Picture of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Howard Wheater

Howard Wheater PhD Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability

Professor, Civil and Geological Engineering, College of Engineering
Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security
Director, Global Institute for Water Security

National Hydrology Research Centre

Research Area(s)

  • Hydrological processes and modelling, with applications to the management of flood risk, water resources, water quality, wastes and climate change adaptation
  • Socio-hydrology

Academic Credentials

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering/Hydrology, University of Bristol
  • Master of Arts, Engineering Science, University of Cambridge
  • Bachelor of Arts, Engineering Science, with Honours, University of Cambridge

Research Profile

Dr. Wheater is the Director of the Global Institute for Water Securit at the U of S, which is a multidisciplinary institute that integrates expertise of over 200 scientists from 15 different academic units. The Global Institute of Water Security, which he built, and $77.8 million Global Water Futures program, which he secured and served as the inaugural director, are unmatched in scope and magnitude. At a time of unprecedented environmental change, the Global Institute of Water Security and Global Water Futures program address the strategic water security challenges faced not only by Canada but 50% of the world’s population.  Global Water Futures is the largest university-led water research program ever funded worldwide.  It also represents the largest single research award presented to the U of S.

Dr. Wheater also is a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security and a world-leading expert in hydrology and sustainable water resource management. His research focuses on the development of new hydrological science, combining modelling and experimentation, to address water-related societal challenges, including climate and land use change, and flood, water resource, water quality and waste management. He has initiated and led national (UK and Canada) and international (World Climate Research Program, UNESCO) research and development programs and advised governments on flood, water resource and water quality issues.

Dr. Wheater's primary research areas are:

RAINFALL-RUNOFF MODELLING, REGIONALIZATION AND LAND USE CHANGE: He has contributed for more than 40 years to the theory and application of hydrological models. Important contributions include the provision of new modelling tools and development of methods that have resolved key areas of model limitation. These include the modelling of ungauged basins and prediction of the effects of land use and land management change. His UK research into the effects of rural land management change on flood risk, and the potential for flood risk remediation, supported government foresight studies and a Cabinet Office flood enquiry. His arid zone research led to the award of the Prince Sultan International Prize for Water.

RAINFALL MODELLING, CLIMATE MODELS AND STATISTICAL DOWNSCALING: His work on stochastic rainfall modelling provided new methods to address flood risk management under climate change, and for the downscaling of climate models for climate change impacts assessment. Point process modelling was developed to support a new paradigm for continuous simulation to support flood design, now applied in the UK and Europe. His work on Generalized Linear Models has been widely applied for spatial rainfall modelling and statistical downscaling, with applications in the UK, Canada, Middle East and Africa.

WATER QUALITY MODELLING AND POLLUTION RISK ASSESSMENT: Dr. Wheater led development of phosphorus modelling of eastern England and initiated and led a national research program into groundwater dominated catchments in which his research focused on nitrate transport in Chalk catchments. His research led to new insights into fractured porous media, identified a decadal nitrate ‘time–bomb’ and developed new models for nitrate management. His research into radionuclide transport supported a national UK research program for safety assessment of the deep disposal of nuclear waste, which he advised. He currently advises Nevada on the Yucca Mountain waste repository.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER SECURITY: As CERC, Dr. Wheater proposed a new paradigm for transdisciplinary research to address water security under environmental change and established the Global Institute for Water Security. He developed the Saskatchewan River Basin and Mackenzie River Basin as large-scale observatories, endorsed by the World Climate Research Programme as a Regional Hydroclimate Project. Observatories in the key biomes, including collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, support improved process understanding and modelling across multiple scales. His research has developed new methods of vulnerability analysis for complex water resource systems, and systems dynamic simulation tools for scenario-based economic analysis of water futures, supported by new downscaling tools for climate model outputs. Water quality research has focused on hydro-ecological response to nutrient loading, the analysis of anthropogenic loads and beneficial management practices. New algorithms have been developed to support large scale hydrological modelling and fine resolution atmospheric modelling is providing new insights into fine scale precipitation, extreme events and the impacts of future warming.

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