Benchmark Network

The UK Benchmark Network (UKBN) comprises a subset of stations from the national hydrometric network that are most suited for identification and interpretation of long-term hydrological variability and change. Benchmark catchments can be considered reasonably free from human disturbances such as urbanisation, river engineering, and water abstractions, so are ‘near-natural’ and hence can be used for detection of climate-driven changes in river flow. 

The UKBN was originally designated over 15 years ago by Bradford and Marsh (2003). The first iteration of the Benchmark Network, UKBN1.0, included 122 catchments that had (i) relatively natural flow regimes, (ii) good and consistent hydrometric data quality, (iii) long record lengths (>20 years), and (iv) broadly representative of UK hydrology.

It is recognised that the benchmark criteria are stringent and not all stations will meet these fully. Therefore, in this second iteration, UKBN2.0, each of the 146 Benchmark catchments has been assigned a score based on their benchmark suitability at low, medium, and high flows, recognising all stations cannot be benchmark across the full flow regime and provided justification. A map of the network is shown below.

More information about the network is available in the UKBN2 User Guide.

The list of UKBN2 stations and their qualifying comments are provided here. If you would like to access data for all (or a subset of) UKBN2 stations, please contact the NRFA.


Catchment boundaries and gauging station locations for all 146 UKBN2 stations (gauges red dots and grey catchments), 80 stations suitable for analysis across the full flow regime (i.e., Benchmark Score = 6) (green catchments), with 10 nested catchments hat  ched (source: Harrigan et al., submitted).