Surface Water Prize - 9th Award


Zbigniew Kundzewicz – Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznan

Dr. Kundzewicz engages with flood hazard and risk and their relationship with climatic change, globally, in Europe, and at the national level (in Poland, Germany, and China). Flood generation is a complex process, integrating the influences of many climatic and non-climatic factors, in which it is very difficult to disentangle the climatic effects on river flow from the effects of human interventions. The knowledge generated by his work impacts on our understanding and interpretation of flood hazard and risk in the past, present, and future. Dr. Kundzewicz applies this knowledge to develop a diversified portfolio of flood-risk management approaches (flood-risk mitigation, preparation, and recovery) that work together for maximum net effect, providing practical solutions for flood risk reduction and flood preparedness.

Winner Profile

Dr. Zbigniew Kundzewicz

Dr. Kundzewicz is Professor of Earth Sciences in the Institute of Agricultural and Forest Environment of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznan, Poland.


• 1985 – Habilitation; Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland (Hydrology)
• 1979 – PhD; Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland (Hydrology)
• 1974 – MS; Warsaw University of Technology (Automatics)

Selected Awards:

2018 – Honorary Professorship at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology and Honorary Doctorate at Warsaw University of Life Sciences
2017 – Dooge Medal of the IAHS/UNESCO/WMO International Hydrology Prize and Membership of Academia Europaea
2010 – Corresponding Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences
2007 – Nobel Peace prize as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
2004 – Knight’s Cross of Polonia Restituta Order
1991 – Golden Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland
1987 – first-ever recipient of the Tison Award of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS)
1986 – Award of the Secretary General of the Polish Academy of Sciences



Acceptance Speech

kundzewicz300x300Let me start by thanking His Royal Highness King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for being the patron of the Awards Ceremony, as well as His representative for attending the event. I extend appreciation to His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, for His continued support for the Prize. Finally, I want to extend thanks to the Prize Council and the General Secretary.

I want to acknowledge the truly far-sighted vision and generous initiative of His Royal Highness the late Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz in establishing the International Prize for Water.

I am extremely pleased, honored, and humbled to have been selected to receive the prestigious Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water – The Surface Water Prize, recognizing my contributions to flood science. This is indeed an extraordinary privilege. Looking at the list of recipients, since the Prize was established, I see giants who have made major contributions to water science. I am very proud to be included with them today. I am glad that this ceremony takes place on the 22nd of March, which is World Water Day. The theme for World Water Day this year is “Water and Climate Change”, which is particularly close to my heart. In my opinion, the climate change impacts on water resources, described colloquially as – present extremes are likely to be future norms, are among the most important consequences of climate change. I am especially proud of having co-edited a Technical Paper on “Climate Change and Water” for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that has received nearly 5,000 citations to-date.

During my 46-year career in water science and engineering, I have dealt with a wide range of issues and problems related to destructive abundance of water and the many dimensions of flooding and flood science. I have developed a special interest in the links between floods and climate change and variability.

Floods continue to play havoc all over the world. They kill thousands of people annually and cause financial and economic losses of the order of tens of billions of US dollars. The arid and semi-arid lands in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, are not immune to floods. Even if there are no permanent rivers, the ephemeral wadis are numerous and the occurrence of high precipitation of short duration leads to flash flooding that devastates your lands.

On this occasion, as I receive the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, I think about my long, and fascinating, scientific journey, and of the people and the institutions that have influenced me on my way. I have worked for most of the time in two institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, namely the Institute of Geophysics in Warsaw and the Institute of Agricultural and Forest Environment in Poznan. I have enjoyed generous support of many research funding agencies, such as – in the last decade – the National Science Centre of Poland, the European Commission, the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union, and the Norway Grants. I have actively collaborated with foreign scientists and research institutions on scientific work, including spending over 15 years abroad. I enriched my understanding of various aspects of water and climate science and its applicability during my extended visits to the University of Karslruhe (Germany), at the World Meteorogical Organization, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany) and, most recently, at the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (China).

I am indebted to my beloved family – my wife, Lucyna, our two children with spouses and four grandchildren – for their love, support, and encouragement. My wife has been a role model, excellently managing our family affairs and enabling me to pursue my scientific interests and to achieve professional success.

It is a great honor to have my 46 years of scientific work recognized through this highly respected and prestigious Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water – The Surface Water Prize International Prize. It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I accept the Prize. I hope that this Prize will continue to inspire younger scientists and researchers to work hard and to try to obtain relevant, practice-oriented, results. This 2020 Prize in the category of surface water will enhance recognition of the important problems associated with floods.

Winning Work

[1] Kundzewicz Z.W., Stoffel M., Niedźwiedź T., Wyżga B. (Eds.) 2016. Flood risk in the Upper Vistula Basin. GeoPlanet: Earth and Planetary Sciences. Springer, pp. 418. ISBN 978-3-319- 41922-0.

[2] Kundzewicz, Z.W., Krysanova, V., Dankers, R., Hirabayashi, Y., Kanae, S., Hattermann, F.F., Huang, S., Milly, P.C.D., Stoffel, M., Driessen, P.P.J., Matczak, P., Quevauviller, P., Schellnhuber, H.-J. 2017. "Differences in flood hazard projections in Europe - their causes and consequences for decision making." Hydrological Sciences Journal. 62(1), 1-14.

[3] Kundzewicz, Z. W., Hegger, D. L. T., Matczak, P., Driessen, P. P. J. (2018) "Flood risk reduction: structural measures and diverse strategies." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) PNAS (December 4, 2018) 115(49): 12321–12325.

[4] Kundzewicz, Z. W.; Su, Buda; Wang, Yanjun; et al. (2019) "Flood risk and its reduction in China." Advances in Water Resources 130: 37-45.

[5] Kundzewicz, Z.W.; Su, Buda; Wang, Yanjun; et al. (2019) "Flood risk in a range of spatial perspectives - from global to local scales." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 19(7): 1319-1328.

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