Abstract The hydrology of the Alps in Switzerland and New Zealand is compared. Similarities and differences in topographical features, climate and weather characteristics, precipitation, and streamflow are identified. Precipitation and runoff are much higher in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, whereas the proportion and influence of snow to rainfall is greater in the Swiss Alps. Despite differences related to continental versus island characteristics and different altitudinal ranges, both Alps are important for producing water resources for downstream regions. Swiss evaporation data were used to improve knowledge of evaporation in the Southern Alps. Comparison of water volumes involved in the hydrological cycle highlighted the fact that the Southern Alps are one of the highest water-yielding regions of the world's temperate zones.