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UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology launches new portal with latest UK hydrological situation

Using the UK Water Resources Portal

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UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is a world-class research organisation focusing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere.
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A unique, interactive web portal developed by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) brings together a wealth of information on the latest hydrological situation across the UK.

The UK Water Resources Portal provides the most up-to-date available data on river flows, rainfall, soil moisture and groundwater levels from a local to a national scale, with users able to view measurements in any part of the country by clicking on an interactive map.

In addition to providing a possible indication of imminent floods and droughts, it also has historical records that enable comparisons to be made with previous significant events from the past 50 years and long-term averages.

The portal collates data from a variety of sources, including the national measuring authorities for river flows and groundwater levels: the Environment Agency (for England), the Scottish Environment Protection AgencyNatural Resources Wales and the Department for Infrastructure - Rivers in Northern Ireland. A help video, below, takes you through its features.

The portal is aimed at anyone with an interest in the current water resources situation:

  • UK government agencies are now able to access national-scale water resources information interactively, in one place
  • water companies can view information from the measuring authorities across river and groundwater resources, alongside their own monitoring, and access consistent information on the rarity of drought events
  • farmers and other abstractors can use the portal to understand the state of water resources during drought periods, and see whether restrictions may be on the horizon  
  • river trusts and other local interest groups will be able to understand the status of local rivers and how this may impact the environment, e.g. how chalk streams and the groundwater sources that feed them, are recovering from drought events
  • researchers, local authorities and the public can see how recent river flows and rainfall in an area compares to previous years - useful evidence and context during both flood and drought episodes

The information can be viewed on layered maps, including the UKCEH Land Cover Map 2015 and the BGS Hydrogeology 625K, which, respectively, show the type of land use and geology across the UK on a 1km scale.

The portal provides access to the following data:

  • River flows from the relevant national measuring authority updated every 1 to 3 days
  • Soil moisture from the UKCEH’s COSMOS-UK network – updated daily
  • Rainfall from the Met Office ­– updated every month
  • Groundwater levels from the relevant national measuring authority, delivered in collaboration with the British Geological Survey – updated every month

Most of the records for river flows, rainfall and groundwater go back to the 1960s, while the soil moisture data starts in 2014, shortly after the COSMOS-UK network was established.

The river flow and groundwater measurements come from the UK’s 1,500 gauging stations, with the real-time data coming from the Environment Agency’s live Hydrology Data Service. Historical data comes from the National River Flow Archive (NRFA).

Principal Hydrologist Jamie Hannaford, who leads the Hydrological Status and Outlooks group at UKCEH, says: “This exciting new portal is unique in three ways. Firstly, it is a ‘one-stop-shop’ that brings all the latest hydrological data together in one place. Secondly, it presents the information in a user-friendly mapping/plotting interface rather than just as static maps or tables. Finally, it provides the detailed and up-to-date local, catchment and national scale data that government agencies and businesses need to make key decisions relating to water resources.

“Tracking the various hydrological elements – how much rain has fallen, how saturated the soil is, how full our aquifers are and how much water is flowing in rivers – will help us better monitor the development of floods and droughts, and manage them accordingly.”

Mr Hannaford thanked the stakeholders, particularly the Environment Agency, Met Office and South West Water who have been involved in the development of the demonstrator version of the UK Water Resources Portal over the past two years, saying their input had been vital in producing the final product.

The portal is available at https://eip.ceh.ac.uk/hydrology/water-resources/

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