WMO has continuously focused on promoting and facilitating the development of capabilities within National Hydrological Services in order to assist them in providing the best possible products and services for securing sound and sustainable water resources worldwide. This has been the Organization aim since it began working on issues in operational hydrology and water resources in 1961. Despite the numerous technological and computational advancements in hydrology, the focus has remained on the fundamental needs for robust water resources management and decision-making; that is, data and forecasting.
At its 15th Session in Rome in December 2016, the Commission for Hydrology reinforced this ongoing commitment by adopting two new initiatives that will significantly strengthen the capacity of National Hydrological Services to deliver hydrological data, forecast products and related services, particularly in developing countries. These initiatives are the WMO Global Hydrometry Support Facility (HydroHub) and the WMO Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System (HydroSOS).
The HydroHub builds operational capacity in hydrometry and water monitoring, expands the base of hydrological data and exchange capabilities, and facilitates free and open data sharing. It does this through the development and application of innovative monitoring and database technologies, by supporting regional and local projects aimed at building sustainable hydrometeorological networks and freely accessible data, and by promoting the use of quality management principles.
The HydroHub consists of five main components:
- the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS)
- the Global Innovation Hub
- the WMO Hydrological Observing System (WHOS),
- a technical Help Desk
- a Hydrological Services Information Platform.
WHYCOS, a pre-existing capacity-building mechanism, is being redesigned to increase the sustainability of the projects by building operational systems and capacity in water monitoring and information systems, while the Global Innovation Hub will facilitate the free and open exchange of observation data and information to support informed decisions and policy-making.
HydroHub has three main objectives: 1) To develop an efficient, innovative and sustainable framework to support operational systems in hydrometry around the world; 2) To enhance and sustain global integration of national and regional monitoring systems in support of data sharing; and 3) To facilitate the operational uptake of innovative technologies by national services.
Through its various activities, the HydroHub will contribute to projects that have identified a hydrological observation data challenge by making the full WMO portfolio of expertise – from science to technology to services – accessible to end-users of hydrological data and services from various economic sectors, as a tailored service. Bringing these different communities together will increase the base of hydrological data – particularly as catalyzed by innovative technologies and approaches. The HydroHub will also contribute to related WMO activities such as the Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System (HydroSOS).
The HydroHub’s initial four- year operational period is being financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). HydroHub will gradually increase its functionality in 2018 following a one-year preparation phase that was used to establish procedures, test new approaches and most importantly, weave the network of partners. Key highlights of the 2017 preparation phases included engagement with potential partners, contributions to a proposed Senegal-HYCOS project, and the co-organization of an innovation workshop together with the Measurements and Observations in the XXI Century (MOXXI) activity of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS). The workshop focused on fostering discussion for future integration and implementation of innovative measurement approaches in operational hydrology.
The WMO HydroHub is governed by an Advisory Council that is chaired by the President of the Commission for Hydrology and comprised of members representing the World Bank, the SDC, a WHYCOS stakeholder, a Global Innovation Hub stakeholder, a member of the Association of Hydro-Meteorological Equipment Industry (HMEI), and two representatives from UN-system organizations with an interest in hydrometry.
In addition, the Advisory Council is supported by an Innovation Committee that focuses specifically on issues related to the review, endorsement, and periodic update of the Innovation strategy and Innovation areas; endorsement of the selection criteria for Innovation activities, such as impact on and benefits to the goals of the HydroHub; assessment, approval or rejection of proposals of Innovation activities to be funded by the Innovation Fund; and endorsement of resource allocation related to personnel and financial support of Innovation activities through the Innovation Fund. The Innovation Committee is chaired by a member of the Commission for Hydrology’s Advisory Working Group, with members from financial partners, experts in innovation, industry experts, and a representative of the IAHS.
HydroSOS is being designed to address the vexing problem of global hydrological variability – an omnipresent threat to society. As population increase, so do the number of people at risk from water-related hazards and the rapidly growing demands on water resources. However, there is currently no global system capable of assessing the present status of surface and groundwater systems or predicting how they will change in the immediate future.
HydroSOS aims to develop a worldwide operational system at monthly timescales capable of providing:
- An indication of the current global hydrological status (including: groundwater, river flow, soil moisture)
- An appraisal of where this status is significantly different from ‘normal’ (for example, indicating drought and flood situations)
- An assessment of where conditions are likely to improve or get worse over coming weeks and months.
HydroSOS will bring together existing tools and approaches to develop composite products of hydrological status and outlook.
It will be implemented through National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and enabling them to offer simple, accessible hydrological information to users such as government agencies, basin managers, funding institutions, aid agencies, UN bodies, and the general public. It will be developed in phases, beginning with a pilot phase from the present through 2020. At an initial planning meeting held in Entebbe, Republic of Uganda, in September 2017, discussions focused on two candidate pilot studies: one in Africa (preferably a transboundary basin like the Lake Victoria Basin), and the other in the South Asia (also involving a transboundary basin).
A third candidate pilot study will focus on a global assessment to evaluate the added value of a coordinated global hydrological assessment; to assess the feasibility of such a project; and to verify the commitment of NMHSs. The benefits of such a global assessment are notable: First, it would provide inclusive, standardized and quality information, particularly for countries that do not have such information, and will focus primarily on medium to long-term (extended range) forecasting. This coverage will not replace the products of NMHS, but will leverage them. Second, the project will improve the awareness of potentially hazardous situations and increase the visibility of the NMHS through successful products and outcomes. Third, the project will provide a tool for comparison among areas using common standards.
This initiative is aligned with several WMO priorities such as disaster risk reduction, the Global Framework for Climate Services, the WMO Integrated Global Observing System, and capacity development. HydroSOS will be an important tool to help NMHSs deliver their services. In addition, HydroSOS will support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and, in particular, the broader global community in the area of water management.