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By Malin Falkenmark, Tom Chapman

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Sample text

As surface slope is critical in determining both depression storage capacity and the rate at which very shallow water will move downslope, runoff into streams may occur from only favourable parts of the catchment, called source areas. These source areas will vary in extent during the progress of a rainfall event. An alternative mechanism of surface runoff generation occurs in shallow texture-contrast soils, when a highly permeable surface soil overlies a less permeable subsoil. Again, this mechanism leads to saturated source areas of surface runoff generation, which can be predicted from information on surface topography, supplemented by data on soils and vegetation where these are not spatially uniform (O’Loughlin 1981, 1986).

Today’s “no-change” voices among environmental activists in the temperatezone have difficulties in being understood by people from developing regions, where major modifications of the natural environment are necessary to approach self-reliance in fuelwood and food production for rapidly increasing populations. Laszlo David in UNEP, in discussing the relation between socio-economic development, ecological concerns and an environ- mentally sound development of the natural environment (David 1985), makes a distinction between seeing the natural environment in the untouched “paradise” form, and in its fully developed form.

Operational hydrology in other words focusses on the characteristics of both points and systems in the landscape, and on both past and future conditions. Since the hydrological characteristics at a site are the result of the operation of the system which brings the water to that point, the basic theme of a book on comparative hydrology should be the operation and characteristics of different types of hydrological systems seen both from a retrospective and a prospective viewpoint. Information about local water conditions has to be based on local observations in hydrological networks.

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