NRFA Review of the Year: 2022/2023

The UK Surface and Groundwater Archives Committee (SAGA) convened for its 40th annual meeting held on the 1st March 2023.

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, Natural Environment Research Council, Welsh Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, Department for Infrastructures-Rivers, Met Office, Canal & River Trust, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, British Hydrological Society, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and representatives from the UK water industry (Thames Water). 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. During 2022/2023, the NRFA completed the EA Thames area liaison visit with a field day to visit gauging stations in August.  In October NRFA staff carried out a two-day field visit to North Wales with NRW. In 2023/2024, we are planning on 2-3 visits including the EA Kent & South London region. 

The annual update to the Archive this year contained data for the water year 2020/2021. The year was quite mixed with some record low flows recorded, partially in western Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Thames Valley, whilst record high flows were also recorded in north-west England and East Anglia.

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 11 on the 7th September 2022 which reflected the NRFA data holdings at the time. The NRFA’s Peak Flow Dataset provides flood data for 939 river flow gauging stations across the UK and during the review we looked at over 4,600 years of station data. On the 6th March 2023, The NRFA also released version 11.1 of the NRFA Peak Flow Dataset which included the addition of the FEH2022 Depth Duration Frequency (DDF) rainfall descriptors.

NRFA staff continued to liaise and engage with key stakeholders and the user community, with online and in person seminars for the British Hydrological Society, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management Water Resources Panel, the Science Media Centre and the Climate Change Commission.

The NRFA website remains very popular and has seen further increases in the activity in 2022/2023. There were around 24,500 total downloads across river flow, spatial and metadata, in which the search page metadata has gained 17% more downloads as compared to 2021. There were around 750,000 page views by 87000 users across all pages on the NRFA website. The most popular being the search page, which received over 66,000 views and was then followed by the home page which gained over 50,000 views.  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.  During the summer of 2022 the NHMP saw the most intense period of media engagement in relation to drought conditions in more than a decade. Numerous opportunities presented themselves around key milestones through the summer: record-breaking heat in July; the implementation of temporary use bans by water companies and the declaration of drought in August; flash flooding and the extent to which this constituted any kind of recovery in late August. The NHMP team responded to around 100 media enquiries over a six-week timeframe, resulting in a total of more than 1,700 quotes and mentions across live and pre-recorded television and radio, and print and online news. 

Isabella Tindall, Head of the NRFA commented that “2022/2023 was a successful year for the NRFA, with a number of important outputs and updates to our services. At the SAGA Committee meeting our plans for the next 12 months were discussed. They comprise continued improvement to our data, website, and tools, including assessing the differences between the data available via the Measuring Authority APIs and the NRFA data holdings.”