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Nature or RecreationScientific or AnalyticSkill Level 5

Hydrologists study and monitor the occurrence, quality and movement of water. Hydrologists measure, analyse and maintain the quantity and quality of water in rivers, lakes, stormwater and sewage. They study how water enters the atmosphere through evaporation then returns to the earth as rain, or snow, returning to rivers and oceans, or filtering through soil to enter underground water sources, such as the Yarragadee Aquifer. FutureGrowthModerate

They use this information to plan and develop strategies for water conservation and the improvement of water quality. Hydrologists are able to provide advice on how to manage the States, Territories, or Australian water supply, ensure that drinking water is safe, help develop drought management plans, and predict floods.

Some hydrologists may develop strategies to remove pollutants, such as industrial and agricultural run-off from rivers, wetlands and other water sources.

(Source: European Geosciences Union)

ANZSCO ID: 234413

Alternative names:
Terrestrial Hydrographer, Hydrometric Officer, Field Hydrologist, Hydrographical Technical Officer, Hydrological Technical Officer, Hydrometric Technician,

Specialisations: Hydrogeologist [separate page on this website]

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A hydrologist needs:

  • an interest in environmental science

  • to be prepared to work both indoors and outdoors

  • strong written and verbal communication skills - able to communicate effectively

  • to be prepared to work in remote locations

  • good organisational skills

  • able to work accurately and systematically

  • aptitude for physics, mathematics and statistics

  • mechanical ability and the ability to work with technology

  • able to work independently or as part of a team

  • able to work in confined spaces and at heights

  • able to swim

DutiesUnder a river and Tasks

Work activities vary according to the roles chosen, but common duties include:

  • Measuring rainfall, run-off, river flow, water quality, and tidal behaviour

  • Combining data sources to search for underground water reservoirs

  • Ensuring organisations comply with environmental water policies

  • Reviewing action plans and overseeing responses to floods and droughts

  • Employing computer modelling techniques to assess the most effective methods of managing available water resources

  • Maintaining knowledge through continuing education, such as reading journal articles

  • Select, install, maintain and repair instruments that monitor such things as water levels, water flows, ground water, rainfall and sediments

  • Complete field observations and collect sample data at various locations to confirm data gathered by automatic monitors

  • Prepare data for use by other professionals

  • Provide advice to other professionals about civil works associated with water-related projects and activities (including dams, weirs, bridges, irrigation projects, water supply schemes, flood protection works, warning services and marine facilities)

  • Prepare reports on sites, data collection and quality.

Working Conditions

Hydrologists work for organisations involved with environmental management and/or conservation.

This can include government organisations, such as the Department of Water and the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as private organisations. They usually divide their time between working in an office or laboratory and conducting field work.

Hydrologists may travel all over any State or Territory, examining dams close to the major cities, to more remote locations. Some hydrologists may even get to travel to Antarctica to study ice samples that are thousands of years old. When working in an office they generally work regular office hours. During field work they generally work longer hours, and may also work weekends.


Tools and technologies

Hydrologists use a range of laboratory equipment to test water sources for acidity, the presence of harmful chemicals and salinity (salt) levels.

They may use a range of drilling and coring equipment to collect samples of water from underground water sources, or simply dip a sterile vessel into easy to reach surface water.

Some hydrologists also use equipment to monitor weather conditions, such as atmospheric pressure and humidity, which can help in predicting rainfall.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a hydrologist you need to complete a degree in science, majoring in environmental science or a related field (such as geology, marine science, water science and hydrology).

Completion of a post graduate qualification may also improve your employment prospects.

Additional Information

A current drivers licence and boating licence may be required. It may be possible to gain employment as a cadet or trainee with a government department without a degree if you have several years of relevant work experience.

Graduates of approved courses are able to apply for membership and various levels of certification with the Australian Hydrographers Association.

Employment Opportunities

The major employers of hydrologists include government departments, statutory authorities, the mining industry and consulting firms in hydrology, environmental science or environmental engineering. Competition for entry-level positions is very strong. The number of assistant or trainee positions that are available varies each year.

Did You Know? 

John Williams is an Australian scientist whose life work has been in the study of hydrology and the use of water in the landscape and farming, including land salinity.

John Williams


Williams grew up near Tumbarumba on a farm in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. He attended school in Queanbeyan near Canberra, before graduating from the University of Sydney with a degree in agricultural science and a doctorate in soil science and hydrology.

Williams is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and advocated for a rational debate on Australia's water resources. He was Chief of the Division of Land and Water, CSIRO (Australia's premier government research organisation), in Canberra, when he retired in 2004. He served earlier at the CSIRO laboratories at Townsville in Queensland where, among other things, he studied the Great Artesian Basin and the transport of water from the Great Dividing Range into the outback of Queensland and New South Wales.

He also served as Adjunct Professor in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management at Charles Sturt University, and Chief Scientist and Chair of the NSW Department of Natural Resources’ Science and Information Board. Williams was also Commissioner of the New South Wales Natural Resources Commission between 2005 and 2011.

Williams is an Emeritus Professor and research associate at the Australian National University; and a commentator on environmental matters.
(Source: Wikipedia)





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