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Scientific Programme

Click here to download the IAH2023 Updated Preliminary Scientific Programme.
The organizers reserves the right to make changes to the programme without prior notice.

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Updated 6 September 2023


Scientific programme

The Congress theme is Groundwater: A Matter of Scale. This theme combines scientific advances through local to regional scale experiments and case studies, with those extending over various temporal scales. Groundwater models are discretised, up-scaled or down-scaled to allow for interpretation at other scales of observation. The representative elementary volume dictates the sensitivity and assumptions of how we study groundwater, and in the end, dictates the application of our models and solutions.

Keynote presentations and pre-Congress workshops will complement the Congress theme. The following sub-themes are proposed:

  • The connectedness of groundwater and planetary sciences: This sub-theme explores the connectedness of groundwater to various parts of the Earth system across different scales and disciplines. It addresses the scale differences between fast processes at or above the surface of the planet and slower processes deeper within the Earth. Groundwater is the largest store of fresh water on Earth and is heterogeneously connected to several Earth System processes on different timescales (Gleeson et al., 2020).
  • Catchment scale integrated surface water and groundwater studies: This sub-theme deals with conjunctive use of water resources. Conjunctive water resources management entails building a comprehensive knowledge database about hydrological processes occurring in surface and subsurface zones and their interactions at the watershed scale (Bizhanimanzar et al. 2020).
  • Scale aspects of groundwater flow and transport systems: This sub-theme explores methods to study groundwater flow and transport systems both at local and regional scales. This includes mathematical analyses of the properties of flow systems, as well as field- and GIS-based methods to study the geological agency of regional groundwater flow (IAH, 2015).
  • Critical zone sciences – a multidisciplinary, cross-scale science: As anthropogenic impacts increase in magnitude and scale, fundamental biogeochemical processes that create and sustain ecosystem patterns will continue to change at an unprecedented rate. This is especially true in Earth’s Critical Zone, which is defined as the “permeable near-surface layer …from the tops of the trees to the bottom of the groundwater (Minor et al. 2020). This subtheme explores the Earth Critical Zone where much of the Earth’s life-sustaining activities such as food production and regulation of water quality take place.
  • Upscaling/downscaling – new techniques and approaches: Aquifer parameters, such as hydraulic conductivity, are characterised at very small scales but becomes prohibitive or impractical to perform numerical simulations at such scale, for example. This subtheme explores upscaling techniques and approaches. At the same time, advances in remote sensing missions, global circulation models (GCMs), social media and other internet-related platforms provide new sources of data for groundwater. The issue with remote sensing data and GCM models is that the spatial resolution is more suited for regional or global studies whereas groundwater-related investigations are most needed at the local level. For local groundwater management, the data must be downscaled to a finer spatial resolution, a focus of the subtheme.
  • Local-scale, pore-scale, and discreet scale: Improved techniques make it possible to model or visualise hydrogeology at scales down to water molecule or water-mineral interfaces. Wetting and drainage of water through pores and discreet fractures can be upscaled to better inform on local mechanisms of flow and allow predictions on groundwater sustainability the emphasis of this subtheme.
  • Polycentric groundwater governance systems – interaction between actors at different levels of governance: Good governance requires a proper institutional design so that stakeholders trust that the management and regulatory decisions about groundwater use are legitimate, fair, credible and predictable. The ideal institutional setup would integrate linkages and functions of groundwater management vertically between the national level and the local level, and horizontally at each level with other sectors and agencies impacting on groundwater (FAO, 2016). This subtheme explores multi-level (or polycentric) groundwater governance systems.
  • Improving shared sustainable use of groundwater resources that cross two or more jurisdictional borders: This sub-theme explores the management of transboundary groundwater resources. For example, the assessment of transboundary aquifer systems will require the transition from a lithostratigraphic delineation to the use of groundwater-flow systems. In addition, identify and prioritise transboundary aquifers using socio-economic and political criteria, improving their characterization by using other variables in addition to their mere physical boundaries. for the evaluation of the degree of transboundariness (Sanchez et al., 2018).

Under the theme of Groundwater: A Matter of Scale, we anticipate advances in the study of hydrogeology about:

  • physical, chemical, computer, numerical and conceptual models
  • field and laboratory studies covering local to global spatial scales
  • improving physical or chemical measurements in the field or laboratory
  • long-time trend data
  • the use of big data, remote sensing or artificial intelligence technologies
  • any groundwater-focused interdisciplinary scientifically sound studies contributing to our understanding of hydrogeology

The Congress theme will also link to the different Commissions and Networks of IAH in the scope of ‘matters of scale’. Cross-disciplinary studies should be deeply rooted in hydrogeological science.