Hydrology is a field of study that focuses on the management of water. A hydrologist makes an accurate assessment of the available water and future needs and makes recommendations on long-term management practices.

Hydrologists study and do research on the waters of the earth, its distribution on and below the surface of the earth and in the atmosphere. They try to secure the optimal utilisation of the country’s water resources by advising civil engineers on the flow of rivers and where to build the most economical water schemes, to ensure that sufficient water of acceptable quality can be supplied in the most cost-effective manner.

They also advise design engineers on the frequency and magnitude of floods in order to minimise flood risks and to ensure the best operation procedures for flood control and drought periods. They identify underground water as sources of water supply, evaluate the effect of man’s activities on the quantity and quality of water, and study the interaction between components within the hydrological cycle.

Water is a scarce commodity and part of the job of a hydrologist is to identify problem areas and make recommendations as to how these problems should be solved. A hydrologist should understand the needs of water users, including agricultural, domestic and industrial users, as well as the possible options available for water resource development.

Work is not confined to an office, but includes short periods of fieldwork. For geohydrologists, fieldwork is particularly important. A great deal of work is done outdoors when visits are made to catchment areas, rivers, dams and consumer areas for observation. Work indoors is carried out in offices and laboratories where field information is received, analysed and interpreted, and where water is tested for its chemical, physical and biological quality. Office work also includes administrative duties such as the compilation and editing of reports, the processing of data, liaison with clients and planning of new projects.


  • The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

  • CSIR

  • water boards and municipalities

  • universities and universities of technology

  • engineering firms

  • self-employment, a skilled hydrologist can open a private practice and act as a consultant

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to a hydrologist about this type of career

  • try to arrange a visit to the Hydrological Research Institute of the Department of Water Affairs near Roodeplaat Dam, or the equivalent


Africa University, Alliance International University, Anglican University College of Technology, Ardhi University, Catholic University of Eastern African, Central University of Technology, Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenyatta University, Kisii University, Laikipia University, Machakos University College, Makerere University, Marian University College, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Moi University, Mulungushi University, Mzuzu University, National University of Lesotho, Open University of Tanzania, Rusangu University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, South Eastern Kenya University, Tumaini University Makumira, University of Botswana, University of Energy and Natural Resources, University of Johannesburg, University of Kisubi, University of Nairobi, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Rwanda, University of Stellenbosch, University of Swaziland, University of Zambia

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