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National Hydrological Associations - a new network to advance science, practice and capacity

Over the years, hydrologists in many countries have joined together to form National Hydrological Associations (NHAs). On many occasions the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) has collaborated with many of these and, by the start of the twenty-first century, it had come to realize that much could be gained if these NHAs were to be in contact with each other as well as with IAHS and from this arose the idea of establishing a Network of NHAs.

Between 2005 and 2009 discussions with representatives of a number of NHAs showed an interest on their part in establishing such a Network, but it also clarified the need to involve the Associations themselves in any further planning. Accordingly, a First Meeting of NHAs was convened by IAHS in June 2011 at which it was agreed that IAHS should facilitate the establishment of a Network which would have a light structure, aim to promote the development and application of the hydrological sciences by means of collaboration between NHAs and provide an opportunity for them to undertake joint projects if they so wish.

On the basis of these discussions, a Second Meeting of NHAs was organized in conjunction with the Scientific Assembly that was held in Gothenburg, Sweden in July 2013. All present signed an agreement establishing the Network and recognizing the Meeting as its First General Assembly. The Founding Members of the Network are listed below.

Diversity with a common purpose

During the eight years of preparatory discussions one thing became clear, while all NHAs share similar national goals and may have many other features in common, they can be very diverse as regards their origins, formal status and means of operation.

At the start of the nineteenth century, when many of the international geoscience associations were established, there were very few associations supporting the hydrological sciences at national level. The situation had changed markedly by the close of the twentieth century and there are now many associations promoting the science and practice of hydrology within countries, working with individual hydrologists and, as appropriate, with other national organizations and agencies. Between 2005 and 2010, IAHS compiled a list of Associations which included a total of 59 national and regional bodies. The current version of the IAHS list may be found under “Links” on the IAHS website (

Hydrology, both as a science and a practice, has developed within many different contexts at national level and as an aid to meeting a variety of needs. There is therefore a great diversity in NHAs concerned with freshwater both within countries and between countries. Some are an interest group within a national engineering organisation, such as the Hydrology and Water Resources Panel of Engineers Australia, reflecting a history of hydrology as an engineering discipline. Most have links to the technical and engineering aspects of hydrology, while only the Swiss Society for Hydrology and Limnology explicitly combines the hydrological and limnological sciences. There are surprisingly few Associations that serve both hydrological and meteorological interests, with only the Nepalese and Croatian Associations combining both disciplines.

There is often overlap between NHAs and water resource associations, such as those linked to the International Water Resource Association (IWRA) or the World Water Council (WWC). Most water resource associations focus on aspects of the hydrological sciences that relate directly to a resource base, where water is used and managed. Some NHAs, such as that in France, have been established within a governmental context, while others, such as those in Germany and Italy, are the outcome of efforts by individual hydrologists.

Given the wide range of topics covered by hydrology as a science, it is only to be expected that many countries will have more than one NHA: for example one concerned with surface water and another with groundwater. On the one hand, long-standing co-operation in the sciences between neighbouring countries has naturally led in some instances to the establishment of Associations which serve more than one country while, on the other hand, countries with clear internal regional divisions, such as federal states, may have Associations that serve the hydrological community in a particular province or territory.

While the common objective of most NHAs is the promotion of the science and practice of hydrology at national level, professional networking and the dissemination of knowledge and research results are also integral. At a minimum, almost all Associations hold regular meetings and seminars, facilitating both the transfer of knowledge and the opportunity for interaction and conversations between members. Many also hold annual or biannual conferences to bring together a broader membership and publish either technical magazines and journals.

The future of the Network

No formal programme of work has been developed for the Network for its first years of existence. However, the following three topics have been adopted as the principal foci for future activities:
(a) promoting the science and practice of hydrology;
(b) holding joint symposia on topics of common interest; and
(c) exchanging good practice in the context of working with young people.

It was agreed that the Second General Assembly of the Network will be held in Prague in conjunction with the 26th IUGG General Assembly (22 June to 2 July 2015). The first part of the meeting will be devoted to Network business and the second part to discussion of the three topics listed as (a), (b) and (c) above. Both sessions would be open to all who might wish to attend,

The Founding Members and IAHS itself have great interest in publicizing the Network and are actively seeking new Members. They are open to all requests for information regarding the Network and its activities. Queries should be addressed to Arthur J. Askew at

Fiona Dyer & Arthur Askew

Founding Members of the Network

American Institute of Hydrology
Asia Pacific Association of Hydrology and Water Resources
Asociación Geohidrológica Mexicana
Association of Hydrologists of India
British Hydrological Society
Canadian Geophysical Union - Hydrology Section
Canadian Society for Hydrological Sciences
Comité National Français de Géodésie et Géophysique - Sciences Hydrologiques
Deutsche Hydrologische Gesellschaft
European Geophysical Union - Hydrology Sciences Division
Finnish Hydrological Association
Hydrological Society of Canberra
Hydrological Society of South Australia Inc.
Nederlandse Hydrologische Vereniging
Nigerian Association of Hydrological Sciences
Nordic Association for Hydrology
Norwegian Hydrological Council
Sociedad Chilena de Ingeniería Hidráulica
Società Idrologica Italiana
South African Committee of IAHS
Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Hydrologie und Limnologie

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