Chair in Water Science

University of Birmingham – Professor David Hannah

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The team at the University of Birmingham is on the hunt for innovative and sustainable solutions to solve the water crisis.

Reliable access to clean water is essential to our health, prosperity and security. But, billions of people around the world are struggling daily with lack of water, polluted water or poor access to water, and water-related disasters such as floods and droughts.


?  Water
?  Sustainability


UNESCO Chair on Tropical Freshwater Management




“Our biggest future challenge will be water security: too much, too little, too polluted, too inaccessible. We need to understand the fundamentals of how the water cycle works, and how people interact with water, for the sustainable management of precious and finite water resources.”

Professor David Hannah

UNESCO Chairs are based within Institutes for Higher Education and specialise in specific research fields. They provide policy advice to the UK National Commission for UNESCO and HM government, as well as reviewing UNESCO applications.


As the first Chair to focus on the science of hydrology, the team is working with partners across the globe to develop a transformative approach to the world’s ‘wicked’ water problems. Their long-term vision is to understand water cycle processes, hydrological events (flood, drought) and water-related impacts under climate and other drivers of change.

Outreach and fostering greater links between society, industry, research institutes and universities is central to the Chair’s goals, with the three pillars of their work as follows. One, to protect our freshwater systems from the threats of development, pollution and climate change. Two, to help those populations living with the effects of water shortage, lack of clean water, poor sanitation and the impact of droughts and floods. And three, to engage local people as ‘citizen scientists’ in finding solutions to water issues and to build human and ecosystem resilience.

The establishment of the UNESCO UNITWIN network in “Ecohydrological Interfaces” with universities and institutes in France, Australia and India provides exciting opportunities for the Chair to maximise reach and impact. With many more members expected to join, it will no doubt continue to foster high quality research and forge on with solutions to the water crisis.


David’s research into hydroclimatology has helped us gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change water systems and riverine ecology, as well as the management and conservation of freshwaters. He and his team are involved in multiple international research projects as they look to understand the impact of changing forest dynamics on water quality in the Himalayas; adaptation strategies to protect Scottish freshwater fish from the detrimental effects of high river water temperature; and the consequences of climate-change induced glacier shrinkage on water security in Peru.

The work of the Chair has been recognised through the selection of ‘Water’ as an inaugural theme for the University of Birmingham’s prestigious new Institute for Global Innovation (IGI). Opened in March 2020 by Matthew Lodge, Minister and Ambassador of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to UNESCO, the IGI plays a key role in connecting the expertise of the University’s academics with a broad range policymakers.

Professor David Hannah

As Professor of Hydrology and College Director of Research for Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, David is recognised internationally for his pioneering work linking hydrology with climatology and ecology. He was honoured with the prestigious Tison Award from the International Association of Hydrological Sciences in 2014 (IAHS); and, in 2019, he became a Royal Society Wolfson Fellow.

Alongside his academic contributions, David is active in UNESCO’s International Hydrology Programme, Vice-President of the IAHS-International Commission for Surface Water, and an expert advisor to the Government, water industry leaders, agencies and regulators.


University of Birmingham
Director of Research, College of Life and Environmental Sciences

SINCE 2016


University of Aberdeen, University of Birmingham
BSc, PhD.

#Role at UNESCO

Chair in Water Science

SINCE 2016



Read about some of the many projects that Professor Hannah has been a part of during his career.



David has engaged in extensive communication surrounding the water crisis and global water security. Take a look at some of his publications below.


INTERNATIONAL DAY International Migrants Day 18.12 Home  →  What's On  →  Events  →   International Days   →   December 18 We celebrate the International Migrants Day on December 18. READ MORE BELOW MIGRANTS DAY Photo credit, from top to bottom: Nicola Fioravanti, UNESCO Migration is a global phenomenon driven by many forces. These start with aspirations for…
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INTERNATIONAL DAY International Day of Persons with Disabilities 03.12 Home  →  What's On  →  Events  →   International Days   →   December 3 We celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. READ MORE BELOW DAY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES Photo credit, from top to bottom: Nathan Anderson, Arisa Chattasa. The annual observance of the…
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INTERNATIONAL DAY International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People 29.11 Home  →  What's On  →  Events  →   International Days   →   November 29 We celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29. READ MORE BELOW SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE Photo credit, from top to bottom: Ahmed Abu Hameeda, Cole-Keister.…
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INTERNATIONAL DAY International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25.11 Home  →  What's On  →  Events  →   International Days   →   November 25 We celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. READ MORE BELOW END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Photo credit, from top to bottom: United Nations, Karl…
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“If we don’t solve the world’s water problems our future is in peril. It’s a privilege to be able to use the opportunities provided by becoming a UNESCO Chair to help find solutions to this most fundamental human problem.”

Professor David Hannah


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