The idea of an association was founded at the "Water in History: Global Perspectives" conference at Aberystwyth, UK, in the summer of 1999. It became clear, at this conference, that there were a great many historians of water, or historians with an interest in water, or policy makers with an interest in history.These came from a wide range of academic disciplines and public and private institutions.
It also became clear that this group could benefit greatly from the establishment of a network designed to provide a cross fertilisation of ideas and experience, which could illuminate the complex processes shaping water resource use, and reveal interrelated aspects or historical contingencies and precedents.
The association was formally founded at the IWHA conference "The Role of Water in History and Development" in Bergen August 2001.
The International Water History Association aims to encourage, promote, and foster historical understanding of, and research in, the relationship between water and humankind. IWHA fosters a stronger relationship between those engaged in water history and water administrators, engineers, scientists, planners and other practitioners. Creating public awareness of the role of water in world history and to promote public participation in resolving water resource issues is a main activity.
Once every two years, IWHA holds a conference open to all members of the Association and others.