Project properties

Title River pollution assessment: sources, trends and solutions
Group Water Systems and Global Change
Project type thesis
Credits 36
Supervisor(s) Maryna Strokal (
Carolien Kroeze (
Mengru Wang (
Nynke Hofstra (
Examiner(s) Carolien Kroeze
Contact info Mengru Wang (
Maria del Pozo (
Begin date 2021/03/01
End date
Description Theme introduction

The availability of clean water is essential for nature as well as for people. It is a key issue in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. In many world regions the availability of clean water is at risk as a result of population growth and economic developments. Meanwhile, the availability of water will change as a result of, for instance, climate change. Moreover, there are water quality issues in many world regions. Many rivers in the world are polluted by increasing amounts of nutrients used in agriculture and urbanization (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus) and export them to coastal waters. This results in coastal water pollution such as eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. Pollutants like plastics, pathogens, and chemicals can cause additional harm. Given these issues the need for sound tools, to assess future risks, enabling societies to mitigate these or to prepare for adaptation, is growing.

Projects and possibilities for students

WSG is working on river pollutant assessments with different models and from different angles. We currently use the MARINA model and Global NEWS model for analyses of river export by nutrients for China and the world. In addition, we use the GlowPa model for assessments of pathogens in rivers. Our current models focus not only on single pollutants but also on multipollutant modelling and integrating hydrological models and water quality models. We work on a global and a regional scale.

We are interested in studies on the source (e.g. How do farmer practices contribute to nutrient pollution in Chinese rivers?)of pollutants as well as their journey through the water system (e.g. how do microplastics travel from the source to the ocean?)

Students can contribute to this research through small parts of model development, data analysis and scenario analysis, (sub-basin) case study analysis and by linking model data to policy questions and the sustainable development goals.
Used skills Possible methods used in the thesis:
- Model conceptualization & development
- Indicator development & analysis
- Sensitivity analysis
- Scenario analysis
- Data processing & analysis
- Field studies & experiments
- Case study analysis
- Systematic literature review
- Policy document analysis
- Interviews, surveys & focus groups
- Mixed methods