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Help solve the world's water challenges

Meet water management challenges head-on

International conflicts over water and water rights are becoming more and more common. And water management is one of the key challenges of the near future. During this two-year Master’s programme, you’ll learn to apply field measurements and theory to estimating water risk for society, while exploring management options to reduce risk. The programme has a strong international focus, too.

In the first year, your Hydrology programme is made up of a combination of lectures, computer workshops, laboratory and field courses in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. You’ll learn the basics of theoretical and experimental hydrology, methods to assess hydrological risk for society, and how to apply knowledge of hydrological processes to real-world water-management issues.

The second year allows further specialisation in your area of interest by choosing elective courses. And you’ll conclude the programme with your Master’s thesis project. This could involve desk research (e.g. hydrological modelling) or research incorporating field measurements, for example at our permanent field sites in Luxembourg, Kenya or Siberia. To name a few examples: you could look into the impact of sea level rise on coastal areas, drought effects on subsidence and the response of coral reefs to soil degradation. Not only can you carry out your research at the VU Amsterdam; you can also arrange it in collaboration with one of the many water-related institutions and organisations in the Netherlands and abroad. The teaching staff can help you find a topic tailored to your interests, as well as a suitable location in which to carry out your research. Potential international locations include tropical Amazonia, permafrost regions of Siberia, or highly urban areas like New York City, Amsterdam and Jakarta. Some students even combine their thesis work with an internship.

For nearly 50 years, VU Amsterdam has taken pride in conducting research and teaching in hydrology and water sciences from an earth science perspective. Teaching and research in this field at VU Amsterdam enjoy an excellent reputation, both within the Netherlands and abroad. 

You can find all course descriptions, the year schedule and the teaching and examination regulation in the Study guide.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

Year 1

Your first year is made up entirely of compulsory courses that fall into one of three areas: Process Hydrology, Water Risk and Global Hydrology.

Process Hydrology – you’ll study in detail the interactions of surface and groundwater resources with landscapes, soils, vegetation and the atmosphere. Human wellbeing depends on sustainable use of healthy water. At the same time, climate and land-use change and human appropriation are affecting water availability, the occurrence of floods and droughts, and the state of the vegetation. You’ll learn how to make critical observations, use satellite data and model the key interactions.

Water Risk – you’ll acquire a solid understanding of the complex interactions between climate-water and societal issues such as economic damage of floods and droughts. With your insights into the underlying hydrological processes, you’ll be able to make decisions on how to reduce water risk from floods, droughts and pollution, and provide advice on what measures should be implemented to reduce water risk (e.g. levees and spatial zoning to reduce flood risk).

Global Hydrology – The increasing availability of satellite data on aspects of the hydrological cycle allows us to study the global occurrence of drought and floods while also investigating the variability of fluxes, such as those of evaporation on a global scale. Over the years, we have developed key data sets on soil moisture and evaporation, and we use these to investigate the sensitivity of the global hydrological cycle to climate and climate change. Special emphasis is placed on the interaction between the carbon cycle and hydrology in the tropics

Year 2

The second year of the programme is more flexible, allowing you to follow courses according to your own areas of interest.

You’ll choose four elective courses, as well as writing your Master’s thesis. The elective options could be made up of advanced courses building on topics from the first year (like Advanced Groundwater Processes and Water Risks), courses shared with other programmes (such as Earth Sciences), or even courses offered by other universities (like UNESCO-IHE; TU Delft) at no extra cost. You can start with your thesis research straight away at the start of the second year.

Change your future with the Hydrology programme

Change your future with the Hydrology programme

After completing this Master’s programme, you can pursue a career in hydrology and water management at engineering companies, consultants, governments, NGOs or academia. Apply your skills to manage our world’s most precious resource: water!

Explore your future prospects