The original logo for the UCOWR organization featured the oil lamp, representing wisdom/knowledge.
The present-day UCOWR logo was first introduced in the Pensacola FL 2016 Conference program.
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. In response, Professors David K. Todd (UC Berkely) and Warren A. Hall (UC Los Angeles) came up with the idea to hold a conference gathering researchers concerned with water issues from around the country.
As a result, the first Inter-University Conference on Hydrology convened at Lake Arrowhead, CA in August of 1962. The 19 universities participating in this first conference developed a formal definition of 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 ongoing organization established by this conference was called the Universities Council on Hydrology (UCOH), but was re-titled in 1964 as the Universities Council on Water Resources in recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of water resources research, management, and education.
Photo, far left: David Todd with one of his earliest monitoring wells for investigating ground water contamination, 1979 (https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A94775875/AONE?u=googlescholar&sid=googleScholar&xid=71a59d5d).
Photo, near left: Warren A. Hall (https://ucowr.org/awards/warren-a-hall-medal/)
Arguably the most impactful action of the early organization was to conduct surveys assessing the availability of professionals and education programs in water resources. 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.
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.
UCOWR and NIWR, connected from their beginnings, continue to cooperate closely today, including the national Annual UCOWR/NIWR Water Resources Conference. In 2024, UCOWR and NIWR will partner with the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) to host a joint national water resources conference in St. Louis Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, including the historical celebration of all three organizations’ 60th birthdays. Please join us – the more water resources professionals connect across disciplines and organizations, the more our capacity to effectively protect and manage our water resources grows.
 Primary source of UCOWR 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/.