Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • Rivers regularly feature in the news because they have many different impacts on society. These impacts include the effects of flooding and erosion, of poor water quality, and increasing desire to restore the ecological habitats provided by rivers. As well as impacts caused by the movement of water and sediment within river channels, society is also affected by the movement of water and sediment across the hillslopes of the wider river catchment. Managing river catchments is difficult because of the combination of these complex physical processes and the competing interests of multiple stakeholders.
  • This modules aims to provide an overview of why and how river catchments are managed at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and to understand the water and sediment processes that river management needs to consider. A range of case studies will be used to illustrate specific issues in river catchment management. This module will also introduce the basic knowledge needed for careers in river and catchment management


  • Catchment management requires understanding understanding the flow and sediment processes that operate both in the catchment and the river channel. Throughout the module, processes will be introduced from a management perspective and supported with management case studies. Indicative processes include:
  • Catchment hydrological and sediment processes: water flow pathways, the key processes of infiltration, surface runoff, soil and groundwater flows and the spatial drivers of water flow. Management applications could include the generation and management of the sources of flood hazards, how the terrestrial water balance can lead to droughts and water resources issues and diffuse pollution of sediment and nutrients which impact aquatic ecology.
  • River channels, flow and sediment transport: basic principles of flow, channel flow at multiple scales
  • Controls on channel morphology, sediment transport processes, interactions between sediment transport, morphology and flow. Management applications could include channel restoration, the impact of mining on erosion and sedimentation, managing flood hazards under climate change

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students are expected to:
  • Understand why and how river catchments are managed
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the main processes governing water flow and sediment transfer in catchments and river channels
  • Understand the dynamics of catchments and river systems over different space and timescales, and how these can be affected by human interventions, including climate change
  • Critically analyse literature on fluvial and catchment systems
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Apply knowledge of catchment and fluvial systems to evaluate examples of management and engineering.
Key Skills:
  • Assess and interpret material presented in lectures and practical sessions
  • Extract patterns from secondary data and observations
  • Demonstrate appropriate competence in numerical analysis, basic statistics and graphical presentation techniques
  • Perform simple calculations in both lectures and practical sessions
  • Present logical written arguments
  • Abstract information from multiple sources
  • Written presentation of key theories and ideas in a structured and organised format

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching: material is introduced in the lecture sessions and supported by in-lecture activities
  • Concepts introduced in lectures are explored in greater depth in the practical sessions
  • Application of concepts is demonstrated by in-lecture activities and practical sessions
  • Assessment: Exam - tests factual knowledge and understanding of concepts
  • Coursework practical reports examine deeper understanding of concepts and their practical application, and capacity for independent research

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Varies 2 hours 32
Lectures 1 Varies 1 hour 1
Practicals 4 Varies 2 hours 8
Preparation and Reading 159
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24-hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100%
Component: Practical Report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical Report max 4 x sides A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Two practical exercises: solutions and model answers posted on Learn Ultra and general feedback summarised in lecture.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University