Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module aims is to provide students with knowledge of how of environmental simulation models can be applied to understanding catchment systems and associated management problems. The module will focus on a case study catchment and the role of environmental drivers, pathways and feedbacks, considering a range of catchment-derived ecosystem services, such as water resources, but with a particular emphasis on flood hazard regulation.The catchment hydrological response to rainfall events will be investigated with a catchment hydrology simulation model and the impact of floods on an urban area will be considered with a hydraulic inundation model. The module is structured so that the water pathways are modelled from the initial precipitation on the catchment through the fluvial system and onto the flood plain during storm events. The module investigates how the projections of climate change will affect the catchment hydrological dynamics and how the flood hazards may change in the future. The module will consider how integrated catchment modelling can be used to inform catchment management for flood hazard reduction.


  • The module will be divided into three blocks and include:
  • Introduction. Ecosystem Services from catchment systems and available management tools. How environmental simulation models can be used as a predictive tool for understanding catchment hydrological processes.
  • Catchment Modelling. Simulating the transformation of precipitation to streamflow in lumped hydrological models. Investigation of climate change impacts on hydrological processes, such as river flow.
  • Flood Modelling. Simulating the inundation of floodplains and the estimation of economic damages from flood events. Investigation of how the changes in river flow may affect the magnitude and the frequency of flood events.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • 1. Understanding of the primary drivers of flood risk and the interactions between elements of the flood risk system.
  • 2. Understanding of the basics of the hydrological and hydraulic sciences required as inputs to flood risk analysis and the associated tools used in those sciences.
  • 3. Explain the basic theory and method behind environmental simulation modelling.
  • 4. Assess the validity and uncertainty of model predictions.
  • 5. How integrated catchment modelling can be used to inform catchment management planning for flood hazard reduction
Subject-specific Skills:
  • 1. Ability to model both hydrological and hydraulic problems, including awareness of data issues, calibration and validation.
  • 2. Critically assess scientific approaches in catchment management procedure.
Key Skills:
  • Perform simple model simulations and analysis of the quantitative results.
  • Evaluation of model uncertainty.
  • Present logical written arguments.
  • Presentation skills

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

  • This will be a lecture-based course with linked computer-based practical sessions and a presentation-based seminar.
  • Lectures will enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge and understand approaches to studying catchment science.
  • The computer practical sessions will enable hands-on experience in applying environmental simulation models
  • Presentations will allow students to integrate different parts of the module within a management context and allow for formative feedback.
  • The summative assessment (report write-up) will test subject-specific knowledge and skills

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 6 c. weekly 1 hour 6
Seminars 1 Once 3 hours 3
Computer-based practicals 5 c. weekly 2 hours 10
Drop-in sessions 1 Once 2 hours 2
Reading and preparation 79
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Modelling Report Max 5 pages A4 (excluding tables, graphs and references) 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be provided through the online forum, verbal discussions during the computer-based practical sessions and the drop in sessions and through a group presentation of work. The presentations will enable the students to demonstrate their understanding of the module content, gain experience in the explanation of modelling results. Each student group will receive verbal formative feedback on their presentation.

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