International AGU Award for Huub Savenije

News - 13 December 2017 - Communication


Hydrologist Professor Huub Savenije of TU Delft will be presented with the prestigious International Award of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on Wednesday 13 December. The International Award is given annually in recognition ‘for making an outstanding contribution to furthering the Earth and space sciences and using science for the benefit of society in developing nations’.


Much of Savenije’s research is focused on improving water management, in particular in Africa. He is one of the driving forces behind WaterNet, a regional network of fifty universities and research institutes in southern Africa that are involved in integrated water resources management.

Savenije’s goal is to gain a better understanding of how rainfall feeds the river and to take a simple approach to complicated issues. ‘By looking at the landscape, we can learn to understand the river. It all boils down to asking one simple question: What drives the system?’ He takes a holistic approach: instead of examining individual elements such as soil types and vegetation, he looks at how the various elements relate to each other. ‘Complicated equations weren’t giving me the answers I needed,’ says Savenije. ‘It needed to be simpler.’

When bridges are washed away by a flood, it is quite a challenge to cross the river

Safari scientists

Savenije has always felt drawn to developing countries. ‘Call it idealism, but it is always far more relevant to work in regions where the know-how can really benefit people.’ He denounces the so-called ‘safari scientists’: scientists who go abroad, gather knowledge and information and subsequently don’t make any effort to feed it back to the region. Savenije feels that this leads to a lack of trust among the local parties. ‘It is vitally important to anchor research locally. It should be carried out jointly and be of benefit to both parties.’

New Orleans

The AGU International Award will be presented during the AGU Fall Meeting on Wednesday 13 December in New Orleans. In 2015, Savenije already received the Alexander von Humboldt Medal from the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Professor Huub Savenije graduated from TU Delft in 1977 as a hydrologist. He spent six years working in Mozambique, followed by six years as an international consultant, mainly in Asia and Africa. He obtained his PhD in 1992 and in 1994 was appointed Professor of Water Resources Management at UNESCO-IHE in Delft. He has been Professor of Hydrology at TU Delft since 1999. He will be retiring in 2018.

More information

AGU International Award website:

Personal page of Huub Savenije:

See also the story Cooperation with locals is key to success' on the TU Delft Global Initiative website.