Hydrologic instrumentation and methodology for assessing water-resource potentials have originated largely in the developed countries of the temperature zone. The developing countries lie largely in the tropic zone, which contains the full gamut of the earth‘s climatic environments, including most of those of the temperate zone. For this reason, most hydrologic techniques have world-wide applicability.
Techniques for assessing water-resource potentials for the high priority goals of economic growth are well established in the developing countries--but much more are well established in the developing countries--but much more so in some than in other. Conventional techniques for measurement and evaluation of basic hydrologic parameters are now well-understood in the developing countries and are generally adequate for their current needs and those of the immediate future. Institutional and economic constraints, however, inhibit growth of sustained programs of hydrologic data collection and application of the data to problems in engineering technology.
Computer-based technology, including processing of hydrologic data and mathematical modelling of hydrologic parameters i also well-begun in many developing countries and has much wider potential application. In some developing counties, however, there is a tendency to look on the computer as a panacea for deficiencies in basic hydrologic data collection programs. This fallacy must be discouraged, as the computer is a tool and not a "magic box." There is no real substitute for sound programs of basic data collection.
Nuclear and isotopic techniques are being used increasingly in the developed countries in the measurement and evaluation of virtually all hydrologic parameter in which conventional techniques have been used traditionally. Even in the developed countries, however, many hydrologists are not using nuclear techniques, simply because they lack knowledge of the principles involved and of the potential benefits. Nuclear methodology in hydrologic applications is generally more complex than the conventional and hence requires a high level of technical expertise for effective use. Application of nuclear techniques to hydrologic problems in the developing countries is likely to be marginal for some years to come, owing to the higher costs involved and expertise required. Nuclear techniques, however, would seem to have particular promise in studies of water movement in unsaturated soils and of erosion and sedimentation where conventional techniques are inadequate, inefficient and in some cases costly.
Remote sensing offers great promise for synoptic evaluations of water resources and hydrologic processes, including the transient phenomena of the hydrologic cycle. Remote sensing is not, however, a panacea for deficiencies in hydrologic data programs in the developing countries. Rather it is a means for extending and augmenting on-the-ground observations ans surveys (ground truth) to evaluated water resources and hydrologic processes on a regionall or even continental scale.
With respect to economic growth goals in developing countries, there are few identifiable gaps in existing hydrologic instrumentation and methodology insofar as appraisal, development and management of available water resources are concerned. What is needed is acceleration of institutional development and professional motivation toward more effective use of existing and proven methodology. Moreover, much sophisticated methodology can be applied effectively in the developing countries only when adequate levels of indigenous scientific skills have been reached and supportive institutional frameworks are evolved to viability.