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 those concerned.
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 suggestions.
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 framework”.
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 report.
Authors: Pierre Walther