NRFA Review of the Year: 2021/2022

The UK Surface and Groundwater Archives Committee (SAGA) convened for its 39th annual meeting held on the 2nd March 2022.

The SAGA Committee comprises representatives of organisations from across the UK involved in the measurement, management or use of hydrometric data. This year’s meeting was attended by members of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, British Geological Survey, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, Met Office, Canal & River Trust, Welsh Government, British Hydrological Society, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and representatives from the UK water industry. Amongst the items discussed at this year’s meeting was a review of the activities of the NRFA over the last 12 months.

As normal, the NRFA’s activities have included updating and ongoing maintenance of the nation’s central database for hydrometric data.  Ensuring that the Archive is up-to-date involves an intensive programme of year-round work to quality control new data before it is added to the Archive, as well as reviewing existing data. The NRFA’s core daily mean flow dataset alone was subject to around 330,000 updates and changes in the last 12 months. With the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately for a second year running our usual liaison visits with our colleagues in the Measuring Authorities could not go ahead as planned – we hope that will change in the coming year!

The annual update to the Archive this year contained data for the water year 2019/2020, which included several new record flows across the UK. These new record flows were recorded at a number of stations across Wales and the Midlands during the winter of 2019/2020 and were documented in our blog posts and open-access paper published in the journal Weather.

Alongside the routine update to daily flow data, an annual update to peak flow data as well as a period of record review of a subset of peak flow stations led to the release of Version 10 of the NRFA Peak Flow Dataset, and some 3,500 station years of data reviewed.

NRFA staff continued to liaise and engage with key stakeholders and the user community, with online seminars for the British Hydrological Society and Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science.

The NRFA website remains very popular and has seen sustained activity in 2021/2022. There were around 25,000 downloads of river flow, spatial and metadata and around 750,000 page views by 80,000 users across all pages on the NRFA website. The NRFA API has also seen sustained usage with data downloaded just under 500,000 times.

The National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (NHMP), operated jointly by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the British Geological Survey has continued to publish the monthly Hydrological Summaries for the UK. The NHMP analyses of NRFA data also contributed to three peer-reviewed papers on the drought in 2018/2019 (Turner et al., 2021), the flooding of 2019/2020 (Sefton et al., 2021) and an updated analysis of UK-wide flood trends (Hannaford et al., 2021). The NHMP published hydrological status updates commenting on the water resource situation.

Isabella Tindall, Head of the NRFA commented “2021/2022 has been another successful year for the NRFA, with a number of important outputs and updates to our services along with the publication of several papers and blog posts. At the SAGA Committee meeting our plans for the next 12 months were discussed. They include continued improvement to our tools, encompassing the development of systems to read data from the Measuring Authority’s APIs and for publishing and archiving database versions in a way that may enhance reproducibility of analysis and research.”