Hydrology, Water Resources, and Environmental Fluid Mechanics

Hydrology & Hydrodynamics


The hydrology area emphasizes surface water hydrology, with specific emphasis on hydrologic modeling and prediction. Among the research areas are development, testing and application of hydrologic and land-atmosphere models, snowmelt-runoff modeling, and seasonal streamflow forecasting for operation of major water resource systems. Also included are urban hydrology (ranging from field determination and digital terrain analysis to delineation of hydrologic process zones and modeling pre and post development hydrology), synthetic hydrology, and analysis of hydrological information related to floods and droughts. Although our focus is primarily modeling, field research is undertaken as well when there is a close link to model parameterization needs and/or deficiencies in process understanding.

Subsurface hydrology is approached largely from a resource management and human-health perspective. Field studies, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling are used to asses how management and development decisions impact the chemical quality of soil and groundwater.  Additional efforts are directed towards design of monitoring detection and compliance schemes for polluted soil and groundwater.

We draw heavily upon expertise available in Earth and Space Sciences (geomorphology, sediment transport in rivers and inverse problems), Atmospheric Sciences (atmospheric dynamics; climate science), Forest Resources, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics.

The hydrology area also emphasizes the understanding and solution of a range of water resources challenges such as droughts, geogenic contamination, multi-objective water allocation, and climate change impacts. To complement traditional engineering methods, we take a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to solving water and environmental problems. Students learn a range of analytic techniques, such as systems analysis, advanced statistics, and modeling. In addition, students gain a broader understanding of the societal context of decision-making. We provide our students opportunities to work directly with agencies, industries, and stakeholders on water resources problems. In this way, our educational approach bridges theory and application, research and practice, academia and the larger community. Research in this area includes local and state drought planning, optimization of water resource systems, computer-aided decision support, sustainable water resources development, using climate and hydrologic forecasts for water management, transboundary water conflicts and resolutions, river restoration, and watershed management.


In the CEE Hydrodynamics focus we consider the physical processes that relate to transport, mixing and the dynamical behavior of fluids in natural flows and those of environmental significance. Such flows are strongly influenced by effects such as turbulence, density stratification, and the earth's rotation. This research area is also often referred to as Environmental Fluid Mechanics. Course work and research focuses on the fluids dynamics of rivers, estuaries and the coastal ocean and considers processes relevant to river plumes, coherent structures, sediment transport and fish passage. Our research approach is broken into two primary components: field observations using boat-mounted and moored instruments, and laboratory experiments using advanced laser-based measurement techniques. The coursework and research programs draw on strengths from across the university in Oceanography, Applied Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering.