Dear Visitor,

Welcome to the pages of the Earth Surface Hydrology group at Utrecht University. Our group was established in 2002. We are part of the Department of Physical Geography , one of the four departments of the Faculty of Geosciences.

Earth Surface Hydrology is concerned with the study of hydrological processes near and on the earth surface. It focuses on the flow of water, nutrients and energy between the earth surface and the subsoil and between the earth surface and the atmosphere. It aims to quantify how rainfall is portioned into infiltration, evaporation and runoff, and how nutrients in the soil and the earth surface are distributed through the landscape through surface runoff and groundwater flow.

Our research focuses on three major themes: 1) Large-scale hydrology, including the global hydrological model PCR-GLOBWB (link to global hydrology site); 2) Ecohydrology and eco-geomorphology; 3) Geocomputation.  Check out our Research pages for more information.

We are responsible for two MSc programs: Earth Surface and Water, in particular the track Hydrology and a new program called Water Science and Management. Look under Education to find out more about courses taught by our group.

Thank you for your interest,


Marc Bierkens
Chair in Earth Surface Hydrology

Nature Climate Change: Global drivers of future flood risk

Worldwide economic losses from river flooding could increase 20-fold by the end of the 21st century if no further actions on flood risk reduction are taken. Over 70% of this increase can be attributed to economic growth in flood prone areas

This follows from a recent study by a Dutch consortium that includes our research group.

See the study in Nature Climate Change!

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-12-climate-main-prone-areas.html#jCp


This is where you’ll find us at AGU 2015!

These are our contributions at AGU 2015

H13R-01 Development of human impact modeling in global hydrology
Monday, 14 December 2015  13:40 – 13:55 Moscone West – 3011
Marc Bierkens and Yoshihide Wada

H13R-06 eWaterCycle: Recent progress in a global operational hydrological forecasting model
Monday, 14 December 2015  14:55 – 15:10 Moscone West – 3011
Nick Van De Giesen, Edwin Sutanudjaja, Marc Bierkens, Niels Drost, Rolf Hut

H13R-08 Limits to Global Groundwater Consumption
Inge de Graaf et al.
Monday, 14 December 2015  15:25 – 15:40 Moscone West – 3011

H23E-1622 The HyperHydro (H^2) experiment for comparing different large-scale models at various resolutions
Edwin Sutanudjaja et al.
Tuesday, 15 December 2015  13:40 – 18:00 Moscone South – Poster Hall

GC32B-05 Reducing water scarcity possible by 2050: Linking global assessments to policy dimensions
Yoshihide Wada et al.
Wednesday, 16 December 2015  11:20 – 11:35 Moscone West – 3001

H43J-04 Improved Large-Scale Inundation Modelling by 1D-2D Coupling and Consideration of Hydrologic and Hydrodynamic Processes – a Case Study in the Amazon
Jannis Hoch et al.
Thursday, 17 December 2015  14:25 – 14:40 Moscone West – 3020

H43E-1545 Simulating the impact of past and future land cover and climate change on the global hydrological system using PCR-GLOBWB
Joyce Bosmans et al.

Thursday, 17 December 2015  13:40 – 18:00 Moscone South – Poster Hall
G52A-08 A century-long simulation of terrestrial water storage change and its contribution to global sea-level
Marc Bierkens et al.
Friday, 18 December 2015  12:05 – 12:20 Moscone West – 2002

H53L-04 Improved Large-Scale Hydrological Modelling Through The Assimilation Of Streamflow And Downscaled Satellite Soil Moisture Observations
Patricia Lopez-Lopez et al.
Friday, 18 December 2015  14:25 – 14:40 Moscone West – 3022

And Yoshi Wada’s many co-operative papers: https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm15/meetingapp.cgi/Person/90990

And Niko Wanders (former PhD) seeding his many oats:

Meet our group members at EGU 2015!

Following is a list of oral and poster presentations by our group members. Hope to see you all in Vienna!


  1. Monday, 13 Apr


Soils in fragile environments: challenges and opportunities for soil and water conservation for sustainable land and water management

Orals / Mon, 13 Apr, 08:30–12:15 / Room B13

10:45–11:00 EGU2015-11561

Short term and long term impact of vegetation recovery on seasonal streamflows

Noemí Lana-Renault, Derek Karssenberg, Mark Bierkens, and M.Pilar Serrano Muela



Open Source Computing in Hydrology PICO Session

PICO  / Mon, 13 Apr, 13:30–17:00


PyCatch: catchment modelling in the PCRaster framework

Derek Karssenberg, Noemí Lana-Renault, and Oliver Schmitz



HydroInformatics: computational intelligence, systems analysis, optimisation


/ Attendance Mon, 13 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Red Posters

R151 EGU2015-9018

A framework for integrated, multi-scale model construction and uncertainty assessment

Oliver Schmitz, Jean-Luc de Kok, Kor de Jong, and Derek Karssenberg


  1. Tuesday, 14 Apr


Quantifying the resilience in coupled ecohydrological, biogeochemical and social systems under environmental and anthropogenic change

Orals / Tue, 14 Apr, 08:30–10:00 / Room R8

09:45–10:00 EGU2015-2490

Virtual water trade in the Roman Mediterranean

Brian Dermody, Rens van Beek, Elijah Meeks, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Walter Scheidel, Ype van der Velde, Marc Bierkens, Martin Wassen, and Stefan Dekker



Assimilation of hydrological remote sensing data

Orals / Tue, 14 Apr, 10:30–12:00 / Room R8

10:30–10:45 EGU2015-5240

Correction of Real-Time Global Precipitation Measurement with multi-sensor satellite observations

Niko Wanders, Ming Pan, and Eric Wood


Droughts in the Anthropocene


/ Attendance Tue, 14 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Red Posters

R21 EGU2015-3358

Human and climate impacts on the 21st century hydrological drought

Yoshihide Wada and Niko Wanders



Large scale hydrology

Orals  / Tue, 14 Apr, 13:30–17:00 / Room R11

15:45–16:00 EGU2015-5642

Reconstruction of groundwater depletion using a global scale groundwater model

Inge de Graaf, Rens van Beek, Edwin Sutanudjaja, Yoshi Wada, and Marc Bierkens

16:45–17:00 EGU2015-7198

Hyper-resolution global modelling: what’s next?

Marc Bierkens



Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for Geoinformatics and Geosciences (co-organized)

Orals / Tue, 14 Apr, 13:30–17:15 / Room R14

17:00–17:15 EGU2015-7148

eWaterCycle: Building an operational global Hydrological forecasting system based on standards and open source software

Niels Drost, Marc Bierkens, Gennadii Donchyts, Nick van de Giesen, Stef Hummel, Rolf Hut, Arno Kockx, Maarten van Meersbergen, Edwin Sutanudjaja, Martin Verlaan, Albrecht Weerts, and Hessel Winsemius



Global and continental scale risk assessment for natural hazards: methods and practice


/ Attendance Tue, 14 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Blue Posters

B876  EGU2015-15248

Global operational hydrological forecasts through eWaterCycle

Nick van de Giesen, Marc Bierkens, Gennadii Donchyts, Niels Drost, Rolf Hut, and Edwin Sutanudjaja


  1. Wednesday, 15 Apr


Remote sensing of soil moisture

Orals / Wed, 15 Apr, 08:30–12:00 / Room R

11:45–12:00 EGU2015-8627

Improved large-scale hydrological modelling through the assimilation of streamflow and downscaled satellite soil moisture observations.

Patricia López López, Niko Wanders, Edwin Sutanudjaja, Luigi Renzullo, Geert Sterk, Jaap Schellekens, and Marc Bierkens



/ Attendance Wed, 15 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Red Posters

R108 EGU2015-7371

Soil Moisture derivation from the multi-frequency sensor AMSR-2

Robert Parinussa, Anne de Nijs, Richard de Jeu, Thomas Holmes, Wouter Dorigo, Niko Wanders, and Jaap Schellekens



Hydrological change: Regional hydrological behaviour under transient climate and land use conditions

Orals / Wed, 15 Apr, 13:30–17:00 / Room R8

16:15–16:30 EGU2015-5799

Simulating the impact of climate, land use and human water use on the hydrological system over the period 1850-2100 using PCR-GLOBWB

Joyce Bosmans, Rens van Beek, and Marc Bierkens



Large scale hydrology


/ Attendance Wed, 15 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Red Posters

R12 EGU2015-2086

Extensive validation of the global water resources model PCR-GLOBWB 2.0: the added value of human impacts

Stefanie Peßenteiner, Rens Van Beek, Edwin Sutanudjaja, and Marc Bierkens

R25 EGU2015-8003

A high resolution (1 km) groundwater model for Indonesia

Edwin Sutanudjaja, Jarno Verkaik, Inge de Graaf, Rens van Beek, Gilles Erkens, and Marc Bierkens


  1. Thursday, 16 Apr


Operational forecasting and warning systems for natural hazards: challenges and innovation (co-organized)

PICO  / Thu, 16 Apr, 08:30–12:00


eWaterCycle: A global operational hydrological forecasting model

Nick van de Giesen, Marc Bierkens, Gennadii Donchyts, Niels Drost, Rolf Hut, and Edwin Sutanudjaja



Air Pollution Modelling

Orals  / Thu, 16 Apr, 08:30–12:00 / Room B15

09:45–10:00 EGU2015-8938

Evaluating the effect of human activity patterns on air pollution exposure using an integrated field-based and agent-based modelling framework

Oliver Schmitz, Rob M. J. Beelen, Merijn P. de Bakker, and Derek Karssenberg



Geoheritage, Geodiversity and Landscapes: a key issue for present and future studies (co-organized)

Orals  / Thu, 16 Apr, 08:30–12:00 / 13:30–17:00 / Room B5

16:45–17:00  EGU2015-5243

Enhancing fieldwork learning using blended learning, GIS and remote supervision

Wouter A Marra, Koko Alberti, and Derek Karssenberg



HyperHydro – hyper-resolution global hydrological modelling (by invitation only)

Convener: Edwin Sutanudjaja  | Co-Convener: M.B. Bierkens

Thu, 16 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Room R3



Hydrological change: Regional hydrological behaviour under transient climate and land use conditions


/ Attendance Thu, 16 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Red Posters

R63 EGU2015-11014

Climate change effects on runoff in the Ötztal glacierized catchments

René R. Wijngaard, Kay Helfricht, Klaus Schneeberger, Matthias Huttenlau, Katrin Schneider, and Marc F.P. Bierkens


  1. Friday, 17 Apr


Hydrogeology of coastal zones: processes, consequences and potentials

Orals / Fri, 17 Apr, 08:30–12:00 / Room G10

09:45–10:00 EGU2015-10150

Modeling Changing Morphology and Density Dependent Groundwater Flow in a Dynamic Environment: case study

Sebastian Huizer, Marc Bierkens, and Gualbert Oude Essink



Hydrological extremes: from droughts to floods

Orals  / Fri, 17 Apr, 13:30–17:00 / Room R4

16:00–16:15 EGU2015-4083

Global hydrological droughts in the 21st century under a changing hydrological regime

Henny A.J. Van Lanen, Niko Wanders, and Yoshihide Wada



Water quality at the catchment scale: measuring and modeling of nutrients, sediment and eutrophication impacts


/ Attendance Fri, 17 Apr, 10:30–12:00 / Red Posters

R1 EGU2015-9713

Modelling global nitrogen export to ground and surface water from natural ecosystems: impact of N deposition, climate, and CO2 concentration

Maarten Braakhekke, Karin Rebel, Stefan Dekker, Rens van Beek, Marc Bierkens, Ben Smith, and Martin Wassen

A high-resolution global groundwater model

Inge de Graaf , PhD student in our group has published a paper about a global 6-arcminute one-layer groundwater model. The model is made in MODFLOW and is forced with recharge and surface water levels from our global hydrological model. In this publication a steady state global groundwater depth map has been made, but in subsequent work Inge will provide an updated 5-arcminute two-layer version and transient runs, including the effects of groundwater abstractions.

The reference:

De Graaf,  I.E.M., E.H. Sutanudjaja, L.P.H. van Beek, and M.F.P. Bierkens, 2015. high-resolution global-scale groundwater model. Hydrology Earth System Science, 19, 823-837.

The paper was highlighted at the EGU website:


A nice picture of the global groundwater table:

Long-term average groundwater depth (m below surface)

Long-term average groundwater depth (m below surface)










WRI Launches Global Flood Analyzer – based on model runs with PCR-GLOBWB


The World Resources Institute has launced the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer v1.0. It the first-ever public analysis of current and future river-flood risks worldwide.

The Analyzer estimates current and 2030 values for potential exposed GDP, affected population and urban damage from river floods for every state, country, and major river basin in the world.

The tool is based on a large number of runs with our global hydrological model PCR-GLOBWB  from 1070-2030 using bias-corrected global climate models as inputs. These runs have been downscaled by Deltares and turned into flood risk (people and GDP affected) by IVM-VU University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and the  under different socio-economic scenarios made by PBL- Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

See the blog post at WRI for more information.

The key findings are:

Key findings:

  • River flooding could affect more people and cause significantly more damage by 2030, as climate change and socio-economic development accelerate.

Increased flood expore by 2013




  • Today, river flooding affects 21 million people worldwide and exposes $96 billion in GDP on average each year. By 2030, those numbers could grow to 54 million people and $521 billion in GDP exposed every year.

Today’s GDP exposed to river floods

  • Top 11 countries (ranked by affected population) are India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Brazil.

Top 15 countries with greatest percentage of population exposed to river floods

See the publications supporting this research: Winsemius et al (2013) and Ward et al. (2014).