The research activities focus on three research lines: Hydrological processes near the earth's surface, Ecohydrology, and Basin hydrology and global changes.
These research lines dominate the chair group's research agenda ( Mid-term Research Agenda (2011-2015) ). The related projects will require undertaking applied and fundamental research. The scale of integration varies significantly from lab-scale experiments to large scale hydrological modelling. In the lines on hydrological processes (no. 1) and ecohydrology (no. 2) experimental work is carried out to improve the understanding of dominating hydrological processes, and with the aim to develop process-oriented models that are able to make predictions for hydrological systems under current and future changed circumstances.
1. Hydrological processes near the earth's surface
This research line focuses in particular on improving the understanding of near-surface processes of the land phase of the hydrologic cycle (surface and shallow subsurface processes), in particular the movement of water and associated substances near the earth's land surfaces, the physical and chemical interactions with earth materials accompanying that movement, and the vegetation and biological processes that conduct or affect that movement. The nature of this type of research is experimental and field oriented, and attempts to assess the scales (spatial and temporal) and magnitude of processes in their natural environment, which includes arid to humid climates and cold to temperate and tropical regions, 'soft' and 'hard' rock areas, and natural to human affected habitats. Better understanding of related hydrological processes through experimental research provides the basis for improved process-based modeling - much needed in particular in the developing world to predict the impact of changes (e.g. climate, land use) on hydrological systems.
A main objective is to connect the knowledge of quantitative hydrology, i.e. groundwater dynamics, flow pathways, residence times and mixing of different water compartments etc., with the water quality. The main regional emphasis is on semi-arid conditions. This research is positioned in between the more fundamental sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry, biology), on the one hand, and the applied sciences (e.g. civil engineering, hydraulic engineering) on the other. This research line encompasses:
- Catchment and hillslope hydrology;
- Preferential flow systems (fissures, karstic limestone, and vadose zone);
- Evaporation, interception and transpiration;
- Hydrological systems analysis;
- Water balance evaluation; and
- Transport of pollutants in groundwater.
In order to study water fluxes, the driving forces of these fluxes and their causal relationships, we employ standard field data collection techniques focused on geology (e.g. mapping, auger drilling, electrical resistivity tomography), surface water discharge (e.g. stream discharge, water quality such as temperature, EC and natural isotopes), hydrometeorology, hydrogeology and flow field characteristics (e.g. piezometer installation, automated groundwater monitoring at various temporal scales), tracer methods (multiple artificial and natural tracers incl. DNA, bio-colloids and stable isotopes) and hydrochemistry (major and minor cations and anions). Experiments are carried out under controlled conditions in the lab (column experiments, lysimeters etc.) as well as in the field.
Ecohydrology is a widely recognized interdisciplinary science integrating hydrological, ecological, and biogeochemical processes. Ecohydrological processes regulate many environmental conditions within aquatic systems, maintaining water quantity and water quality within ranges suitable to native flora/fauna and the services they provide. Human interference in natural ecohydrological processes is the basis for many pressing environmental problems, including the most ubiquitous forms of water pollution (eutrophication, hypoxia, and acidification), related degradation of ecosystem services (loss of soil fertility, declines in fisheries, invasions of exotic species, and outbreaks of pathogens), and accelerating climate change (e.g. non-industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration). Ecohydrology addresses the underlying physical, chemical, and biological processes that manifest these problems as well as the processes that are the keys to ultimately solve them. In developed areas, knowledge of ecohydrological processes serves to enhance the highly engineered systems already in place, while in less developed areas ecohydrological processes may serve as the primary means for managing water quantity and quality through natural attenuation of contamination and natural regulation of flow levels. The science includes well developed methodologies of field sampling, laboratory analysis, experimentation, and computer modelling.
Research in this theme involves multidisciplinary field, laboratory, and modeling techniques. Direct measurements are made of surface water flows and groundwater levels, and chemical and isotopic tools are utilized to trace the spatial and temporal interactions of flowpaths, including uptake by plants (i.e. xylem water). Biogeochemical and ecological methods focus on measurement of flow-related processes such as nutrient and organic matter retention along surface and subsurface flow paths, hypoxia related to high and low flow events, and flow- and wetness-related controls on spatial and temporal patterns of productivity in river and wetland (including GDEs). A wide variety of modeling approaches are applied, including physically based modeling, cellular automata, and fuzzy logic. Emphasis is also placed on model-supported decision making.
3. Basin hydrology and global changes
With the increasing population, expanding urbanization, modernised lifestyles, climate changes and other global changes the pressure for sustainable planning and management of our finite water resources is more evident than ever. Consequently, the role and importance of hydrological research in river basin of various scales have increased. In particular, we are facing increased challenges in predicting the [future] state of the water resources in view of the impacts from climate and anthropogenic changes to hydrological system dynamics. The key objectives of this research theme contribute to the understanding of hydrological processes at basin scales and modeling of these processes to predict the space-time availability of water resources and water cycle dynamics, including impacts from global changes. We primarily focus our research to the river basin scale typically varying from a few thousand to several hundred thousand square kilometers.
Identification and quantification of the cause and effect relationships and predicting the impacts for the future at the large scale can only be achieved through process-based modeling. Large scale modeling typically encounters data requirements beyond the classical rainfall-runoff simulation. Therefore, representation of hydrological processes at appropriate detail and integration of comprehensive remote sensing and ground observations into the modeling system form the framework for our research methodology. Within this framework, it is also important to acknowledge possible sources of uncertainty, and to provide reasonable assessments of uncertainty in model results.
RESEARCH ACTIVITIES AND OUTPUTS OF THE CHAIR GROUP
Ongoing Doctorate Studies
- Assessment and modelling of large-scale hydrological variability in Peninsular Malaysia (Chee Loong Wong)
- Modelling effects of land use changes on the hydrological regime in Peninsular Malaysia (Basha Jamil)
- Groundwater surface water interactions in Migina marshland, Rwanda (Flora Umuhire)
- Identification of hydrological process interaction and prediction of water resources availability for the Migina catchment in Rwanda (Omar Munyaneza)
- Past-present-future land use in the Blue Nile and impacts on hydrology (Ermias Terfi)
- Hydrological processes and modelling in the Blue Nile river basin (Sirlak Tekleab)
- Hydrological implications of improved sanitation in slum areas, Kampala, Uganda (Philip Nyenje)
- Land/water/livelihood strategies and water resources availability (David Love, with WRM Core)
- Flood management and land use in the Chi River basin, Thailand (Kittiwet Kuntiyawichai, with HELWD Core)
- Water productivity in rainfed agriculture: upgrading agricultural output in arid and semi arid tropics through smallholder water system innovations (Hudson Makurira, with WRM Core)
- Hydrometeorological model uncertainty and rainfall/model sensitivity analysis in the Sauer river (Germany/Luxembourg) catchment (Robert Krier, with TU Delft)
Research projects initiated during 2011 include:
- COLCUENCAS - Piloting Colombia's New IWRM Policy in Key Catchments; A research and advisory services project to develop a framework and specific tools to implement Colombia's new national water resource management policy. UNESCO-IHE and its partners (Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Universidad del Valle) are working in five catchments of the country. A total of 15 MSc students will develop thesis research in the project. Four of these will be UNESCO-IHE participants (McClain - Project Leader).
- EU-FP7 project “AFROMAISON”, Adaptive and integrated tools and strategies on natural resources management (2011-2014), budget of UNESCO-IHE ~300,000 euro’s, project proposal leader for UNESCO-IHE, initiator for UNESCO-IHE and contributor (van Griensven).
- EU-FP7 project “MyWater”, Merging Hydrologic models and EO data for reliable information on Water (2011-2013) (van Griensven).
On-going research projects/activities include:
- Implementation of PRoACC - Post-doctoral programme for research on Climate Change Adaptation with special emphasis on the Mekong River basin; 8 post-docs started in April 2010 their research projects. Cooperation with many partners in the Mekong countries including, AIT Bangkok, Hanoi WRU, Chinese Academy of Sciences, MRC, CRC etc. (Uhlenbrook (programme director) together with W Douven (programme manager), Venneker, Maskey)
- DEWFORA - Improved Drought Early Warning and FORecasting to strengthen preparedness and adaptation to droughts in Africa; an EU FP7 research project. The project officially started in January 2011. UNESCO-IHE's team is led by Dr S. Maskey. The main contribution of UNESCO-IHE is in the development of a hydrological model (coupled with meteorological forecasts by ECMWF) for drought forecasting in selected river basins in Africa. Patricia Trambauer, a HWR graduate (2010), joined the project as a full time PhD researcher. (Maskey, Trambauer, Uhlenbrook, Masih)
- CHE - Conserving Hydrological and Ecological functions through payment for watershed services, with special reference to South-Central Bolivia. The project had to be canceled in 2011. The PhD researcher left the project due to illness, and many attempts to find a replacement were unsuccessful (Uhlenbrook).
- Blue Nile Hydrosolidarity project - In Search of Sustainable Catchments and Basin-wide Solidarities; Transboundary Water Management of the Blue Nile River Basin; funded by NWO-WOTRO and DUPC (led by Prof P van der Zaag, MAI department), co-supervision of PhD students Mr Ermias Terefi and Mr Sirak Terlak and post-doc Mr Melesse Temesgen (Uhlenbrook, Wenninger)
- SCUSA - Integrated approaches and strategies to address the Sanitation Crisis in Unsewered Slum Areas in African mega-cities (SCUSA), led by Dr. JW Foppen; collaboration with Makerere University and the Kampala City Council in Uganda; supervision of PhD student Mr Philip Nyenje and overall project management (Foppen, Uhlenbrook)
- SSI-2 - The Smallholder System Innovations (SSI) programme phase 2, led by Dr. Mul and Prof. P. van der Zaag, UNESCO-IHE. A strategic alliance with the local chair holder of the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam was made in order to carry out a hydrological systems analysis of the Pangani River Basin, together with 2 MSc students from UNESCO-IHE. (Foppen, Uhlenbrook)
- ECOLIVE - Ecology of Livelihoods, Nyando wetland, Kenya, funded by DUPC (led by Dr A van Dam, ER department), supervision of PhD student Mr Patrick Khiza (Wenninger, van Griensven, Uhlenbrook)
- RISKOMAN - Risk-based operational water management for the Incomati River Basin (RISKOMAN), funded by DUPC and led by Prof P. van der Zaag (MAI department); collaboration with Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique and Komati Basin Water Authority in Swaziland; co-supervision of PhD student, Aline Saraiwa, (van der Zaag, Uhlenbrook)
- EXACT - Small scale water treatment and artificial recharge project. Total budget: 2.3 million Euro (DUPC funded). Principal partners are the Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Jordan, the Palestinian Water Authority and the Israeli Water Authority (Nonner, Petrusevski, Sharma, Ghebramichael).
- AGLOCAP - Adaptation to Global Change in Agricultural Practices, with a case study in a Himalayan River Basin in Nepal, in collaboration with Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, and Depart of Irrigation, Nepal. Two PhD students Dinesh Bhatt (at UNESCO-IHE) and Anshul Agarwal (at AIT) contributing to the project as full time PhD students. Both of their PhD proposals were approved in 2011. Dr. Maskey serves as external member of doctoral committee of Mr. Agarwal. One MSc student Kunjan L. Pradhan completed MSc thesis in AIT in the scope of the project. A 2-day inception workshop was held at AIT Bangkok in Jan 2011. Prof. Uhlenbrook and Dr. Maskey participated from UNESCO-IHE. Professor Sudip K Rakshit, Vice President for Research at AIT, also attended and addressed the opening session. (Maskey, Uhlenbrook)
- Ecohydrology Erdos China - The project has been successfully completed with a project seminar held on 24-28 October 2011. Fifty-four participants attended the seminar. Project results were reported in 16 presentations. A partnership agreement for long-term cooperation was signed and an joint Sino-Dutch Research Centre for Ecohydrology was launched. A final project report has been completed which describes all activities and results of the project. Some Chinese project members are working together with UNESCO-IHE project members to prepare several manuscripts (Zhou, Wenninger).
- ISOWUE - Experimental investigations of water fluxes within the soil-vegetation system using isotopes to improve water use efficiency, part of the IAEA’s Coordinated Research Project (CRP): Quantification of Hydrological Fluxes in Irrigated Lands Using Isotopes for Improved Water Use Efficiency. Supervision of MSc students (Wenninger).
- UWIRA - Impact of untreated wastewater on natural water bodies: Integrated risk assessment. Institute of Environmental and Water Studies at Birzeit University (Birzeit, Palestine), Water and Environmental Studies Institute at An-Najah National University (Nablus, Palestine) and the Palestinian Water Authority (Al-Bireh, Palestine) (Wenninger, Uhlenbrook; UPaRF; EURO 680,000.-).
- MaraFlows - Environmental Flows for People and Ecosystems in the Mara River Basin, Kenya/Tanzania, funded by DUPC and USAID at total level of €638,338 over four years; project coordination and co-supervision of 2 PhD students (McClain, Mul, Uhlenbrook, Irvine); partnering with University of Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and Egerton University (Kenya).
- EU-FP7 project “WETwin”, Enhancing the role of wetlands in integrated water resources management for twinned river basins in EU, Africa and South-America in support of EU Water Initiatives, (2008-2011), 324000 € for U-IHE out of ~3 million € total project budget, project leader for U-IHE and WP6 leader.
- ACCION project (Internal Research Fund), Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts on the Nile River Basin (2009-2011), 250,000 Euros (van Griensven, Uhlenbrook).
- EU-FP7 project “AQUAREHAB”, ‘Development of rehabilitation technologies for multipressured degraded waters and the integration of their impact in river basin management’, (2009-2013), 423000 € out of ~7 milion total project budget, main contributor for UNESCO-IHE, project leader for U-IHE and WP6 leader (van Griensven).
- EU-FP7 project “EnviroGRIDS”, Gridded Earth Observation System for Assessing and Predicting Black Sea Basin Sustainability and Vulnerability , (2009-2013), 492000 € out of ~6.2 milion total project budget, initiator and main contributor for UNESCO-IHE, initiator and contributor for U-IHE (van Griensven).
Other Research Activities
- Improved land management in the Blue Nile: Impacts on hydrology and agronomy (Melesse Temesgen, post-doc)
- Large-scale hydrological model development
- Images artificial groundwater recharge in Wadi Madoneh, Jordan