The Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) grew out of a burgeoning national and international interest in hydrology and water resources research and management during the 1950s and 60s. Formal education in the field of hydrology was not well established at the time, and legislative, policy, and science leaders highlighted the need to address water concerns in the U.S. and abroad. As a response, the first Inter-University Conference on Hydrology convened at Lake Arrowhead, CA in August of 1962. The 19 universities participating in this first conference defined hydrology as “the science that treats the waters of the Earth, their occurrence, circulation and distribution, their chemical and physical properties, and their reaction with the environment, including their relation to living things…[its] domain embraces the full life history of water on the Earth.” The first iteration of the organization was called Universities Council on Hydrology (UCOH), but changed to Universities Council on Water Resources in 1964 in recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of the field.
Arguably the most impactful action of the early organization was to conduct surveys assessing the availability of water resources education programs and professionals. Data produced was used in testimony leading to the Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) of 1964 and supported resulting appropriations for research and education. The WRRA established university-based water resources research and education centers to expand hydrological/water resources research and personnel. Today there are a total of 54 institutes, known collectively as NIWR (National Institutes for Water Resources), one in each state and U.S. territory. UCOWR and NIWR, connected from their beginnings, continue to cooperate closely today, including the national Annual UCOWR/NIWR Water Resources Conference, which typically occurs each June.
Though UCOWR began as a body informing U.S. legislative activity, today we operate as a consortium of academic institutions and affiliates invested in water resources research, education, and outreach. The mission of UCOWR is building connections: we expand the capacity of universities and their partners to address current water resources challenges through sharing expertise, fostering leadership, and developing interdisciplinary collaborations. Our member-elected Board of Directors is supported by a small, dedicated staff based at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois. Among our primary activities are connecting our delegates from member institutions through conferences, online discussions, and webinar events, recognizing outstanding achievements in research, education, and extension through annual awards, editing the peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education, posting water resources positions, and more.
 Primary source of history and direct source of this quote: Scott, Verne H. 1988. History of Universities Council on Hydrology and Universities Council on Water Resources. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 77(1): 7-11, (quote p. 8). Available at: https://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/jcwre/vol77/iss1/1/.