Reconciling hydrology with engineering

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Hydrology has played an important role in the birth of science. Yet practical hydrological knowledge, related to human needs for water storage, transfer and management, existed before the development of natural philosophy and science. In contemporary times, hydrology has had strong links with engineering as its development has been related to the needs of the design and management of water infrastructures. In the 1980s these links were questioned and it was suggested that separating hydrology from engineering would be beneficial for both. It is argued that, thereafter, hydrology, instead of becoming an autonomous science, developed new dependencies, particularly on politically driven agendas. This change of direction in effect demoted the role of hydrology, for example in studying hypothetical or projected climate-related threats. Revisiting past experiences suggests that re-establishing the relationship of hydrology with engineering could be beneficial. The study of change and the implied uncertainty and risk could constitute a field of mutual integration of hydrology and engineering. Engineering experience may help hydrology to appreciate that change is essential for progress and evolution, rather than only having adverse impacts. While the uncertainty and risk cannot be eliminated they can be dealt with in a quantitative and rigorous manner.

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