Foresight Report Hydrological Research in Switzerland
This report is an element in the process to identify future research challenges
for hydrology in Switzerland. It has been accepted in the present
form by the Swiss Hydrological Commission (CHy).
CHy considers this report a suitable basis for the formulation of a
roadmap for next steps in the process.
Given the complexity of the topic, the diversity of approaches, the dynamics
of hydrological research, and the limited resources for the editing
of this report, CHy is aware that the content of the report may not be
complete and balanced in all details.
Global change issues are debated in a number of fields in the natural sciences today. New
articles are being published every day, offering scenarios for the future of our planet or of individual
regions. Water – in particular water resources and flood risks – are a central element of
these papers. Indeed, it is clear today that pressure on water resources, already high in many
regions due to population growth and industrial needs, will significantly increase due to climate
change, leading to new bottlenecks.
The degree of uncertainty that exists in such research remains very high, as the models used
today are only able to capture the complexity of human–nature systems in a rudimental way.
This is a major challenge for science: key to the success of research dealing with global
change issues are an inter- and transdisciplinary research approach and the participation of
In a workshop initiated and coordinated by the Swiss Hydrological Commission (CHy) and the
Hydrology division of the Federal Office for the Environment in Olten, Switzerland, in autumn
2011 about thirty water researchers discussed which options were available and what kind of
measures were necessary to ensure that Swiss hydrological research can efficiently take up
the scientific challenges of global change. The workshop, competently moderated by Thomas
Stankiewitz, was very successful. It was fascinating to see that the various groups which discussed
options for improving collaboration within Swiss hydrological research made very similar
After the Olten workshop, Pierre Walther took over the task of summarizing the essence of the
workshop in a report. The titles of the chapters in the resulting volume signal how comprehensively
the results of the workshop have been documented: “Context and Trends for Hydrology
in Switzerland”, “Future challenges”, “The proposal of the Olten workshop” and “Programme
In 2001, CHy conducted a similar experiment. What emerged out of this first event was a vision
of a “Swiss Water Foundation”. This vision became the basis for the creation of a professional
agency that pushed the Swiss hydrology network into a significant growth phase, leading to a
much better visibility of Swiss hydrology since then. In view of this former success story, I am
convinced that the Olten workshop will be very fruitful, as well - provided hydrologists in Switzerland
continue to be willing to participate in implementing the suggestions made in the present
Auteurs: Pierre Walther