Huub Savenije Delta Tu Delft
Huub Savenije has a soft spot for warm countries. (Photo:Sam Rentmeester)

Hydrologist Professor Huub Savenije will receive the prestigious International Award at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference on Wednesday 13 December. The annual prize is awarded for ‘an outstanding contribution to furthering earth and space sciences and using science for the benefit of society in developing nations.’

Professor Huub Savenije (Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences) graduated as a hydrologist at TU Delft in 1977, after which he worked for six years in Mozambique and five years as an international consultant in Asia and Africa.

Savenije has always felt drawn towards developing countries. “Call it idealism,” he says, “but I find it much more relevant to work in areas where knowledge can really make a difference to people.” He involves local people and institutions in the scientific research. “It is essential that research is done together and that both parties benefit from it.” Savenije detests so-called safari-scientists who go abroad, gather information and knowledge and then make no effort to make the knowledge locally useful.

“We can learn to understand a river by looking at the landscape,” says Savenije, who favours simple approaches to complex issues. His approach can be called ‘holistic’ since he relates and connects elements such as soil type and vegetation, instead of studying them separately. “Complex equations don’t give me the right answers,” says Savenije. “It has got to be simpler.”

Many of his research projects have focussed on improving water management, especially in Africa. He is one of the initiators of WaterNet, a regional network of 50 universities and research institutes involved in integrated water management in Southern Africa.

Savenije did his PhD in 1992, and became Professor of Water Resources Management with UNESCO-IHE in Delft in 1994. He has been Professor of Hydrology at TU Delft since 1999. In 2015, Savenije received the Alexander von Humboldt medal from the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He will retire next year, in 2018.

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