The International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH): reflecting on 60 years of contributions to groundwater science and water management
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- Struckmeier, W., Howard, K. & Chilton, J. Hydrogeol J (2016) 24: 1069. doi:10.1007/s10040-016-1434-7
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The 60th anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) is an important milestone that allows pause for reflection on how the association has evolved over the years and the contributions it has made to groundwater science and water management. IAH was founded in 1956 at the 20th International Geological Congress and developed rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s in response to a growing global interest in groundwater mapping and in sound approaches to resource protection and sustainable aquifer management. Incorporated in 2000, IAH has now secured its position as the world’s leading international association specialising in groundwater with over 4,100 members in 131 countries. Much credit for this success must go to members, past and present, whose individual efforts and collaboration with sister institutions are documented here. These members have shaped the association’s goals and contributed selflessly to its scientific programmes, publications and educational and charitable activities. Looking ahead to the next 60 years, it is essential that IAH does not rest on past achievements but listens and adjusts to the needs of members while continuing to pursue its mission of furthering the understanding, wise use and protection of groundwater resources throughout the world.
KeywordsHistory of hydrogeologyOrganisationsGroundwater managementHydrogeology Journal
L’Association Internationale des Hydrogéologues (AIH): réflexion sur 60 ans de contributions scientifiques sur les eaux souterraines et la gestion de l’eau
Le 60e anniversaire de la création de l’Association internationale des hydrogéologues (AIH) est une étape importante qui permet un temps de réflexion sur la façon dont l’association a évolué au fil des ans et sur ses contributions dans le domaine des sciences des eaux souterraines et de la gestion de l’eau. L’AIH a été créée en 1956 à l’occasion du 20ème congrès géologique international et s’est développée rapidement au cours des années 1980 et 1990 en réponse à un intérêt mondial croissant pour la cartographie des eaux souterraines et dans les approches pertinentes pour la protection de la ressource en eau et la gestion durables des aquifères. En 2000, l’AIH est maintenant reconnue comme association internationale spécialisée dans les eaux souterraines en qualité de leader mondiale, avec plus de 4100 membres dans 131 pays. Le mérite de ce succès revient aux membres, passés et actuels, dont les efforts individuels et la collaboration avec des institutions sœurs sont documentés ici. Ces membres ont façonné les objectifs de l’association et ont contribué généreusement à ses programmes scientifiques, publications et à des activités éducatives et caritatives. Dans la perspective des 60 prochaines années, il est essentiel que l’AIH ne se repose pas uniquement sur ses réalisations passées mais qu’elle écoute et s’adapte aux besoins de ses membres tout en continuant à poursuivre sa mission concernant l’approfondissement de la compréhension, de l’utilisation rationnelle et de la protection des ressources en eaux souterraines à travers le monde.
La Asociación Internacional de Hidrogeólogos (IAH): reflexión sobre 60 años de contribuciones a la ciencia del agua subterránea y a la gestión del agua
El 60° aniversario de la fundación de la Asociación Internacional de Hidrogeólogos (IAH) constituye un importante hito que permite hacer una pausa para la reflexión acerca de cómo la asociación ha evolucionado a lo largo de los años y las contribuciones que ha realizado a la ciencia del agua subterránea y a la gestión del agua. La IAH se fundó en 1956 en el 20° Congreso Internacional de Geología y se desarrolló rápidamente durante los años 1980 y 1990 para responder al creciente interés mundial en el mapeo del agua subterránea y en los enfoques adecuados para la protección y gestión sostenible de los recursos acuíferos. Constituida en 2000, la IAH ha asegurado su condición de asociación internacional líder a nivel mundial especializada en el agua subterránea con más de 4100 miembros en 131 países. Gran parte del mérito de este éxito se debe a los miembros, pasados y presentes, cuyos esfuerzos y la colaboración individual con instituciones similares aquí se documentan. Estos miembros han dado forma a los objetivos de la asociación y han contribuido desinteresadamente a sus programas científicos, publicaciones y actividades educativas y de caridad. De cara a los próximos 60 años, es esencial que la IAH no se base en los logros del pasado sino que escuche y se adapte a las necesidades de los miembros sin dejar de cumplir su misión de avanzar en el entendimiento, el uso racional y la protección del agua subterránea en todo el mundo.
A Associação Internacional de Hidrogeólogos (AIH): refletindo sobre 60 anos de contribuições para a ciência das águas subterrâneas e gestão dos recursos hídricos
O 60° aniversário de fundação da Associação Internacional de Hidrogeólogos (AIH) é um importante marco que permite uma pausa para reflexão sobre como a associação tem evoluído ao longo dos anos e as contribuições que tem feito a ciência das águas subterrâneas e gestão dos recursos hídricos. AIH foi fundada em 1956 no 20° Congresso Internacional de Geologia e desenvolveu-se rapidamente durante os anos 1980 e 1990 em resposta ao crescente interesse global no mapeamento das águas subterrâneas e em abordagens tangíveis para proteção dos recursos e gestão sustentável de aquíferos. Incorporada em 2000, AIH tem agora assegurado sua posição como principal associação internacional do mundo especializada em águas subterrâneas com mais de 4100 membros em 131 países. Muito crédito para esse sucesso deve ir aos seus membros, passados e presentes, os quais os esforços individuais e colaborações com instituições irmãs são aqui documentados. Esses membros têm moldado os objetivos da associação e contribuíram abnegadamente aos seus programas científicos, publicações e atividades educacionais e de caridade. Olhando para os próximos 60 anos, é essencial que AIH não descanse sobre as realizações do passado, mas que ouça e ajuste-se às necessidades dos membros enquanto continua a prosseguir com sua missão de promover a compreensão, a utilização racional e a proteção dos recursos hídricos subterrâneos em todo o mundo.
Founded in 1956, the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH; https://iah.org/) enters its 60th year in 2016, an important milestone on a journey that officially began in Mexico City during the 20th International Geological Congress (IGC). Today, IAH has emerged as the world’s leading international association specialising in groundwater, with over 4,100 members in 131 countries, more than 40 national chapters, 14 commissions and networks, 2 book series and an outstanding scientific journal—Hydrogeology Journal.
Anniversaries are a time for celebration; however, they also provide an important opportunity to reflect on past history, influential players, key events and the contributions that have been made to science and society. It is also an opportunity to look towards the future. This article begins by looking back at 60 years of successful development. It starts with a historical review of the association’s formative years including the events and individuals that shaped its early beginnings, and continues with an examination of the 1980s and 1990s, two decades of continuing international growth and productivity. It then explores events surrounding the incorporation of IAH as a limited company in 2000 and the succeeding early years of the new millennium that lead to the present day. It is a story of success, but it is also a tale of hard work and selfless dedication by many association members, both nationally and internationally. The article ends with some thoughts on the future of the association and the challenges that may lie ahead. The 60th anniversary is a very important milestone for IAH, but the journey continues and much work remains to be done.
The formative years: 1956–1979
Establishing the association
As reported by Day (1992), the seeds of the association were sown in August 1948 during a hydrogeological excursion at the 18th International Geological Congress (IGC) in London, UK. These early post-war years were very difficult for scientists interested in fostering international co-operation, especially at the global scale. However, an exchange of ideas between Stevenson Buchan, a Scot working at the British Geological Survey (Gray and Mather 2004), and Georges Drouhin, the head of the hydraulic service in Algiers (Algeria), laid the foundations for an IAH organising committee (“Provisional Board”) that convened for the first time at the following IGC meeting in Algiers in 1952. It was this committee, chaired by Drouhin and with Marcel Gautier as secretary, which prepared the way for the formal establishment of IAH on 8th September 1956 at the 20th IGC in Mexico City. The original aims of the association, as set out in the statutes of 1957, were defined as “uniting all scientists interested in hydrogeology; holding scientific meetings and publication of worthwhile scientific results”. The revised statutes of October 1975 slightly modify this as “to promote co-operation between geologists and specialists in all disciplines who are interested in hydrogeological problems”. Thus, while hydrogeology was obviously at the core of IAH’s activities, it was recognised from the beginning that collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines would enhance the association’s ability to contribute to improving the scientific understanding of hydrogeology.
IAH councils and senior officers
No. and dates of IAH councils
F Penta/Italy (1960)
F Penta/Italy (−1962)
H-J Martini/FR Germany
W Fricke/FR Germany
PE Groba/FR Germany
S Buchan/United Kingdom
PE Groba/FR Germany
L Dubertret/France (−1979)
PE Groba/FR Germany
E Romijn/The Netherlands
PE Groba/FR Germany
E Romijn/The Netherlands
PE Groba/FR Germany
E Romijn/The Netherlands
B Schwerdtfeger/FR Germany
B Schwerdtfeger/Germany (−1994)
WF Struckmeier/Germany (1994–1996)
Incorporation of IAH in 2000 creates new Council and Executive structure including a new Science member
P Bennett/USA (Science)
M Veselic/Croatia (−2006)
WF Struckmeier/Germany (2006–08)
J Krasny/Czech Republic (Science)
VP Finance & Membership and VP Science & Programme after Rule change at Lisbon, 2007
The first independent meeting of IAH, i.e. the very first IAH Congress, was held in June 1957 at the Sorbonne University in Paris and was attended by 62 members including 41 French scientists, 7 from Belgium, 4 from Germany, 3 from Switzerland and 1 delegate each from Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Japan, The Netherlands, Turkey, USSR and Yugoslavia. The primary purpose of the meeting was to develop the objectives and statutes of the association and to decide upon operational and administrative matters such as fees and member services. One outcome was an agreement that the Council of IAH should include at least one representative for each of the official languages of the IGC, i.e. French, Italian, Spanish, German, English and Russian. As a consequence, Hans-Joachim Martini (German) and Grigori Kamensky (Russian) were elected to Council, as was Georges Drouhin.
Activities in the early years of IAH
In terms of member services, it was agreed to provide all members regularly with printed annual information bulletins (Bulletin d’Information) as well as monographs and proceedings of IAH meetings (Compte rendus and Memoires). Given that the principal language of IAH at the time was French, much of the material including IAH’s information bulletins from 1958 (no. 1) to 1977 (no. 20) were published almost entirely in French with occasional articles in English. Lists of all printed publications provided to IAH members, together with the comprehensive history from which this article is drawn, can be found on the IAH website’s History section (IAH 2016).
Also discussed at the first congress was the relationship between IAH and the International Commission on Groundwater (ICGW), a commission formed under the umbrella of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), established in 1922. It was concluded there was very little overlap or potential competition between IAHS and IAH, because the IAHS-ICGW originated from a purely physical and mathematical scientific background, whilst IAH mainly represented applied geologists focussed on the relationship between groundwater flow and geology. While this somewhat narrow perspective on the role and practice of hydrogeologists could be challenged today, the relationship between IAH and the IAHS-ICGW has remained strong over the years. IAH was fully functioning by the late 1950s and published its first membership list in May 1959, providing the names and addresses of around 350 individual and 33 corporate members in 44 countries. France was best represented with 121 individual and 11 corporate members, followed by Algeria (40 individual + 12 corporate), Italy (34 individual), Belgium (27 individual + 4 corporate), FR Germany (18 individual + 1 corporate), French West Africa (13 individual + 3 corporate), USA (12 individual), and Spain (10 individual). The United Kingdom and Australia had just three individual members each. The annual membership fee for individuals was US$3 (or 15 Swiss Francs or 17 French Francs). In 2016 terms, US$3 would be about US$24.
The founding phase of IAH was strongly supported by UNESCO, who in the early 1950s had proposed the creation of an International Union for Geological Sciences (IUGS). However, IUGS, to which IAH is affiliated, was only created in 1961, whilst IAH was recognized and fostered by the Water Sciences Division of UNESCO from its early days. Many projects of the IAH commissions and working groups have since received substantial support from UNESCO funds through its International Hydrological Programme (IHP). The field of hydrogeological mapping which emerged in the 1960s can be cited as a prominent example continuing until today with the World-wide Hydrogeological Mapping and Assessment Programme (WHYMAP). A report summarizing 50 years of close cooperation in hydrogeological mapping was published in 2014 (Gilbrich and Struckmeier 2014).
IAH commissions and working groups, 1959–2015
Commission for Hydrogeological Maps (COHYM)
H Karrenberg, FR Germany to 1982.
WF Struckmeier, FR Germany, 1982–2011
Phased out at Review of Commissions (ROC) in 2011
Commission on the Geology of Mineral and Thermal Waters (CMTW)
K Fricke, FR Germany. H Schmassmann, Switzerland. B W Zuurdeeg, The Netherlands. J Dowgiallo, Poland. W Balderer, Switzerland
Renewed in 2011 as the Commission on Mineral and Thermal Waters, chaired by J LaMoreaux, USA, and A Porowski, Poland
Commission for the Hydrogeology of Karst
A Burger, Switzerland. H Paloc, France. H Hoetzl, FR Germany. N Goldscheider, Germany
Renewed in 2011 as the Commission on Karst Hydrogeology, chaired by N Goldscheider
Commission on Groundwater Protection
J Vrba, Czechoslovakia
Phased out at 2011 Review of Commissions
Working Group on Remote Sensing
M Deutsch, USA
Uncertain when it ceased to be active
Commission on the Hydrogeology of Volcanic Terrains
A Aureli, Italy
After almost a decade of work, the final manuscript of a monograph on volcanic rocks was stolen from Aurelio Aureli’s car in Naples. There was no copy to replace it and the commission never recovered
Commission on the Hydrogeology of Mining Areas
R Fernandez-Rubio, Spain
A commission that started with great enthusiasm. Later the International Mine Water Association was created with Fernandez-Rubio as first president
Commission on the Hydrogeology of Coastal Areas
V Cotecchia, Italy
Ceased activity in the late 1980s and terminated by Council in 1990, revived by G Baroccu, Italy (see the following)
Commission on the Hydrogeology of Hazardous Waste
P LaMoreaux, USA. J Vrba, Czechoslovakia
Active for a few years
Burdon Commission on Hydrogeology in Developing Nations
S Foster, UK, to 1997. David Ball, Ireland, to 2005. Then A McDonald, UK
Renewed as a network at the 2011 ROC and now re-named Burdon Groundwater Network for International Development
Commission on Education and Training
JE Moore, USA. R Aldwell, Ireland
Terminated by decision of Council in 2005
Commission on Urban Groundwater
D Lerner, UK, to 1997. Then K Howard, Canada
Renewed in 2011 as the Urban Groundwater Network
Commission on Groundwater and Aquatic Ecosystems
R Llamas, Spain
Not active by 1999. Revived in 2003 as Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems by C Colvin (see the following)
Commission on Hydrogeology in Arid Zones
J Lloyd, UK
Active very briefly
Commission on Hydrogeology and Computers (CHCOM)
GD Moore, USA
Active for 2–3 years
Commission on Hydrogeology of Hard Rocks (started as a working group)
J Krâsny, Czech Republic
Renewed in 2012 as the Network on Fractured Rock Hydrogeology, chaired by U Troeger, Germany
Commission on Transboundary Aquifer Resource Management (TARM)
S Puri, UK
Phased out at the ROC in 2011 and re-established in 2015 with same chair
Commission on Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) (Working Group on Artificial Recharge from 1996)
I Johnson, USA. P Dillon, Australia
Renewed in 2011 with the same name and chair
Commission on Groundwater and Climate Change
A Issar, Israel, until 2008. Then R Taylor, UK
Renewed at the 2011 ROC with the same name and chair
Commission on Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems
C Colvin, South Africa
Re-established at 2011 ROC as Network on Groundwater and Ecosystems, chaired by J Gurrieri and M Wireman, USA
Commission on Aquifer Dynamics and Coastal Zone Management
G Barrocu, Italy
Re-established at 2011 ROC as Network for Coastal Aquifer Dynamics and Coastal Zone Management (CAD-CZM), chaired by G Barrocu, Italy
Early Career Hydrogeologists Network
J Flugge, Germany. V Re, Italy
New network set up in 2009 and formalized at 2011 ROC
Commission on Groundwater Outreach
A Stone, USA
New commission established at 2011 ROC
Commission on Regional Groundwater Flow
J Mádl-Szőnyi, Hungary
New commission established at 2011 ROC
Working Group on Education
B Misstear, Ireland
Responds to IAH Forward Look objectives; unrelated to previous commission
Commission on Groundwater and Energy
G Ferguson, Canada
Advancing the science of hydrogeology was not, however, the new association’s only activity. From the beginning, developing a strong professional network and community of like-minded colleagues was a key objective and the establishment of IAH national chapters was an essential part of this. The first national group was set up by Paul Fourmarier in Belgium in 1958 and chapters in France, Spain, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Yugoslavia followed in the early 1960s. Technical meetings and field visits organised by the chapters in the national language enabled the association to reach, support and encourage many more hydrogeologists and, like the commissions, chapters quickly became an important component of the overall benefits of IAH membership.
Proceedings (memoirs) of IAH congresses 1957–1990
Year of Publication
Theme and number of IAH Congress and year
Réunion de Paris, 1st IAH Congress, 1957
Réunion de Liège, 2nd Congress, 1958
Réunion de Madrid, 3rd Congress, 1959
Réunion de Rome, 4th Congress, 1961
Réunion d’ Athènes, 5th Congress, 1962
Réunion de Belgrade, 6th Congress, 1963
Réunion de Hannover, 7th Congress, 1965
Réunion d’Istanbul, 8th Congress, 1967
International Legend for hydrogeological maps (IAH, IAHS and UNESCO)
Tokyo, 9th Congress, 1971
Congrès de Montpellier, France (10th), 1974
Hydrogeology of karstic terrains (IAH and IUGS)
Congress of Porto Alegre, Brazil, (11th), 1975
Hydrogeology of great sedimentary basins, 14th Congress, Budapest, 1976
Proceedings of the 12th Congress, Karst Hydrogeology, Huntsville, USA, 1975
Optimal development and management of groundwater, 13th Congress, Birmingham, UK, 1977
Methods for evaluation of groundwater resources, 15th Congress, Vilnius, 1979
Impact of agricultural activities on groundwater, 16th Congress, Prague, 1982
Hydrogeology of rocks of low permeability, 17th Congress, Tucson, 1985
Hydrogeology in the service of man, 18th Congress, Cambridge, 1985
Integrated land use planning and groundwater protection management in rural areas, 19th Congress, Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, 1986
Rome, 20th Congress, 1987
Karst hydrogeology and karst environment protection, 21st Congress, Guilin, 1988
Water resources in mountainous regions, 22nd Congress, Lausanne, 1990
Expansion and challenges in the 1970s
The 1970s proved to be a critical period for the fledgling organisation, a time of increasing membership and a widening of its geographical basis, shown by the establishment of new chapters in Ireland, the USA and Canada. Together with growth in scientific activities and the development of closer ties with other organisations, this started to put a strain on resources and tested the character of some of its leading figures. Increased expectations of the membership were beginning to expand the workload for Council, putting particular stress on the IAH Secretariat and the Treasurer. Towards the end of his 4-year term as president (1972–1976), Stevenson Buchan remarked that despite the very favourable signs of growth, “running the association is now becoming quite a heavy task”. The increasing burden of work on the Secretariat and Treasurer became a recurring concern in subsequent decades as the association grew.
As evidence of the mounting pressure, information bulletins began to appear with less frequency during the 1970s and concerted efforts were made to limit the association’s rapidly expanding scientific programme “to ensure that the activities of IAH are kept within its financial and other capabilities” (Information Bulletin Nos. 17–19). The association also struggled to collect annual fees from members in countries that had restrictions on obtaining and transmitting foreign currency and this had a constraining effect on the expansion of membership and consequently on the finances of the association. In the late-1970s, only 800 of the 1200 members were regularly paying fees which by that time had risen to 30 DM (17 $ US or 50 FF). In 2016 terms, US$17 would be about US$55.
Despite these difficulties, IAH continued to push forward due to the diligent work and strong commitment of its elected officers. In 1977, Phil LaMoreaux of the USA was voted president of a new Council (Table 1) at a well-attended congress in Birmingham, UK, and during the event the association celebrated its very first general assembly outside the confines of the IGC, a true sign of its maturity and growing independence. Unfortunately, when IAH seemed to be progressing well and ably coping with some of its inevitable “growing pains”, tragedy struck. On an extended field trip following the 1979 congress held in Vilnius, the Lithuanian Republic of the USSR, IAH Secretary General Louis Dubertret sadly died.
Louis Dubertret, founding member and first secretary general of the association from 1956 to 1979 had been one of the principal drivers behind IAH during the first two decades of its life. Without his untiring work, thousands of letters, contacts and negotiations, and his unfailing presence at international meetings, the association would never have attained the enviable international reputation it began to enjoy during the late 1970s. Dubertret had been a pivotal figure in putting IAH on a sound footing, and his death brought to a close a crucial phase in the association’s development.
The international growth years: 1979–2000
Rapidly growing membership
Membership growth also promoted greater scientific activity with the creation of new commissions for ‘remote sensing’, ‘hydrogeology of coastal areas’, and ‘hydrogeology of hazardous waste’ (Table 2). During this period, groundwater quality issues and the need to protect aquifers from pollution from human activities became a major focus of IAH’s scientific efforts. Intensive agriculture had been identified as a major source of groundwater pollution and a search was beginning for safe and secure underground storage repositories of hazardous radioactive waste from the nuclear industry. Hydrogeological attention turned on the one hand to shallow aquifers most vulnerable to land use change and, on the other, to non-aquifer formations of very low permeability.
The activity and productivity of a number of the commissions was further strengthened by the valuable support of UNESCO in aspects of hydrogeology which had close links to the themes and tasks of the IHP. At this time, these particularly focussed on karstic regions, on the contributions of the Commission on Hydrogeological Maps and on groundwater protection. The work of the commissions greatly contributed to scientific meetings on these subjects (Table 3); the IGC (held every 4 years) and the more regular IAH congresses and symposia also helped to establish the IAH “blue” book series (IAH International Contributions to Hydrogeology) and a little later the “green” book series (IAH Selected Papers).
Establishing IAH’s books and journal
Egon Groba, IAH Treasurer from 1968–1989 (Table 1), must be given great credit for the association’s publication initiatives during the early 1980s; however, good fortune also played a key role. Groba, it seems, was hospitalised when he happened to meet Christian Heise who was confined to a neighbouring hospital bed. Heise owned Heise Verlag (publishers), a major printing company in Hannover, Germany, that was seeking to expand into the publishing of science books. Both gentlemen seized upon this opportunity and entered an agreement that would serve both parties well for many years to come. IAH would prepare and deliver copy-ready manuscripts of the International Contributions to Hydrogeology and Heise would publish, print and distribute them free of charge to IAH members, while retaining the right to sell additional copies on the global market. In addition, Christian Heise generously agreed to print the Information Bulletins and Membership Directories at no cost to IAH.
IAH International Contributions to Hydrogeology (“blue” book series)
Hydrogeology of karst terrains: case historiesa,b
Hydrogeology of limestone terranes: annotated bibliography of carbonate rocks, volume 3a,b
List of the terms of hydrogeology, geochemistry and mineral and thermal watersa,b
Hydrogeology of the Dinaric Karsta
Impact of agricultural activities on groundwatera,b,c
Theoretical background, hydrogeology and practice of protection zonesa,b
Hydrogeological mapping in Asia and the Pacific regions: proceedings of an ESCAP workshop, Bandung, 1983
Groundwater recharge: a guide to understanding and estimating natural rechargea,b
Well logging in groundwater developmentb
Hydrogeology of limestone terrains: annotated bibliography of carbonate rocks, volume 4a
Hydrogeology of salt water intrusion: a selection of SWIM papersa,c
Hydrogeology and management of hazardous waste for deep-well disposala,b
Hydrogeology of selected karst regionsa,d
Annotated bibliography of karst terranes, volume 5a,b
Guidebook on mapping groundwater vulnerabilitya,b
Hydrogeological maps: a guide and standard legenda,b
Balkema takes over Heise and continues publication of ICH series
Shallow groundwater systemsc
Recharge of phreatic aquifers in (semi-) arid areasb
Karst hydrogeology and human activities: impacts, consequences and implicationsa
Groundwater in the urban environment: selected city profilesc
Managing water well deterioration
Understanding water in a dry environment: hydrological processes in arid and semi-arid zonesb
Urban groundwater pollutiona,b
Introduction to isotope hydrology: stable isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon
Taylor and Francis takes over Balkema and continues publication of ICH series
Methods in karst hydrogeologya
Climate change effects on groundwater: a global synthesis of findings and recommendationsa,b
History of hydrogeology
Many of the IAH blue books enabled the work of the commissions to be published as contributions to the groundwater science topics of the time, for which the series was intended. The themes are listed in Table 4, indicating those which arose from the work of the IAH commissions and those which were directly linked to specific activities within IHP and/or supported by UNESCO. The titles show that, for the most part, during the 1980s and 1990s, investigating and describing the geological settings in which aquifers and groundwater resources could be found remained a dominant emphasis for IAH and its commissions. In particular, the joint scientific endeavours of IAH commissions and IHP working groups on karstic aquifer systems (volumes 1, 2, 4, Table 4), on groundwater vulnerability and protection (volumes 6 and 16), the international map legend (volume 17) and agricultural and urban impacts on groundwater systems (volumes 5 and 24) were well-recognised contributions in their respective fields of hydrogeology. Further details of all of these publications can be found on the IAH website along with information about how to obtain them.
Broadening the scope of IAH activities in the 1980s
The principal focus of IAH’s charitable activities, the Burdon Fund, came into being at this time. The fund was a legacy established in memory of David Burdon, a long-time member of the Irish national group and one of those present at the initiation of IAH in 1956. The associated Burdon Commission (now the Burdon Groundwater Network for International Development, Table 2) was set up in the mid 1980s specifically to support IAH members in lower income countries. At the initiative of Ramon Llamas and Erik Romijn, president and secretary general at the time (Table 1), a sponsored membership scheme was proposed by the Burdon Commission in 1987 and formalised and launched in 1989. This, one of the first such schemes established by a professional association, enabled individual members, national chapters and central funds to support colleagues who, for economic or administrative reasons were unable to pay for their own membership. There were 20 subscribers in the first year and numbers stayed fairly static until in 1993 when administration of the scheme was transferred to the IAH Secretariat.
Erik Romijn’s role as secretary general came to a close in 1989 when he was elected president (Table 1). At this time, IAH was evolving rapidly with membership doubling in a decade, many new national chapters being formed and a blossoming array of publications and membership services. The stated aim of the association was to “further hydrogeological science by promoting cooperation between hydrogeologists of all nations and practitioners of other disciplines concerned with hydrogeological problems.” This was to be achieved primarily by collaboration in research, publications and conferences with other scientific associations (Day 1992). This restates the original objectives but recognises the broadening global reach and expanding membership of IAH.
Reviewing IAH’s plans and strategies in the 1990s
It was clearly time to pause for thought and plan more strategically. IAH’s first meeting specifically for this purpose took place in Prague in May 1992 and it is worth recording that its genesis came partly from contemporary world events. The so-called Velvet Revolution had taken place in the then Czechoslovakia in 1989, following events in Poland and the former East Germany. The IAH Czechoslovak National Committee held funds in non-convertible Czechoslovak Crowns which were very likely to lose value with the financial changes taking place as the new Czechoslovak state was formed. Jaroslav Vrba therefore approached IAH Vice President John Day with a plan to utilise the funds in Prague by hosting the strategy meeting, and Day recommended this invitation should be accepted. The opportunity was timely in the light of the changing circumstances of IAH and with the need to react to the international priorities arising from the UN Water Conference in Dublin earlier that year. In all, 24 IAH members from the Council of IAH and its advisors, national committees and commissions were joined by representatives of sister societies, IAHS and the International Association of Engineering Geology (IAEG), and from UNESCO IHP, whose fifth phase was to start in 1995 and would be strongly influenced by the outcome of the Dublin conference.
Better management of groundwater resources in urban areas to prevent overuse and contamination from inadequately controlled land use practices
Sustainable management of groundwater resources in arid and semi-arid regions, either alone or in conjunction with surface waters; quantification of recharge and understanding of flow processes to help achieve this
Methods for protecting the quality and quantity of groundwater, including a methodology for monitoring, identification of the susceptibility to human impacts and integration with land-use planning
Methods of management to ensure sustainable use of groundwater in harmony with aquatic ecosystems that depend upon groundwater; improved understanding of the sensitivity of ecosystems to changes in the quality and availability of groundwater
The plan was accepted by Council at its meeting in September 1992. Efforts were subsequently made in the period up to the new millennium to encourage new commissions to take up some of these challenges (Table 2), and the book themes in Table 3 also reflect this evolving emphasis.
Organising the Prague meeting was one of the first major responsibilities for Andrew Skinner, the incoming secretary general who had inherited this role from Erik Romijn in 1989. At the meeting, the fragmented nature of the IAH administration and consequent inefficiencies were discussed. The new secretary general presented a plan to Council in Karlsruhe in September 1992 and the Secretariat settled in the United Kingdom in 1993. The association needed a careful hand on the tiller during these demanding but exciting times, and Skinner fitted that bill perfectly. A small team of part-time administrative assistants was appointed and he set about turning IAH into a modern, efficient, professional organisation with a management structure and governance appropriate for a membership that was fast approaching 4,000 (Fig. 2). Working closely with Council led by Michael Knight of Australia, President from 1996 to 2000 (Table 1), Skinner was able to ensure that IAH began the new millennium as a fully incorporated limited company and registered charity with a rigorous set of association rules and articles. Thus, from the 12th Council of IAH (Table 1), council members also became directors of the company and trustees of the charity. After 10 years of unprecedented growth, incorporation provided IAH with a sound foundation on which to build a sustainable future and Emilio Custodio, the first IAH president after incorporation (Table 1) was responsible for setting the association off on its new path. He firmly supported the use of English as the primary working language for IAH but also helped to make the outputs of the association available in Spanish and Portuguese. IAH owes much of its strength in Iberia and Latin America to his status and influence and he continues to support members and chapters during his travels to Latin America.
Consolidation and adapting to change: 2000–2016
Membership broadens rather than grows
Regional IAH membership, 2002–2015
North Africa and the Middle East
Australasia and the Pacific
Latin America and the Caribbean
The character and composition of the association has continued to broaden, with successive presidents and councils encouraging membership from outside what might be termed classical academic hydrogeology. Many new members were drawn from public sector regulatory agencies and the private sector as well as the more traditional sources in universities and geological surveys and are working in groundwater investigation, protection and management from a much wider range of disciplines. The broadening professional range and greater geographical reach has certainly strengthened IAH’s ability to live up to its title and to speak with greater authority for groundwater globally. This was reflected in adoption by IAH of the strapline “Worldwide Groundwater Organisation” in 2005. Moreover, some of the established IAH chapters such as those in Australia and Ireland have been particularly effective in capturing a broader range of disciplines, enabling them to have a much more effective groundwater voice at a national level.
The books and journal flourish
Hydrogeology Journal theme issues
Groundwater processes in land and water salinisation
Tribute to Eugene S. Simpson
Groundwater as a geologic agent
Groundwater and microbial processes
Hydromechanics in geology and geotechnics
Groundwater: from development to management
The future of hydrogeology
Social and economic aspects of groundwater governance
Remote sensing and GIS in hydrogeology
Hydrogeoecology and groundwater dependent ecosystems
Saltwater and freshwater interactions in coastal aquifers
Insights from environmental tracers in groundwater systems
Economics of groundwater management
Hydrogeology of cold regions
Hydrogeology of shallow thermal systems
Optimization for groundwater characterization and management
Land subsidence processes
IAH Selected Papers (“green” book series)
Selected papers on hydrogeology from the 28th IGC, Washington, DC, 1989
Hydrogeology of hard rocks, selected papers originating from the 24th IAH Congress, Oslo, 1993
Selected papers on aquifer overexploitation from the 23rd IAH Congress, Tenerife, 1991
Selected papers on environmental hydrogeology from the 29th IGC, Kyoto, 1992
Balkema takes over Heise and then becomes part of Taylor and Francis with an interruption to the series
Nitrates in groundwater; papers from a Euromeet at Wisła, Poland in 2002a
Groundwater and human development, selected papers from the 32nd IAH Congress, Mar del Plata, Argentina 2002
Groundwater intensive use, selected papers from SINEX, Valencia, 2002a
Urban groundwater: meeting the challenge, selected papers from the 32nd IGC, Florence, 2004a,b
Groundwater in fractured rocks, selected papers from the conference in Prague, 2003a
Aquifer systems management, selected papers from the IAH Symposium, Dijon, 2006
Groundwater vulnerability assessment and mapping, selected papers from the conference in Ustroń, Poland, 2004
Groundwater flow understanding: from local to regional scale, selected papers from the 33rd IAH Congress, Zacatecas, Mexico, 2004
Applied groundwater studies in Africab
Advances in subsurface pollution of porous media: indicators, processes and modelling; selected papers from the EU COST-629 Final Conference, Barcelona, 2007
Groundwater governance in the Indo-Gangetic and Yellow River basins: realities and challenges
Groundwater response to changing climate, selected papers from the 36th IAH Congress, Toyama, Japan, 2008a,b
Groundwater quality sustainability: selected papers from the 38th IAH Congress, Krakow, Poland, 2010
Groundwater and ecosystems: selected papers from the 35th IAH Congress, Lisbon, 2007
Assessing and managing groundwater in different environments: selected papers from the Groundwater Division of the Geological Society of South Africa conference, Pretoria, 2011
Fractured rock hydrogeology: selected papers from the Fractured Rock Conference in Prague, 2012a
Calcium and magnesium in groundwater
Solving the groundwater challenges of the 21st century: selected papers from the 40th IAH Congress, Perth, Australia, 2013
Karst without boundaries: selected papers from the Karst Conference at Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2014
Further strategic review
Collaboration with UNESCO in the 6th phase of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP)
Partnership with UN agencies to promote better understanding of the role of groundwater and to raise its profile in international water policy initiatives
Continue and develop special IAH initiatives in transboundary aquifer management; urban groundwater, groundwater and poverty alleviation; improved understanding and better characterisation of groundwater systems; understanding groundwater dependent ecosystems; groundwater and coastal zone management
Review the priorities and work of the Burdon Commission (now Network) and the use of the Burdon Fund
Develop income sources to supplement membership income through corporate sponsorship
Review the format and scheduling of congresses and the work of commissions and working groups in line with the objectives and priorities of the association
Again the areas of groundwater science, management and development listed in the preceding as No. 3 featured in the establishment of new commissions (Table 2) and in the work of existing commissions and in the publications (book series and Hydrogeology Journal). The IAH commissions have remained the focus of much of IAH’s scientific activity. The evolution of scientific directions within hydrogeology has continued in the new millennium and the increasing importance of taking account of global change in managing groundwater resources and protecting aquifers from pollution was reflected in new commissions on ‘groundwater and climate change’ and on ‘transboundary aquifers’ (Table 2). The activities of many of the commissions and networks have benefited from IAH’s close and long-term cooperation with UNESCO’s IHP, as can be seen from the notes to the book lists in Tables 4 and 7.
Recognising that the recommendations of the previous strategic meetings had not been fully implemented, the 14th Council of IAH (Table 1) agreed at its first meeting on the need for a comprehensive review of the association’s activities. The process was initiated by a discussion in Council in Hyderabad, India, in September 2009, followed by consultation with national chapters and by a member survey. In July 2010, a 3-day meeting was convened in Reading, UK, attended by 24 participants representing Council, chapters, commissions and the broader membership. Under the guidance of Secretary General Shammy Puri, strategic priorities for IAH up to 2020 were set out under five main headings: the internal development of IAH, education and professional development, informing and influencing global policy, enhancement of alliances and partnerships, and developing the science of hydrogeology (IAH 2010).
Adapting to evolving hydrogeological focus
An important recommendation of the Forward Look was to complete the reform of IAH’s commissions and networks, a process that had been initiated on behalf of Council by Vice President for Programme and Science Coordination Ken Howard in 2008 and was inherited by António Chambel following the 2012 IAH Council elections. Some of IAH’s commissions had been too dependent on the energy and efforts of individuals and in some cases the initial enthusiasm had not been maintained or passed on to others (Table 2). The objectives of this review were to enable the association to close commissions which had become inactive or whose themes were now less topical, to establish new commissions in new topic areas and to encourage wider participation of younger professionals in their activities. As a result of the reform, some of the established commissions and networks have been closed and some rejuvenated and continue to prosper (Table 2). New commissions on ‘regional groundwater flow’ and on ‘groundwater and energy’ have added to the breadth of IAH’s scientific endeavours.
Commissions which have contributed strongly to the science of hydrogeology through their meetings and publications include the Mineral and Thermal Waters Commission (Balderer et al. 2014), Managed Aquifer Recharge Commission chaired by Peter Dillon with its series of ISMAR conferences (International Symposium on Management of Aquifer Recharge), and the Karst Commission chaired by Nico Goldscheider with its meetings and publications. As an example of the latter, selected papers presented at the karst symposium in Malaga, Spain, in 2010 were published in a special issue of the journal Carbonates and Evaporites (March 2011, Issue 1). Commission outputs are also published both in Hydrogeology Journal (for example, Ghasemizadeh et al. 2012; Goldscheider et al. 2010) and as books (Kresic 2013).
Adapting activities to the new millennium
One of the most successful innovations of recent years has been the establishment of an IAH Early Career Hydrogeologists‘ Network (ECHN). This arose initially from seeing a similar endeavour by IAHS at the joint IAHS/IAH symposium in Hyderabad in 2009 and the idea was developed further in the discussions at the Forward Look meeting in 2010. What started as an informal group at the Krakow Congress in Poland in 2010 quickly became a formal IAH network within the revised structure established in 2011 (Table 2). The ECHN grew rapidly under the guidance of its first director Judith Flugge and has continued to prosper, convening technical sessions and organising lunchtime meetings and evening social events at each IAH congress. This has greatly encouraged younger IAH members to participate in all of the association‘s activities, especially the other commissions and networks and the national chapter committees, setting up national ECHN groups and providing a welcome and much appreciated voice for early career professionals as an observer at Council meetings.
Following incorporation, Andrew Skinner continued to lead the IAH Secretariat and steer IAH confidently into the new millennium. However, recognising that his own capacity to do this on a voluntary basis would not necessarily be available to others and was not sustainable as the association and its activities and responsibilities continued to grow, Council appointed John Chilton as IAH‘s first paid executive manager in 2008. IAH has also needed to recognise the changing ways in which professional societies provide benefits and services to its members, and this was an important driver for some of the recommendations coming from the Forward Look. Over the early years of the new millennium, digital communication with members by email had gradually been replacing conventional mail, and online payment for new and renewing members had been established with the setting up of a website for the association. The database for managing IAH membership had also grown up in piecemeal steps with the changing membership structure and fee rates over this period. By the time of the Forward Look in 2010 it was recognised that both website and database were due for a complete overhaul to incorporate contemporary design features, applications and content management. Council approved a proposal to establish a new website in 2012, development was undertaken in 2013 and site went live in 2014. Along with the website, the association and its members are also making increasing use of social media to communicate and to facilitate networking. Immediately after the Forward Look meeting, one of the participants, Sophie Vermooten of The Netherlands National Chapter, set up a LinkedIn group for IAH which quickly grew to several hundred members and now has more than 1600.
Although IAH was already aware of its charitable and educational responsibilities, formal registration of the association as a charity brought them more sharply into focus. The principal vehicle of IAH’s charitable activities had been the Burdon Fund, and associated Burdon Commission (now the Burdon Groundwater Network for International Development). The Network supports IAH members in lower income countries, helping colleagues who sometimes feel rather isolated to become better informed and more confident in their work, encouraging professional contact and collaboration between countries and helping to stimulate the formation of new national chapters. IAH employs the Burdon Fund to provide regular free book distributions to members in Africa and to support attendance at IAH congresses. More recently, a Memorandum of Understanding has been established with the African Groundwater Network and funds used to provide partial support to some of their workshops on groundwater in integrated water resources management in African river basins. With the resources for more effective promotion, the sponsored members’ scheme has grown much faster and now supports 265 colleagues.
The Hydrogeologists’ Time Capsule, the inspiration of Craig Simmons and Philippe Renard, which they turned into a successful project in 2006, provides a substantial collection of video interviews of eminent hydrogeologists who have made a material difference to the profession (Simmons and Renard 2008). The recordings provide opportunities to understand personal motivations, aspirations and philosophies by hearing directly their own reflections on their work and its impact and their thoughts for the future. These recordings constitute an historical record for future generations, and many are augmented by profiles published in this journal (Bredehoeft 2008; Duncan and Voss 2013; Voss and Duncan 2013).
To be effective, advocacy and awareness-raising of course needs technically sound but appropriately written material. Examples of this include the brochure prepared for IAH’s 50th anniversary in 2006 and policy briefs prepared jointly with UNESCO for the World Water Forum in Kyoto in 2003, both under the guidance of Stephen Foster. More recently, recognising the essential interconnections between groundwater and other sectors, to provide technical material to support the new Sustainable Development Goals and to mark the 60th anniversary, Stephen Foster has led the production of the IAH Strategic Overview Series, which is available on the Knowledge (Learning Resources) section of the IAH website (IAH 2016).
This changing emphasis is reflected in IAH’s international partnerships. One of the most productive was that between the IAH Commission for Transboundary Aquifer Management (TARM) and UNESCO’s Internationally Shared (transboundary) Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) Programme (Puri and Aureli 2005). The TARM Commission’s hydrogeological knowledge underpinned the work of the UN International Law Commission (ILC), such that a set of draft articles for a law on transboundary aquifers has been accepted by the UN General Assembly and now awaits ratification by countries. IAH colleagues from chapters including the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK, played a prominent role in supporting the European Commission in preparing the Water Framework Directive and Groundwater Directive and the associated guidance documents, and subsequently implementing their groundwater management and protection provisions at national level.
Since 2012, IAH has been a partner with FAO, UNESCO and the World Bank in a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on groundwater governance. The present status of the governance and management of groundwater was examined by a series of country case studies and thematic papers and five regional consultations. IAH members contributed (partly through the IAH commissions) to the preparation of the case studies and the writing of four of the twelve thematic papers and provided their experience at the regional consultations. IAH provided most of the drafting team for the main outputs of the project, a global diagnostic of the present state of groundwater governance, the vision for improved governance, and a framework for action by which steps can be taken to reach this vision (FAO 2015a, b; Foster and van der Gun 2016).
Over the past 60 years IAH has developed into a strong international groundwater association with a broad membership base, a well-regarded journal, established books series and a full programme of scientific meetings and well-attended congresses. Great credit for this success goes to members past and present who have dedicated untold hours to further the association’s aims and objectives, not only centrally within the IAH Council and the IAH Secretariat, but regionally within its national chapters, commissions and networks. Today, IAH plays an important role advocating for groundwater in the global water agenda and pursuing its mission to further the understanding, wise use and protection of groundwater resources throughout the world.
Demanding at times, it has been a successful journey, but the 60th anniversary year represents only a milestone on a path that continues. Signs for the future are very positive but much work remains to be done to ensure IAH remains at the forefront, adapting both to the needs of its members and to those of society as a whole. The world is changing rapidly with population growth, pollution and a warming planet posing serious threats to the sustainability of water resources and water-dependent ecosystems. At its most recent meeting, IAH Council approved the birth of the Commission on Groundwater and Energy and these types of initiatives must continue. It is essential that the association’s complement of commissions and networks remains responsive to the world’s changing priorities and issues, contributing to the evolving science but also helping to meet related social and educational needs.
When Stevenson Buchan remarked back in 1972 that IAH was “reaching its maturity”, he could hardly have foreseen the remarkable transformation IAH would undergo in the following 40 years. By the same reasoning, it is impossible for the current guardians of IAH to foretell what the next 40 years will bring. The association must strive to develop benefits which attract into membership the younger professionals whose active participation in all of IAH’s activities is essential for the continuing health and strength of the association. Certainly there will be challenges, including the difficulty of providing attractive member services on a limited budget, which has been a recurring concern throughout the life of the association. Dedication, commitment and hard work will also be required. However, the association has gained good momentum over the past 60 years, morale is strong and optimism holds no bounds, especially given the injection of energy provided in recent years by the early career hydrogeologists in the ECHN, many of whom have taken on some important responsibilities within the IAH. These will be the new champions of IAH, and the future lies in their hands.
The authors are especially grateful to Jean Margat and Jaroslav Vrba who gave up their time to meet Willi Struckmeier during 2015 to provide their recollections about the early years of the association. We thank Carla Skinner, Nick Robins, Cliff Voss and Sharon Warden for providing information and corrections and clarifications while the manuscript and tables were being prepared, and Stephen Foster for peer review comments on an earlier version of the article. We would also like to thank Gill Tyson for updating the congress location map (used at the time of IAH’s 50th anniversary) and Sue Duncan for her advice during the final stages of preparing the article. The authors would also like to thank the three reviewers whose corrections and helpful suggestions have certainly improved this article.