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Celebrating 85 years of global leadership in hydro-environment

1935 - 1960  1961 – 1985   1986 – 2010  2011 - to date

president_joseph_hun_lee_150px.jpg«It has been said that an anniversary gives a community certainty that achievements can defy mortality. In its 85 years of history, IAHR has made great contributions to the development of water engineering and the protection of the environment. IAHR is a community of scholars, including researchers and practitioners, in different fields of hydroenvironmental research and practice- a truly international organization that produces high quality knowledge products that lead the industry […] Water and the environment rank high on the policy agenda of most governments. Climate change, population growth and urbanization give rise to many water, energy and food security issues. The “Second Machine Age” is also bringing many opportunities for developing smart solutions for water resilience. Nature-based solutions to many hydroenvironmental challenges will offer a continuing stimulus to exciting developments at the interface of ecology, hydraulics, hydrology, and system science – besides job opportunities for young engineers and researchers. In order to advance our scientific core, we need to create platforms for inter-disciplinary research that capture the synergy across the traditional boundaries of our technical committees...» 

Read the full message from IAHR President Professor Joseph Hun-wei Lee on the occasion of the 85th anniversary special issue of Hydrolink

Founders of the Association (IAHR)

38 world congresses to date

4 regional divisions

27 technical committees and working groups

47 Young Professional Networks

130 Institute members

7 peer-reviewed renowned journals… 

We can be proud of what IAHR is today, but our history started as early as 85 years ago, on 3 September 1935, when a group of 66 visionary directors of hydraulic laboratories from Europe and the USA decided to create the 'International Association for Hydraulic Structures Research' with the goal of advancing international cooperation in hydromechanics and its application to hydraulic engineering. A lot has changed since then, starting with our name, and the Association has evolved to become the international organisation that IAHR is today with more than 4,000 members from all over the world working for the development of water engineering, the protection of the environment, and a better water future for all. 

What does our legacy look like? Let us take a ride through our rich shared history!  

1935 - 1960  1961 – 1985  1986 – 2010  2011 - to date

A journey through IAHR history

  Start and consolidation: 1935 - 1960

The world’s first hydraulic laboratory is created in 1898 in Dresden, Germany, and subsequently numerous hydraulics institutes were founded in Europe and the USA. However, a wide gap between academic doctrine and engineering practice remained for the use of hydraulic models to study hydrodynamic phenomena. During this time, the science of fluid and hydromechanics progresses rapidly for many engineering applications such as hydropower, navigation, or aeronautics. 

«The first 25 years of IAHR were marked by a systematic consolidation of the art and a perpetual struggle with the theoretical structuring of the many phenomena the profession has to deal with in the environment.» H.J. Schoemaker

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 Expansion and globalisation: 1961 – 1985

The profession experiences rapid developments in hydraulic research for turbulent flows, in laboratory and field measurement techniques, and in hydraulic modelling. With the development of digital computers, numerical calculations also advance rapidly. And in engineering applications, problems of sediment transport, mixing processes, and water quality issues required increasing attention.

«The second 25 years show a great expansion of the IAHR both in the fields of research and in dissemination over the world. New media of publicity were created, and old ones modified or abandoned. Seven successive Presidents led the IAHR with open eyes to the new possibilities science and technology offered in the effective functioning of the profession.» H.J. Shoemaker

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 Broadening the scope: 1986 – 2010

The end of the 1980s saw the advent of new professional innovations. Modelling software tools became, with the evolution of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), mass market tools and came to be used by nearly every engineering company. This development led to “hydroinformatics”, which opened up totally new possibilities. The combination of laboratory and numerical models together with field data provided good options for solving complex engineering tasks. And hydroinformatics for water and environment also provided new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration with geology for groundwater problems, with biochemistry for water quality problems, and for ecohydraulics. Ecohydraulics, at the interface of two historically different disciplines: ecology and hydraulics, also starts to emerge as a new discipline.

«The membership of IAHR has grown from about 1000 in 1960 to about 2000 members from all continents in 1985. The rapid developments of hydro-science and proliferation of research activities, which is reflected in the structure of the Technical Divisions and the growing number of sections, required strategic considerations by the IAHR Committee on Future Directions and Initiatives, which produced guidelines for the profile of IAHR in 1995 followed by an IAHR Strategic Plan 2005 -2009. The policy paper promoted several main thrusts: (1) Efforts to bridge the gap between research and application with inclusion of professional issues and engineering practice in its broadest sense into the IAHR spectrum of activities; (2) The broadening of the scope of IAHR activities towards water resources management, including ecological, economic and societal aspects; (3) Involvement in continuing education and professional development; (4) Initiation and support of regional and local activities.» Helmut Kobus. 85th anniversary special issue of Hydrolink

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 Recent developments: 2011 - to date

At the international level, despite progress in developing the field of environmental engineering, billions of people still lack safe water, sanitation, and handwashing facilities where a doubling of progress is required to achieve universal access to basic sanitation by 2030, as established in the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 6. Throughout the early-mid 2010s, about 1.9 billion people (27% of the global population) lived in potentially severely water-scarce areas. An estimated 80% of all industrial and municipal wastewater is released to the environment without any prior treatment, resulting in a growing deterioration of overall water quality with detrimental impacts on human health and ecosystems. Average global economic loss from floods and droughts is over USD 40 billion per year across all economic sectors… The challenges for hydro-environmental engineering are tremendous.

«During the last decade IAHR has consistently continued to develop along its strategic goals. Water resources management needs adequate solutions, and IAHR has the necessary state of the art prerequisites available. Hydro-systems models provide the tools for tackling problems of increasing complexity, and environmental systems models can provide the basis for interdisciplinary cooperation. Also, the shift from physical to numerical models caused a corresponding shift from laboratory measurements to large scale field measurements. Modern observation and information systems with remote sensors are available and can be used both for the purpose of model validation or for monitoring the state of the water and environment system for prediction and control.» Helmut Kobus. 85th anniversary special issue of Hydrolink

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