Established in 1999, HELP is a cross-cutting programme component: it interacts with all five core themes of the programme by establishing a global network of basins to improve the links between hydrology and the needs of society. The vital importance of water in sustaining human and environmental health has been widely recognized by numerous national and international forums, but no programme has so far addressed key water resources management issues in the field and integrated them with policy and management.

HELP is designed to change this by creating a new approach to integrated basins management. It is a problem- and demand-driven initiative that addresses five key policy issues:

  • Water and climate
  • Water and food
  • Water quality and human health
  • Water and the environment
  • Water and conflict

Initiated in 1998 and endorsed in 1999, it was decided that the concept should be pursued towards the formulation of a research programme within the framework of IHP and in close cooperation with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX).

HELP aims to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to stakeholders through research towards the sustainable and appropriate use of water. This is accomplished by deploying hydrological science in support of improved integrated catchment management. This includes improving the complex relationships between hydrological processes, water resources management, ecology, socio-economics and policy-making. The ultimate goal of the programme is to help scientists and stakeholders break through the traditional paradigm lock that separates them from integrated solutions