Water, Water, Everywhere!

Water, Water, Everywhere!

What is fast becoming the most valuable substance on earth? Oil? Food?

Nor any drop to drink. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Without it there can be no life. Right. Our quote gave it away. Water. And not just water. Fresh clean water.

75% of the Earth is covered with sick, polluted, salt water. And our bodies are made of 75% very select, filtered, fresh water.

The United Nations reports dire shortages. Over 200 U.N. experts predict much worse— that more than half of humanity will be living with water shortages, depleted fisheries and polluted coastlines within 50 years.

Based on data from NASA, the World Health Organization and other agencies, the report finds: the severe water shortages (affecting at least 400 million people today) will affect 4 billion people by 2050.

In the USA, Southwestern states such as Arizona will face other severe freshwater shortages by 2025. Adequate sanitation facilities are lacking for 2.4 billion people, about 40% of humankind.


Yes, we are entering a severe worldwide water crisis. Drought, floods, pollution. Severe, that is, for the lucky areas of the globe. For others? Lethal!

Waste and inadequate management of water are the main culprits behind growing problems, particularly in poverty-ridden regions.

The big cities of industrialized nations have begun feeling the pressure. Without clean water, no city or nation can survive. Rationing is being enforced in many areas of our world.

Who can we turn to to help develop new freshwater resources? Who can lead us to new policies and standards and methods of preserving fresh water supplies and sources?

The science of Hydrology. The hydrologist, who has earned the degree in hydrology.

What is a Hydrologist? Who are these amazing experts who might be able to save us all?

Hydrologists are the scientists and the explorers and the protectors of water.

Hydrologists study the quantity, distribution, circulation, and physical properties of bodies of water. Often, they specialize in either underground water or surface water. They examine the form and intensity of precipitation, its rate of infiltration into the soil, its movement through the Earth, and its return to the ocean and atmosphere.

Hydrologists use their knowledge of the physical makeup and history of the Earth to protect the environment— the properties of underground and surface waters. They locate water and energy resources, and more, they predict water-related geologic hazards.

Two hydrologists standing waist deep in a swamp.

Hydrologists use sophisticated techniques and instruments. For example, they may use remote sensing technology, data assimilation, and numerical modeling to monitor the change in regional and global water cycles. Some surface-water hydrologists use sensitive stream-measuring devices to assess flow rates and water quality.

Hydrology is knowledge-intensive. Your degree options are many, but you need to build toward the highest level you can earn.

Most Hydrologists need a Master’s degree. A Ph.D. is usually necessary for jobs in college teaching or research.

Students interested in hydrology should take courses in the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soil science, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, geology, oceanography, hydrogeology, and the management or conservation of water resources.

In some cases, a bachelor’s degree in a hydrologic science is sufficient for positions consulting about water quality or wastewater treatment.

For hydrologists who consult, courses in business, finance, marketing, or economics may be useful. In addition, combining environmental science training with other disciplines such as engineering or business, qualifies these scientists for the widest range of jobs.

Students who have some experience with computer modeling, data analysis and integration, digital mapping, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be the most prepared to enter the job market. Familiarity with the Global Positioning System (GPS)—a locator system that uses satellites—is vital.

The American Institute of Hydrology offers certification programs in professional hydrology. Certification may be beneficial for those seeking advancement.

Among hydrologists, 26 percent were employed in architectural, engineering, and related services, and 18 percent worked for management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

In 2006, the Federal Government employed about 28 percent of hydrologists, mostly within the U.S. Department of the Interior for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and within the U.S. Department of Defense. Another 21 percent worked for State agencies, such as State geological surveys and State departments of conservation. About 2 percent of hydrologists were self-employed, most as consultants to industry or government.

Due to devastating world freshwater shortages, employment of hydrologists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations.

Glacier falling apart

Job growth for hydrologists should be strongest in private-sector consulting firms— partly, from the need to comply with complex environmental laws and regulations, particularly those regarding ground-water decontamination, clean air, and flood control. The worldwide water issue will create increasing pressure and demand for solutions.

Demand for hydrologists should also be strong as the population increases and moves to more environmentally sensitive locations. As people increasingly migrate toward coastal regions, for example, hydrologists will be needed to assess building sites for potential geologic hazards and to mitigate the effects of natural hazards such as floods, landslides, and hurricanes.

Hydrologists also will be needed to study hazardous-waste sites and determine the effect of pollutants on soil and ground water so that engineers can design remediation systems. Increased government regulations, such as those regarding the management of storm water, and issues related to water conservation, deteriorating coastal environments, and rising sea levels also will stimulate employment growth for these workers.

Median annual earnings of hydrologists were $66,260 in 2006, with the middle 50 percent earning between $51,370 and $82,140, the lowest 10 percent earning less than $42,080, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $98,320. In 2007, the Federal Government’s average salary for hydrologists was $82,217.

Around the globe, federal, State, and local governments employ by far the greatest percentage of all Hydrologists.

When thinking about Hydrology, remember, the higher the degree the better— although a bachelor’s degree in an earth science is adequate for a few entry-level jobs, employers prefer a master’s degree. A Ph.D. degree generally is required for research or college teaching positions.

You can get your foot in the door with a Bachelor’s of science, then earn your way into your Master’s while working. The demand for Hydrologists will only keep growing.

Half of all coastal regions, where 1 billion people live, have degraded through overdevelopment or pollution.

Right now, (while disastrous rainfall and floods ruin clean water supplies in some countries), in more than eighty other countries, with forty percent of the world’s population, people are already facing deadly water shortages.

Hydrologists are heavily involved, studying the steep drops in the size of Asia’s Aral Sea, Africa’s Lake Chad and Iraq’s Marshlands, and the deterioration of coral reefs and the rise of coastal waters.

Because of climate changes, the role of Hydrologist is one of ever-increasing importance to all of us.

Developing nations face water shortages, crop failures and conflict over shrinking lakes and rivers if nothing is done to prevent wasteful irrigation and slow evaporation from reservoirs, and drinking-water systems are not repaired.

And for the industrial nations, too, it’s crunch time. Economies can’t be rebuilt without an uninterrupted freshwater supply. And this costs big money, and needs new ideas.

If you want to enter an ever-growing, high-demand field of science (one so critical to world health), a degree in Hydrology would engage you, and reward you, for the rest of your life.

Leonardo ad Vinci said that “Water is the driver of all nature.” Science today knows this to be an absolute.

The survival— of all land life on earth— depends on fresh water.

And fresh water depends upon successful Hydrology.

And many of our future heroes will be those who have earned the degrees in that field, the science of fresh clean water.

For information on careers in hydrology, contact:

  • American Institute of Hydrology, 300 Village Green Circle, Suite #201, Smyrna, GA 30080. http://www.aihydro.org

Information on obtaining a position as a hydrologist with the US Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government’s official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov. Or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404. (These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result.)

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