Economic impact of NRFA peak flow database highlighted by new report

A key national flood data source hosted by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has been estimated to deliver more than £5m per annum net benefit to the UK flood risk assessments sector, a new report reveals.

The National River Flow Archive’s (NRFA) Peak Flow database is calculated to provide net economic benefits of almost £5.4 million per year in terms of costs saved by environmental consultants and regulators. Over a 25-year term, it equates to a net present value of £95 million, according to the report author, Richard Blackmore of Research Impact Consulting.

“Up-to-date, accurate records of peak river flow are vital for developing understanding of flood events and improving the ability of regulators and the private sector to predict, manage and mitigate their impact,” explained Dr Harry Dixon, Head of the NRFA.

He added, “The NRFA data underpin the full spectrum of flood risk activities from national strategic mapping through to flood risk assessments conducted when planning new housing or commercial developments.”

Peak flow data were integrated into the NRFA – hosted by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – in April 2014. The move means that, for the first time since the national collation of hydrometric data was initiated in 1934, a single source of UK-wide data is available to support water resources and flood risk management.

NRFA Peak Flow Database

  • A key flood data source used for flood risk strategy and planning activities
  • Used by regulators, environmental consultants
  • Net economic benefits of the database more than £5m/year to regulators and consultants
  • Net Present Value of £95m (25 year term with a 3% discount rate)
  • Has other applications. Full value likely to be higher.
  • Represents good value for money.

NRFA data are used in a number of areas of UK water management, including water resources assessment, national situation monitoring and freshwater science. As the findings relate to just a small part of the database’s uses in flood risk assessments, the calculated value represents only a fraction of the national archive’s wider economic impact.

Dr Dixon said, “The report highlights a significant economic contribution by the NRFA to the local flood risk sector. The analysis demonstrates that the entire cost of maintaining the NRFA Peak Flow Database on an annual cycle is easily covered by the benefits of its use by consultants and regulators in preparing and assessing detailed flood risk assessments alone.”

He added, “We are pleased to be able to demonstrate that investment by NERC, the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Northern Ireland Rivers Agency in maintaining the NRFA Peak Flow Database represents extremely good value for money.”

Additional information

Our Briefing Note contains more information including the full report [PDF]

Peak Flow Database

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon