The pursuit of sustainable development and climate adaptation is increasing the demand for weather, climate, and water information and services to help protect lives and livelihoods from hydrometeorological hazards and optimize weather sensitive sectoral production. The core business of hydrological services is the provision of information about the water cycle and the status and trends of a country’s water resources. Most typically, this focuses on assessing water resources, including drought monitoring and outlooks and flood forecasting and warnings.
Hydrological Services (HSs) are national public agencies mandated to provide basic hydrological information and warning services to the government, the public, and the private sector in support of protecting lives and livelihoods. HSs’ aim is to fulfill the state and public need for robust water monitoring, data management, and prediction, providing authoritative and actionable information on hydrometeorological trends and extremes. HSs also deliver socioeconomic benefits through improved water resources and disaster risk management, with benefit–cost ratios frequently on the order of 3–4 and higher.
Yet, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have become increasingly concerned that, particularly in lowand middle-income countries, HSs are unable to respond to the growing demand for easily accessible, robust, and timely information. As such, the WBG Water Partnership Program, the WMO, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery assessed Hydrological Services in low- and middle-income countries to better understand their status, performance obstacles, and investment needs.
The assessment found institutional constraints consistently present in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in insufficient and ineffective Hydrological Services. The main obstacles identified include:
• Fragmented and myopic policy environments;
• Insufficient budgets;
• Inability to attract, train, and retain qualified staff;
• Limited and often declining hydrometeorological monitoring networks;
• Insufficient maintenance of hydrological infrastructure;
• Inadequate data management systems;
• Insufficient integration between hydrological and meteorological services;
• Poor connection with users;
• Inability to develop and provide hydrological products; and
• Unsatisfactory service delivery.
Recommendations for addressing these obstacles center around integrating hydrological services into national policies; focusing on core public missions; securing central government prioritization and support; exploring innovative financing mechanisms; strengthening partnerships with relevant public agencies, academia, and the private sector; leveraging new technologies and international data resources; strengthening interaction with users; and transforming institutions to focus on service delivery.
Considering the complexities of modernizing Hydrological Services, the development of a structured, costed, and long-term plan to support improved performance, based on sound economic and financial analysis, is recommended. Further, international good practice comprises the development of targeted user interaction mechanisms such as a National Hydrological Services Users Group (NHSUG). A NHSUG facilitates continuous coordination between providers and users of hydrological services, development and implementation of Hydrological Service modernization centered on user needs, and improved sustainability of services.