Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Why do hydrologists should deal with Chemistry, if it is so boring?

¿Porqué los hidrólogos deberían en aprender química, si es tan aburrida?

One of my first lectures at the school of Civil Engineering was Basic Chemistry. Formulas, some standard procedures, and some things to memorize. Not difficult but not fun either because labs have always brought some sense of coldness on me. Then, at the last year I decided to major in Hydrology where very low emphasis was given to water quality, perhaps because we will always suppose to have specialists that would be there for the corresponding assessment. Now I have finished my Phd and yet my background in chemistry is weak and I am forced to go down to the basics!!! Why? Because it is one of the major concerns of hydrologists. Simply that.

What do hydrologists do?

David Maidment in his Handbook of Hydrology summarizes the concerns of practicing hydrologists in three categories:

1. Water use: The aim is to determine and predict the effects on a system of the withdrawal of water from surface and subsurface water bodies, for water supply, hydropower and others. In Water quality is commonly determinant in these cases.

2. Water control: Which is concerned with the understanding and prediction of extreme events such as floods (erosion, sedimentation, storm water) and droughts. In this category, hydraulics is determinant to trace and predict these events, which will eventually determine the parameters for the design of civil structures.

3. Pollution control: The aim is to determine the sources (point, and non-point pollution sources) and the extent of the pollution; to trace the pollutants as they travel throughout the system; and to determine the consequences along the system. In this category, thorough understanding of the local geology is determinant.

Thus, Hydrology as a water science needs the help from other fields to provide a robust understanding of a system. No practitioner working in the field of Hydrology dismisses the fact that the investigation of water quality is a very important task on the assessment of water availability.


David R. Maidment, 1993. "Handbook of Hydrology".McGraw-Hill, Inc. Pages 1.2, 1.3, 11.4.

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