There must be justifiable reasons for the study of any discipline, and the study of hydrology is not an exception. The question now is why do we study hydrology? This question will be answer by taking a look at the various applications of hydrology in society.
Applying Hydrology in Society
The application of hydrology in the society can be traced to any human endeavour that requires the use of water. Hydrologists apply scientific knowledge and mathematical principles to solve water-related problems in society: problems of quantity, quality and availability.
They may be concerned with finding water supplies for cities or irrigated farms; or controlling river flooding or soil erosion. They may work in environmental protection: preventing or cleaning up pollution or locating sites for safe disposal of hazardous wastes.
Most cities meet their needs for water by withdrawing it from the nearest river, lake or reservoir. Hydrologists help cities by collecting and analyzing the data needed to predict how much water is available from local supplies and whether it will be sufficient to meet the city’s projected future needs.
To do this, hydrologist study records of rainfall, snowpack depths and river flows that are collected and compiled by hydrologists in various government agencies.
Managing reservoirs can be quite complex, because they generally serve many purposes. Reservoirs increase the reliability of local water supplies.
Hydrologists use topographic maps and aerial photographs to determine where the reservoir shorelines will be and to calculate reservoir depths and storage capacity. This work ensures that, even at maximum capacity, no highways, railroads or homes would be flooded.
Deciding how much water to release and how much to store depends upon the time of year, flow predictions for next several months, and the needs of irrigation and cities, as well as downstream water-users that rely on the reservoir.
If the reservoir also is used for recreation or for generation of hydroelectric power, those requirements must be considered. Decisions must be coordinated with other reservoir managers along the river.
Hydrologists collect the necessary information, enter it into a computer, and run computer models to predict the results under various operating strategies. On the basis of these studies, reservoir managers can make the best decision for those involved.
The availability of surface water for swimming, drinking, industrial or other uses is sometimes restricted because of pollution. Pollution can be merely an unsightly and inconvenient nuisance, or it can be an invisible, but deadly threat to the health of people, plants and animals.
In this regard, hydrologists assist public health officials in monitoring public water supplies to ensure that health standards are met. When pollution is discovered, environmental engineers work with hydrologists in devising the necessary sampling programme.
Water quality in estuaries, streams, rivers and lakes must be monitored, and the health of fish, plants and wildlife along their stretches surveyed. Related work concerns acid rain and its effects on aquatic life, and the behaviour of toxic metals and organic chemicals in aquatic environments.
Hydrologic and water quality mathematical models are developed and used by hydrologists for planning and management and predicting water quality effects of changed conditions.
Hydrologists help to protect groundwater supply by providing guidance in the location of monitoring wells around waste disposal sites and sample them at regular intervals to determine if undesirable leachate – contaminated water containing toxic or hazardous chemicals is reaching the ground water. Hydrologists are often consulted for the selection of proper sites for new waste disposal facilities.
Hydrology also finds its applications in the determination of water balance of a region; agricultural water balance, mitigating and predicting flood, landslide and drought risk. It is also relevant in designing dams for water supply or hydroelectric power generation, bridges, sewers and urban drainage system.
Worthy of note is the relevance of hydrology in predicting geomorphological changes, such as erosion or sedimentation, and assessing the impacts of natural and anthropogenic environmental change on water resources.
In summary, from the discussions on the various possible applications of hydrology in society, it can however be concluded that the applications of hydrology is as varied as the uses of water and may range from planning multibillion naira interstate water projects to advising homeowners about backyard drainage problems.
The application of hydrology can be traced to any human endeavour that requires the use of water.
Hydrology can be applied in the provision of water for domestic, agricultural and industrial and other uses.
Hydrology is also relevant in predicting geomorphogical changes, such as erosion or sedimentation, and assessing the impacts of natural and anthropogenic environmental change on water resources.