The Department of Physical Geography (Faculty of Geosciences) is searching for two PhD candidates who will analyse the water-energy system feedbacks under present and future droughts and heatwaves. This project is funded by the ERC Starting Grant ‘Balancing clean Water and Energy provision under changing climate and eXtremese (B-WEX)’, which aims to develop water management and energy transition pathways that are robust under increasing climate extremes.

Here two PhDs and other members of the research team will make use of the latest developments in energy system, water technology and resources (hydrological, water quality, sector water use) modelling, and global change research.

Providing sustainable clean water and energy to a growing global population represents a significant challenge. Doing so under changing climate conditions with more frequent and severe climate extremes – including droughts and heatwaves – increases this challenge even more. Water and energy are intrinsically linked: we need energy to provide clean water (e.g. for wastewater treatment, desalination and pumping) and we need water to provide energy (e.g. for hydropower, cooling of thermoelectric power and concentrated solar power plants and for biofuel production).

Recent drought and heatwave events have shown the vulnerability of both the energy and water sectors, as the demand for the two and their systemic interdependencies are particularly strong. The interplay between clean water and energy under climate extremes is however complex and poorly understood. With heatwaves and droughts occurring more frequently across the globe, we need improved understanding on how water–energy system processes cascade in time and space under a changing climate and extremes. This is urgently needed to develop water management and energy transition strategies that are also robust under increasing climate shocks.

We are searching for two PhD candidates: PhD1 focussing on water demands for energy provision and PhD2 focussing on energy demands for clean water provision and water scarcity alleviation under present to future droughts and heatwaves worldwide.

  1. PhD1 will develop a global high-resolution energy system model to estimate the energy sector’s water use and water-dependent energy supply (including hydropower, thermoelectric power, concentrated solar power and biofuels) under droughts and heatwaves. This model will be used to make projections of future energy system responses under changing climate and extremes (i.e. droughts, heatwaves), accounting for various energy transition developments.
  2. PhD2 will study the state of water technologies (including desalination, waste water treatment and reuse) and their energy demands to provide clean water and alleviate water scarcity under changing climate and drought-heatwave events. PhD2 will also contribute to the development of implementing water technologies in the water system model being developed in our research group, accounting for water availability, sectoral water use and water quality. Changes in energy demands for providing clean water and alleviating water scarcity under future climate and extremes (i.e. droughts, heatwaves) will be studied under various water management transition developments in regions worldwide.

Both PhD candidates will work closely together with two postdocs, who are responsible for developing a globally applicable water-energy system model framework and develop water-energy transition pathways for balancing clean water and energy provision. In addition, there will be ample opportunity to cooperate with other researchers at our faculty and researcher of other leading research groups in the field of water-energy nexus research.


We are looking for two enthusiastic PhD candidates who are interested in global energy, water and sustainability challenges. You are keen on working with large datasets and models, and have an interest in applying spatially-explicit process-based models to study the feedbacks between clean water and energy systems. You are a team player and will be part of an interdisciplinary team of two postdocs, two PhDs, and other scientific staff.

We are looking for candidates:
• with an MSc degree in environmental sciences, sustainability sciences, energy sciences, water technology, hydrology, or a related field;
• with demonstrable enthusiasm for working with large datasets and spatially-explicit water and energy system models in the context of global change;
• willingness and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams; 
• who are well familiar with a scripting or programming language (e.g., Python, R, Fortran, C++);
• with good English oral and writing skills: English at C1 level or better (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) qualifies, or willingness and aptitude to obtain this level by training.

PhD candidates at Utrecht University follow courses as part of their own academic and personal development. They also assist
in teaching courses at Bachelor’s and Master’s level at our faculty. Both activities amount to approximately 10% of the
contracted time.


We offer temporary full time positions for four years, initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a mutually positive evaluation in the first year. We will support your personal development with the specific intent that we work towards a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching.
At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The team of the Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. We research processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and the interaction in between. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. We are a lively department that hosts an active PhD candidate community of more than thirty PhD students. Will you join our team?

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. M.T.H. van Vliet

(Associate Professor) via or Prof. Dr. Ir. M.F.P. Bierkens external link (Professor) via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.
To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button, and: 

  • add the names of at least two referees (with e-mail contact addresses and phone numbers);
  • include in your motivation your preference for the PhD on water demands for energy provision (PhD1) or PhD on energy demands for clean water provision and water scarcity alleviation (PhD2).

The interviews will be scheduled August 24th or 26th.
The intended starting date for both PhD projects is January 1, 2023.

Apply now

The application deadline is 14 August 2022.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: