A water-abundant urbanism? The new urban water profiles of Beijing and Tianjin

This PhD project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a 12 month stay at University of Manchester.

Project Description:

The proposed PhD project will examine the changing urban water profiles of Beijing and Tianjin, following the construction of the South-North Water Transfer Project, and explore the possible emergence of a water-abundant urbanism in places long defined by water scarcity. Grounded conceptually in hydropolitical theory and urban geography, the project will explore Chinese notions of ecological civilisation, eco-cities, human-environment relations, and “natural” water scarcity to better understand the supply, distribution, and consumption of urban water, as well as the changing values attached to different flows of water. A particular focus will be on “environmental water”, a relatively new and growing category of urban water use.

It is anticipated that the project will use mixed methods including in-depth interviews with residents, municipal officials, and water company employees, as well as collation of water consumption statistics, and some form of participatory mapping of key urban greening sites. A key task will be to identify how environmental flows are defined, allocated, and used – for lakes or other ecosystems, for water treatment plants, for public or private green spaces, for groundwater recharge – and how that might differ from understandings of environmental flows in other countries.

The project builds on long-term research by scholars at the University of Melbourne and Chinese colleagues on water management, hydropolitics, and environmental governance in China. The candidate will be supervised at the Asia Institute, Faculty of Arts, and also work closely with the School of Geography, Faculty of Science. Following fieldwork in Beijing and Tianjin, the candidate will spend 12 months at the University of Manchester. Here the candidate will work within the School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) particularly in Department of Geography where there is substantial expertise on water governance, hydropolitics (Society and Environment Research Group – SERG), participatory mapping and urban green/blue infrastructures (Mapping: Culture and Geographical Information Science/MGIS Research Group); and link with other University research institutes: Manchester China Institute, Manchester Urban Institute, Sustainable Consumption Institute, and the Manchester Environmental Research Institute.

The project will make an innovative and timely contribution to urban geography, Chinese Studies, and hydropolitics and will further our understanding of forms of Chinese urbanism and what ecological civilisation means in practice.

Supervision team:
Dr Sarah Rogers, Prof Mark Wang (The University of Melbourne)
Dr Alison Browne, Dr Saska Petrova, Dr Deljana Iossifova (The University of Manchester)

How to Apply

If you are interested in this opportunity, read the application guidelines before contacting the lead supervisor.


Information about the benefits of the scholarship provided to the successful applicant is available here.