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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Research  /  Research Centres  /  Climate & Water Research Unit

The Climate & Water Research Unit (CWRU)


The global water system is changing in response to climate change and human development. Changes in the quantity, quality and distribution of water in time and space have profound implications for ecosystems and supplies of freshwater around the world. The Climate and Water Research Unit (CWRU) at UCL is a multidisciplinary network of scientists examining the interaction between climate and terrestrial hydrological systems and working together to address fundamental questions pertaining to the characteristics and dynamics of the global hydrological system and their consequences for our life-support systems.

A key focus of CWRU’s research is the impact of climate change on the hydrology of river basins around the world and its implications for adaptation policy responses. Research is focused primarily in the tropics, and particularly in Africa, where climate and hydrological variability is most extreme and vulnerability to anomalies is most acute. Research activities explicitly recognise that climate change occurs in the context of many other societal changes including rapid population growth, urbanisation, and development.

CWRU’s research presently seeks to advance scientific understanding in a number of strategic areas:

  • Quantification of uncertainty in projections of future climate and basin-scale hydrology;
  • Simulation of evapotranspiration in both basin-scale and large-scale, land-atmosphere models;
  • Impact of climate variability and change on groundwater and other basin stores (e.g. soil moisture and ice);
  • Impact of climate variability and change on ecological systems - most notably wetlands;
  • Modelling of catchment-scale hydrological processes in data-poor environments;

  • Metrics of freshwater availability (water scarcity); and
  • Communication of uncertainty in hydrological projections and its incorporation in adaptation policy.


CWRU research contributes directly to a number of international scientific programmes including UNESCO-IHP GRAPHIC, FRIEND, and HELP as well as the IAH Commission on Groundwater and Climate Change.


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