A. Fiori

Professor Aldo Fiori (Italy) is the recipient of the 2023 Dooge Medal (International Hydrology Prize) of IAHS/UNESCO/WMO

For pioneering contributions to understanding flow and transport processes in the landscape around the world.

Citation for Professor Aldo Fiori by Berit Arheimer

To summarise Prof. Aldo Fiori’s contributions, he has:

    • made fundamental scientific contributions to hydrology, as evidenced by a very solid publication record that has had a major impact on the discipline
    • a clear international dimension including, but not limited to, his global groundwater work
    • made outstanding contributions to the hydrologic community as demonstrated by his long-term active involvement in IAHS and other associations.

The fundamental scientific contributions address the high heterogeneity theory in aquifers, where Aldo has provided a rigorous, physically-based theory of groundwater flow and transport that is not restricted to small heterogeneity, and can account for discrete geological features with strong conductivity contrasts. The theory is based on the superposition of flow disturbances caused by the geological material at different locations, where the non-linearities are captured by a self-consistent approach. Aldo has thus obtained the first ever analytical solution of the non-linear behaviour of this flow and transport problem. Its huge advantage is accuracy, efficiency and transparency and its general applicability to a wide range of flow systems. The method has, for instance, been applied practically for pump and wastewater treatment systems.

Aldo also extended this theory to hillslopes and catchments, thus extending his theory from saturated flow to unsaturated flow and heterogenous landscapes. These new methods have been useful to describe the effect of rainfall heterogeneity on rainfall-runoff, the design of hydraulic structures for flood protection and upscaling in large-scale models of flood inundation.

Regarding international dimension, Aldo’s research has had an enormous impact, which led to the application of his new theory to a range of aquifers and catchments around the world, and he often plays a leading role in this international research. For example, it is being used in the Swedish high-level nuclear waste program for quantifying transport properties of the unconsolidated overburden at the Forsmark site, and the calculations recently led to license approval by the Swedish government for site development. Besides Sweden, Aldo and his colleagues have worked in many countries to explore contaminant risk in Europe, America, and Asia – using Aldo’s theories.

Finally, Aldo Fiori has made outstanding contributions the hydrological community. He has been an Associate Editor of several journals and since 2015 he has been Editor of our Hydrological Science Journal. During his tenure, the visibility and citation statistics of the Journal have continuously increased, pointing to his outstanding qualities as a journal editor. Aldo also made many other important contributions to the IAHS, for instance in the Commission on Groundwater

To sum up: Aldo Fiori has changed the field of hydrology by making major contributions to quantifying hydrological dispersion in the presence of high heterogeneity. His work was particularly influential, as measured by: the citations to his publications, adoption of his framework by scientists around the world, media response and real-world applications - because he managed to synthesise his theory across compartments from aquifers to hillslopes and to entire catchments.


Response by Aldo Fiori

Dear friends,

Thank you very much Berit for your extremely kind words and for this huge honor. I am at the same time thrilled and very much humbled by this recognition bestowed upon me, even more so if I look at the list of past awardees. I am so very thankful to the IAHS, WMO and UNESCO for my selection, and a very special thanks to Günter Blöschl. I feel I must share this tribute with the various friends and colleagues with whom I have had the privilege of collaborating over the years, too many to mention them all here. 

In this regard, I would like to emphasize the very important role that associations such as IAHS play in stimulating ideas and collaborations, and I do encourage all young researchers to work actively in IAHS. I started my IAHS activities back in 1999, when I was nominated as an officer of the Ground Water commission at the IUGG Assembly in Birmingham. I consider IAHS more than a scientific association, it is a family, whose activities make the work of a researcher even more enjoyable.

I have always worked within the fascinating world of complex hydrological systems, related to common hydrological themes like e.g. heterogeneity, uncertainty, scaling, preferential flow, anomalous transport and many others, which are so common to most of the hydrological environments and also shared with many other disciplines. I enjoyed working with both subsurface and surface hydrological themes, both water flow and contaminant transport, complexity is truly everywhere. I have been fortunate to learn from masters such as Gedeon Dagan, to name just one, to privilege whenever possible the deductive reasoning (or bottom-up) as opposite to the inductive one (top-down); it was mainly motivated by the chronic lack of data and accessibility of the subsurface environment. It requires a thorough physics-based approach, it is of tremendous help in shedding light into the main physical controls in hydrological processes. To this matter, I take this opportunity to share a couple of considerations. 

First, hydrological processes are complex, with several unsolved problems and open questions. In my view there is a strong need of fundamental, basic research, deeply focused on the physical processes and their interaction with the heterogeneous environment. Even more so in times of flourishing data-driven approaches, for which a closer connection to hydrological processes is required to provide more insightful and effective results. 

Then, the standard distinction between the surface and subsurface, with further sub-divisions, and the resulting compartmentalization of hydrology, seems to me very harmful for the advancement of science: there is only one water and perhaps hydrologists should think as such. A new paradigm is perhaps necessary, requiring a broader view, beyond the standard conceptualizations, methods and tools employed in hydrology, possibly looking to and learning from other disciplines, like e.g. fluid mechanics, physics, applied mathematics to mention some. 

Thanks again to IAHS, WMO and UNESCO for this tremendous honor, I will always try my best to live up to it.

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