Catchment Systems

Module code: GY2357
Module co-ordinator: Dr Mark Powell

A catchment, or drainage basin, is the area of land drained by a stream or river and is the fundamental landscape unit that collects and redistributes water and sediment from uplands to lowlands and ultimately the sea. 

In this module you will study the fundamentals of catchment hydrology (the conversion of rainfall to runoff on hillslopes and the generation of floods in rivers) and river geomorphology (the form and function of streams and rivers). We will consider the basic components of the terrestrial hydrological cycle with an emphasis on understanding how water is transported from hillslopes to channels. We will also look at explanations for the different types of river we see in the landscape.

A computer-based exercise will introduce you to the techniques of hydrological modelling (flood prediction) which are used by the Environment Agency.

This module includes a three-day residential field course in the Lake District.

Topics covered

  • Precipitation and evapotranspiration
  • Infiltration into and subsurface flow through soils
  • Overland flow
  • Stream hydrographs
  • Channel processes
  • The diversity of river forms 


  • 18 hours of lectures
  • 4 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 32 hours of fieldwork
  • 146 hours of guided independent study


  • Flood frequency exercise (25%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (75%)