• Catchment Hydrology and Hydrological Processes
• Measurement and Monitoring
• Runoff Production & River Flow
• Flooding
• Water Quality: Sediments and Solutes
• Catchment Management

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures (20 hours)
Seminars including lab practicals, computer practicals and workshops (10 hours)
All on campus, synchronous

Knowledge and understanding

  • describe and explain the dynamic nature of hydrological systems
  • describe and explain the interactions among the components of the hydrological cycle
  • describe and explain the key runoff generation process for water, with understanding of how different pathways relate to river flow regimes
  • describe and explain the major issues relating to water quality

Intellectual skills

  • demonstrate critical scientific insight into contemporary issues of water management in river catchments
  • critically judge and evaluate scientific evidence
  • abstract and synthesise ideas and information

Practical skills

  • describe and explain the range of methods employed by catchment researchers and managers to evaluate hydrological processes and water quality.
  • demonstrate, describe and explain a range of practical skills for interpreting and analysing hydrological processes, including laboratory skills and the ability to manipulate and analyse environmental datasets
  • effectively and clearly present data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • demonstrate reading, learning and independent study skills
  • develop a reasoned, well-structured argument in written form

Assessment methods

Assessment task                      Length                   How and when feed is provided                  Weighting

Coursework-river flow report      2,000 words          Individual feed provided on submissions           50%
                                                                                 via Grademark, 15 days after
                                                                                 submission.  Cohort feedback provided
                                                                                 in class
On-campus, unseen, 
open-book exam                      1.5 hours                Academic Advisor meetings                               50%


Formative Feedback:

There is no formal formative assessment. Formative feedback is provided via in-class discussion, question and answer sessions, and office hours.

Recommended reading

Key Texts:
• Davie, T., & Quinn, N. W. (2019). Fundamentals of hydrology. Third Edition. Routledge: London.
• Holden, J. (2017) Chapter 18 Catchment Hydrology. In Holden, J. (Ed) An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment, Fourth Edition, Pearson: Harlow, 465-492. 
• Gregory, K. (2000) Drainage Basins in Hancock, P. and Skinner B.J. (eds) The Oxford Companion to the Earth. OUP: Oxford
• Shaw, E.M., Beven, K.J., Chappell, N.A. & Lamb, R. (2010) Hydrology in Practice. Fourth Edition. Spon press: Abingdon. 
• Robinson, M and Ward, R. C. (2017) Hydrology: Principles and Processes. IWA Publishing

Key Journals:
Journal of Hydrology, Hydrology and Earth System Science, Journal of Environment Management, Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Science and Technology, Environmental Pollution, Science of the Total Environment, Water Air and Soil Pollution.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Claire Goulsbra Unit coordinator

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