FRIEND-Water is a cross-cutting initiative that interacts with all five core IHP-VI themes in its objective of easing the problems of water resources assessment and management through applied research targeted at regionally identified problems.
The origin of FRIEND-Water goes back to the International Hydrological Decade (IHD, 1965-1974), which launched a large number of representative and experimental basins, underpinned mostly by national financial support. In retrospect, the IHD was a highly visionary programme, which now provides the longer-term data sets for assessing the hydrological impacts of climatic variability and land-use change at different scales. At the time the IHD was launched, neither climate change nor global change was commonly part of the scientific vocabulary.
With the launch of FRIEND-Water as a contribution to UNESCO's Third International Hydrological Programme (IHP-III) from 1984-1988, the initial focus was on the data-rich basins of northwest Europe (EURO FRIEND). Various techniques were established, ranging from statistical methods to conceptual and physical models, for assessing the regional hydrological behaviour of flow regimes across time and space.
In its second phase (1989-1993), FRIEND-Water expanded geographically and became established in the Alpine and Mediterranean (MED FRIEND) region, and later in Western and Central Africa and in Southern Africa. FRIEND-Water groups have contributed uniquely to the policies of national governments towards the international exchange of hydrological data and techniques.
During the third and fourth phases of IHP (1994-1997 and 1998-2001), FRIEND-Water progressively diffused into other regions. During the fifth phase of IHP, Asian Pacific FRIEND, Nile FRIEND, Hindu Kush/Himalayan and Central Asia (HKH) FRIEND and FRIEND/AMIGO for Latin America and the Caribbean were all established at this time. Today over 162 countries participate in FRIEND-Water within the eight regional FRIEND-Water groups. A hydrological database is one of the cornerstones for the research activities of each of the eight regional FRIEND-Water groups. Notable achievements include the EURO FRIEND European Water Archive (EWA) and AP FRIEND's five volumes Catalogue of Rivers for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.