For many years considerable efforts have been put into investigating and modelling hydrological processes of mountainous catchments. On the one hand, the complexity and intrinsically high variability of the involved processes as well as insufficient knowledge of the underlying physical mechanisms still induce large uncertainties in understanding observed phenomena and predicting the behaviour of the system. On the other hand, the demand for models that are able to simulate mountainous water resource systems is increasing because of the needs related to both water exploitation and water conservation, which clearly call for an integrated vision and modelling of these systems.
Accordingly, this paper moves from a brief survey of the most significant achievements in mountain hydrology to discuss what could be future challenging issues related to the broader spectrum of questions, which hydrologic modelling of mountainous river systems may face in the next decades. Firstly, reference is made to existing methodologies for modelling alpine water systems, focussing on some specific aspects that provide a basis for the discussion of the weaknesses and perspectives of present simulation tools. The future is thus discussed, delineating some of the research challenges that may foster a comprehensive and integrated vision of water related issues in mountainous regions.