During the late 1970s and early 80s, a variety of regulatory and quality assurance requirements resulted in a great demand for services of hydrologists and hydrogeologists, a demand that could not be met by the existing number of professionals. Because of the concern that unqualified individuals would be hired to satisfy this demand, the need for certification of hydrologists and hydrogeologists was expressed repeatedly by individuals, consulting firms, and some state and federal agencies. For example, in 1979, an Ad Hoc Committee of the Association of University Watershed Scientists recommended strengthening of the U.S. Civil Service entry-level requirements for hydrologists. This effort was in response to professionals within the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management who were concerned that the existing standards “did not ensure high-quality entry-level professionals in hydrology.”

It was against this background that the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH) was born. After a lengthy period of consultations and discussions with leaders in hydrological sciences, the American Institute of Hydrology was incorporated according to the laws of the state of Minnesota on March 3, 1981, by Sandor Csallany, Roman Kanivetsky, and Alexander Zaporozec. By providing a mechanism for certifying competent and responsible professionals, AIH aimed at strengthening the standing of hydrology as a science and as a profession. The Institute was not established to duplicate any of the objectives of existing organizations in hydrology, hydrogeology, or water resources, but rather to complement the goals of these organizations by establishing professional standards for certification and providing a framework for educating professionals to reach these standards.

The AIH is the only nationwide organization that offers certification to qualified professionals in all fields of the hydrological sciences. The AIH certification process involves peer-review and testing. The applicant’s credentials are thoroughly evaluated by a panel of nationally recognized and respected scientists and professionals — the Board of Registration. The Board has ten members who are selected and appointed to staggered terms by the AIH Executive Committee from among the certified members of the Institute.

In May 1981, with planning started on the Constitution and Bylaws, membership recruitment began. The first member of the Registration Board was appointed in October 1981; the first application was received in February 1982; and the first professional members were certified in December 1982, when the full Executive Committee was formed. The first issue of the AIH Bulletin was published in October 1983; our first conference was held in May 1984; the first issue of the AIH journal, “Hydrological Science and Technology,” was published in September 1985; the first state sections were established in June 1986; and the first award was presented in March 1987.