Catchment Hydrology and Geomorphology

Module titleCatchment Hydrology and Geomorphology
Module codeGEO2221
Academic year2017/8
Module staff

Professor Stephen Sitch (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Understanding the hydrological cycle is fundamental to physical geography. All life is supported by water and all earth systems incorporate fluxes of water to some extent. Through this module you will develop an understanding of the hydrological cycle including key elements of how water interacts with the landscape to influence the geomorphology that we see all around us. As well as two-hour lectures, the module includes a one-day field trip and a laboratory practical where ‘hands-on’ experience of both observing hydrology and modelling hydrological systems will be central.

The module is suitable for a wide range of students, from those who are simply interested in hydrology and geomorphology, through to those who would like to specialise in this area. It is also recommended for interdisciplinary pathways.

There are no pre- or co-requisites for this module, though you are expected to have achieved 30 credits of Physical Geography in your first year. You should expect to engage in different forms of learning, throughout the module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

We will investigate the main hydrological and geomorphological processes operating in drainage catchments in terms of their measurement, operation and controlling factors, relationship to landform development and past and future changes including the role of human impacts.

The blend of lectures, field days and lab classes (computer and experimental) will expose you to a wide range of teaching methods, with an emphasis on applied learning, which may be useful in a vocational sense in the future. The module will aim to deliver excellent training in the knowledge required to work in a wide variety of environmentally-facing careers, including those with the Environment Agency, Natural England or Defra, as well as Environmental Consultancies. It will also help you to develop and extend your awareness of the importance of taught and learnt skills in strengthening employability potential.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the hydrological and geo-morphological processes at work in drainage catchments and interpret these, where appropriate, to past and future changes, including landform development and human impacts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 2. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 3. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 4. Evaluate a diverse range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting geographical information
  • 5. Outline the nature of change within physical environments
  • 6. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 7. Explain the significance of spatial relationships as influences upon physical and human environments
  • 8. Describe, apply and evaluate the diversity of specialised techniques and approaches involved in analysing geographical information

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means
  • 10. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 11. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving
  • 12. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 13. Effectively and appropriately interpret and use numerical statistical information
  • 14. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 15. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction
  • The hydrological cycle
    • Precipitation
    • Interception
    • Evaporation
    • Groundwater hydrology
    • Soil water
  • Slope processes 1 – water and tillage erosion
  • Slope processes 2 - mass movements
  • Fluvial processes
  • Spatial variability of soil properties and lateral fluxes
  • Overview at catchment scale
  • Summary

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Revision lecture
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Fieldwork
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Computer lab class
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Experimental lab class
Guided Independent Study 60Wider reading
Guided Independent Study 65Work towards assessment


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Questions in computer practical30 minutesAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination7090 minutesAllStandard written
Poster30A4 sizedAllStandard written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAllAugust Ref/Def
PosterPosterAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Holden J (2013) Water resources: an integrated approach, Routledge.
  • Holden, J. (Ed.) (2005) An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment, Pearson/Prentice Hall
  • Robert, A. 2003 River processes, Open University Press
  • Bridge, J. S. 2003 Rivers and floodplains, Blackwell
  • Ward, R.C. and Robinson, M., 2000, Principles of Hydrology (4th edition; 1990 3rd ed. also OK)
  • Knighton, A.D., 1998, Fluvial Forms and Processes. A New Perspective. Arnold (1984 1st ed pretty out of date on processes but less so on forms)
  • Morgan, R.P.C. (1986) Soil Erosion and Conservation. Longman, London and Wiley, New York.
  • Selby, M.J. 1993. Hillslope Materials and Processes (2nd edition). Oxford University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Lists of relevant journal articles will be provided for each topic.

Key words search

Hydrology, geomorphology, hydrological cycle, precipitation, evaporation, rivers, infiltration, soil erosion

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date