Overview and Key Facts
Jobs in 2031
What Do They Do?A hydrologist could...
Overview Listen to this section
Hydrologists examine the physical characteristics, distribution, and circulation of water above and below the earth's surface. They study rainfall and other precipitation, the paths precipitation takes through the soil and rocks underground, and its return to the oceans and air. Often, they specialize in either underground water or surface water. They examine the form and intensity of precipitation, its rate of infiltration into the soil, its movement through the Earth, and its return to the ocean and atmosphere. Hydrologists use sophisticated techniques and instruments. For example, they may use remote sensing technology, data assimilation, and numerical modeling to monitor the change in regional and global water cycles. Some surface-water hydrologists use sensitive stream-measuring devices to assess flow rates and water quality. The government and private industry use this information about water properties and movement patterns for a variety of purposes.
Many hydrologists assist in water conservation. The work they do is very important for environmental preservation; for instance, they may project water shortages, analyze the quality of potential water sources, or monitor the inflow and outflow of reservoirs. Some hydrologists forecast and help to prepare a region for conditions such as flooding, snowmelt, drought, and the formation and melting of river ice. Hydrologists often serve as consultants to scientists, engineers, developers, and governing bodies. They may study the feasibility of water reclamation or routing projects, or they may determine the possible effects of activities such as drilling, land development, and bridge construction on local waters.
Hydrologists generally perform research at a variety of outdoor sites, but they also work in laboratories. Hydrologists may monitor wells, record water depths, and measure stream flows or runoff rates. They frequently collect and analyze water samples and research historical data on storms and floods.
Do You Have the Skills and Characteristics of a Hydrologist?
Core TasksThink about if you'd like the typical tasks a Hydrologist might do:
- Prepare written and oral reports describing research results, using illustrations, maps, appendices, and other information.
- Design and conduct scientific hydrogeological investigations to ensure that accurate and appropriate information is available for use in water resource management decisions.
- Measure and graph phenomena such as lake levels, stream flows, and changes in water volumes.
- Conduct research and communicate information to promote the conservation and preservation of water resources.
- Coordinate and supervise the work of professional and technical staff, including research assistants, technologists, and technicians.
- Study public water supply issues, including flood and drought risks, water quality, wastewater, and impacts on wetland habitats.
- Apply research findings to help minimize the environmental impacts of pollution, waterborne diseases, erosion, and sedimentation.
- Study and document quantities, distribution, disposition, and development of underground and surface waters.
- Install, maintain, and calibrate instruments such as those that monitor water levels, rainfall, and sediments.
- Develop computer models for hydrologic predictions.
- Evaluate research data in terms of its impact on issues such as soil and water conservation, flood control planning, and water supply forecasting.
- Study and analyze the physical aspects of the earth in terms of hydrological components, including atmosphere, hydrosphere, and interior structure.
- Collect and analyze water samples as part of field investigations or to validate data from automatic monitors.
- Prepare hydrogeologic evaluations of known or suspected hazardous waste sites and land treatment and feedlot facilities.
- Evaluate data and provide recommendations regarding the feasibility of municipal projects, such as hydroelectric power plants, irrigation systems, flood warning systems, and waste treatment facilities.
- Develop or modify methods for conducting hydrologic studies.
- Review applications for site plans and permits and recommend approval, denial, modification, or further investigative action.
- Monitor the work of well contractors, exploratory borers, and engineers and enforce rules regarding their activities.
- Answer questions and provide technical assistance and information to contractors or the public regarding issues such as well drilling, code requirements, hydrology, and geology.
- Investigate properties, origins, and activities of glaciers, ice, snow, and permafrost.
- Conduct short- and long-term climate assessments and study storm occurrences.
- Administer programs designed to ensure the proper sealing of abandoned wells.
- Investigate complaints or conflicts related to the alteration of public waters, gathering information, recommending alternatives, informing participants of progress, and preparing draft orders.
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