Summary Report from the 40th IAHR World Congress

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IAHR World Congress

As part of the Vienna Water Conferences 2023, the 40th IAHR World Congress was hosted from 21 to 25 August 2023 in Vienna. Thereby the conference focused on "Rivers - Connecting Mountains and Coasts". Simultaneously the 5th World’s Large Rivers Conference and the 30th Danube Conference took place. 

The usually bi-annual IAHR World Congress in Vienna took place only one year after a very successful Granada conference, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Vienna, participants from countries that had experienced travel restrictions until recently were able to join. A total of 1367 attendees from 98 countries were present. The Congress received 1284 abstract submissions, ultimately leading to the selection of 976 oral presentations and 117 poster presentations. Additionally, 274 participants attended the lectures. The gender distribution among the attendees was 77% men and 23% women

The congress program comprised 148 technical and special sessions, four High-Level Panels (HLPs), four Industry Stream Events, and two master classes. Seven keynote lectures on diverse topics enriched the program ranging from “Large Rivers and Humans” over “Machine learning for earth and climate sciences” to “Climate change impacts on African Hydro-environment

Prior to the congress, two master classes focused on the theme of fluid mechanics as well as small– and large–scale experiments, setting the stage for subsequent discussions. The HLPs featured experts from both research and practice, addressing issues related to rivers, ecohydraulics, digital twins, and Africa. The central theme of the congress was reflected in the HLP on Tuesday (“Rivers - Connecting Mountains and Coasts”), emphasizing the integration of river use and protection. This theme aimed to place rivers at the forefront of discussions, focusing on their current status, future outlook, and strategies for sustainable use and ecosystem services enhancement. This alignment was reinforced by four special sessions on Nature-based Solutions (NbS). 

World Congress ActivitiesThe Vienna Industry Stream Events (VISE) sessions, initially introduced as Granada Industry Stream Events (GISE) the year before, facilitated an interdisciplinary dialogue by bringing together professionals from science, industry, practice, and non-governmental organizations. One VISE session was dedicated to "River restoration and sustainable development". A special session co-chaired with INBO explored climate change, transboundary river systems, and the connectivity of rivers. The other HLPs centered around themes such as “Ecohydraulics”, “Digital Twins of River Basins”, and “Africa”, while the other three VISE sessions addressed topics such as “Smart technology adaptation in urban water systems for climate resilience”, “Sustainable hydropower”, and “Computational fluid dynamics for water infrastructure”

The technical sessions at the congress covered a wide spectrum of topics: 

  • River research and management 

  • Deltas and coastal engineering 

  • Sediment transport and morphodynamics 

  • Integrated management of extremes, climate change 

  • Environment and society 

  • Urban water and water industry 

  • Hydraulic engineering and water management 

  • Computational and experimental methods 

In looking at the actual problems for hydro-environmental research and engineering, innovation was recognized as vital, and large-scale physical models were identified as essential toolsfor improving understanding in domains such as hydrodynamics, sediment transport, morphodynamics, and ecohydraulics. 

This congress marked the first in-person meeting after a long period of virtual interactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, social interactions and networking opportunities were pivotal to the success of the event, beginning with the icebreaker welcome reception on Monday, 21 August, at Vienna’s city hall.


40th World CongressNetworking continued during field excursions, with a total of seven excursions taking place, including a Boat tour to the Integrated River Engineering Project at the Danube East of Vienna, River Lab, “Donau Auen” National Park, Vienna’s flood protection system, Hydropower plant Freudenau, Vienna’s main wastewater treatment plant, Technical Tour related to Workshop “Good practices for implementing Nature-based Solutions: how to link science with stakeholder dialogues”. 

Young Professionals Activities 

The programme of activities of Young Professionals including a recently introduced mentoring programme, a successful Kennedy Student Paper Competition, the Young Professionals Assembly followed by the Young Professionals Night including a visit to BOKU Hydraulics Laboratory.

The 40th IAHR World Congress recently concluded in Vienna, marking a significant milestone in the field of hydro-environment and engineering. The congress served as a platform for high-level panels, discussions, and insights that are poised to shape the future of the industry. 

Membership activities 

Throughout the week, besides the congress activities, the IAHR organized key events, including the Council Meeting and the General Members Assembly. The Council Meeting, hosted at BOKU University on 19-20 August, was dynamic and fruitful thanks to the participation of over 30 members. During this meeting, various updates were presented, covering crucial aspects such as membership, task forces on young professionals’ developments, publications, finances, awards, regional divisions, technical committees, and discussions about the future of IAHR. At the General Members Assembly, the President and Executive Director presented the report of activities and the financial report, providing a comprehensive overview of the organization’s recent endeavors. One of the General Members Assembly’s pivotal moments was the announcement of the results of the Council Elections.Members had the opportunity to brainstorm and reflect on the commitment of IAHR to continuously evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of hydro-environment and engineering.With a focus on young professionals' development, publications, and the strategic allocation of resources, the organization is poised to spearhead innovations that will contribute to the sustainable advancement of the field. 

Concluding remarks and next congress 

Group picture during the World CongressA noteworthy outcome of the congress is the forthcoming “Vienna Statement,” which aims to consolidate the valuable insights and discussions from the High-Level Panels. This document will guide future endeavors in hydro-environment and engineering. By capturing the essence of the 40th IAHR World Congress, the Vienna Statement will encapsulate the collective wisdom of industry experts, researchers, and professionals.

The 40th IAHR World Congress in Vienna has left an indelible mark on the hydro-environment and engineering community. The congress not only served as a convergence of minds but also as a catalyst for positive change, embodied by the upcoming Vienna Statement. Looking at the next World Congress, anticipation is building for the 41st IAHR World Congress in Singapore (22-27 June 2025). Themed “Innovative Water Engineering for Sustainable Development,” this global gathering aims to be a nexus of cutting-edge knowledge, practices, and solutions. Save the date and join us on this exciting journey toward innovation and progress in the hydro-environmental landscape.  

IAHR Awards and Distinctions 

One of the most anticipated activities for conference attendees is the awards given. Through them, the IAHR recognizes excellence and the careers, articles, projects and achievements of outstanding individuals, companies and organizations that have had a notable impact on hydro-environmental science and engineering within various categories. 

On this occasion, in addition to the long-stablished awards, The IAHR Fellows, a new IAHR distinction recognising long-standing members with outstanding contributions to hydro-environment engineering and research, were honored at the Gala Dinner of the 40th IAHR World Congress on Thursday 24 August 2023.

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