Historic Droughts: Using the past to inform the future

Lucy Barker (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) presents on a number of cutting edge aspects of drought science.

Climate change projections indicate that extreme events will increase in their frequency and severity in the future.  An improved understanding of the drought events of the past can inform current and future management. In this talk, Lucy demonstrates how reconstructed river flows have enabled consistent, national scale characterisation of historic hydrological droughts and how access to current and historic data can support ongoing drought monitoring activities.

The work originates from a number of projects including Historic Droughts and the About Drought programme and you can view the talk below.

This talk is part of the British Hydrological Society webinar series, “Future Hydrology in a Changing Environment”. You can view past webinars on their YouTube channel.

Neil Edwards, Environment & Chemistry Technical Support, RWE Generation UK

Informing the power sector

“There is much to be done and having access to the existing About Drought materials can only better inform the deliberations.”

Neil Edwards, Environment & Chemistry Technical Support, RWE Generation UK

Neil Edwards has represented RWE Generation UK in stakeholder discussions with MaRIUS and DRY, as well as attending conferences and workshops. He believes those connections have enabled About Drought’s outputs to be of greater benefit to the power sector, including building better resilience of services that rely on water-dependent infrastructure. 

He says: “The next few years could be important in how the UK positions itself to deliver resilience of services – such as public water supply, power and food – in a period in which we are going to be economically and institutionally challenged. There is much to be done and having access to the existing About Drought materials can only better inform the deliberations. 

New contacts improved understanding

“I’ve developed useful contacts through networking at the major events and workshops with practitioners that I didn’t have before. The networking and events together, gave me opportunities to contribute to improving the wider understanding of the interaction between power plants and the aquatic environment, which is sometimes not well-represented in academic literature. 

Boost for power sector

“I believe this to be of value to RWE and to the wider power sector. It led to some power sector-focused work being done within the research programme, which has given power sector players a better information base to think through some aspects of water quality in drought and hence, contribute to developing better understanding of resilience issues. 

“I also hope that the forecasting initiative with CEH will lead to improved river flow and seasonal weather forecasting information for relevant power sector locations, which will aid better risk management of commercial positions in low flow events; though this has not advanced as fast as I would have liked.”  

Neil has also been able to draw on access to communications resources. He says: “I have used the softer communications / story telling materials to get an understanding of wider social considerations surrounding major drought events as background in participation in freshwater-related stakeholder activity, such as interaction with DEFRA/EA on water resource management and regional water planning.”

Risk and scenario building

Collaboration with MaRIUS supported RWE’s work on risk to power generation and scenario building. Neil says: “We have used the tailored water quality modelling work to better understand potential risk – this is now factored into our thinking and into our interaction with DEFRA/EA on aspects of resilience. We are aware of the grid-to-grid river flow work and climate change-related work, and we would access it if we felt the need.”

Interview by Sally Stevens

Posted October 2019

Paul Crockett, Principal Officer, National Water Resources Planning Framework, Environment Agency

Informing the water industry & Environment Agency

“About Drought has informed the water industry, now we need some sort of mechanism to identify the most useful outputs from strategic to operational products. We must not let those fall through a crack now that About Drought has finished.”

Paul Crockett, Principal Officer, Environment Agency
River Teme fish rescue (© David Throup/Environment Agency)

“About Drought has helped generate a step change in thinking around what is possible and what can be done, and over the next 10 years or so we will be making better decisions, using better tools because of it,” says Paul Crockett who is leading the modelling work on the National Water Resources Planning Framework for the Environment Agency.

Yet Paul, who has worked closely with the MaRIUS project and About Drought (ENDOWS), believes there is still more to be done in encouraging the water industry to catch up with the latest outcomes of the programme’s data and tools.

Real-time decision-making support for the water industry

About Drought has supported the water industry in both strategic planning and real-time decision-making during a time when it has come under pressure to collaborate across water company boundaries on regional forward planning, as well as approaches to dealing with issues as they arise with a greater level of accountability.

MaRIUS and ENDOWS have held a series of workshop events specifically for the industry, working alongside key stakeholders to match its research to their needs.

With the National Water Resources Planning Framework driving water companies to work together to build resilience into water management with clear, joined-up direction from Government departments, agencies and water regulators, the industry is now more ready to be receptive, Paul feels.

He says: “There are a lot of great products from MaRIUS and About Drought but the water industry – the customer, if you like – is only just seeing the potential.”

Improving the industry’s understanding of statistics

Historic Droughts’ work in reconstructing reliable rainfall, river flow and groundwater data back to 1890, as well as providing standardised drought indices has been important in putting events into context, improving the industry’s understanding of statistics, the latest methodologies and stakeholder needs. There is still more to be done in migrating data from the academic models to those the water companies use.

The water resource model developed by MaRIUS is being adopted for use by Paul’s team, to help the National Water Resources Planning Framework assess the potential effects of different types of drought and climate change impacts at a national scale, and test management strategies.

Giving the water industry better knowledge and insights

Paul’s concern is that with the impacts of climate change starting to be felt on the reliability of water availability, it is the wrong time to bring About Drought to an end. He says: “It’s so important to have About Drought following on from the original research projects; it demonstrated what is possible, the better knowledge and insight we can get from the information that decisions will be based on in the future. The team really helped to educate the industry rather than just educating other academics.

“We need to look at the tools we can use to take it even further forward now that the industry is starting to buy into it more.

“About Drought has informed the water industry, now we need some sort of mechanism to identify the most useful outputs from strategic to operational products. We must not let those fall through a crack now that About Drought has finished.

“About Drought is to be applauded for what it has done but it needs more time and resources if it is to maximise the outcome for UK plc of all this research.”

Interview by Sally Stevens

Posted October 2019

About Drought Download Nov 7th

All the data, all the learnings, all the resources, all in one place!

Thursday, November 7, 2019 from 10 am to 3.30 pm
Location: The Royal Society, London, SW1Y 5AG
Registration: via Eventbrite – free to attend but spaces are limited (note that registration closes on the 23rd of October)
Programme: draft programme (PDF)

Draft programme for the About Drought Download conference (available as PDF from in page link)
Draft programme

About Drought Download is the final event of the 5-year UK Drought and Water Scarcity Research Programme, showcasing the difference our work is already making. Register via Eventbrite – there is no charge for this event, but registration is necessary and spaces are limited. Please note that registration closes on the 23rd of October.

See the draft programme, so you can plan to attend this accessible, stimulating day. The event is aimed at decision-makers in water supply, the energy industry, policy, business, environment, agriculture or the public sector. Visitors can engage with hands-on multi-disciplinary programme outputs, listen to and question programme experts in a wide range of drought-related fields, network with people working on drought, and meet users of the outputs from the programme.

  • How is climate change affecting water supply in the UK?
  • What does it mean for policy and industry?
  • What forecasting breakthroughs have been made & how are these already being used?
  • How can we protect the UK’s natural landscape from water shortage?

DRY (Drought Risk & You) Final Conference July 3rd

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Location: UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre, Filton Rd, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS34 8QZ

Register: Click here

Interdisciplinary explorations in ‘DRY Thinking’ – bringing together stories and science for better decision-making in UK Drought Risk Management

Come and join the ongoing conversation at the final event for DRY (Drought Risk & You) part of About Drought, the UK’s £12m drought and water scarcity research programme.

Drought in the UK is a pervasive, creeping and hidden risk.  How can ‘the hidden’ be revealed and how can science and stories work together, in this process, to support better decision-making in UK drought risk management?

This conference is the next stage in an ongoing dialogue, not only between different disciplines, but also but between researchers and stakeholders.

Over the past five years, DRY has worked with diverse sectors in seven catchments in England, Scotland and Wales – co-researching droughts past and scenario-ing droughts future, with strong attention to thinking about adaptive solutions and behaviours. DRY has explored how science and narrative can be brought together, in different ways and on different scales, to support statutory and non-statutory decision-making of a wide range of stakeholders, the general public and communities.

Core to this research has been a series of ‘creative experiments’, exploring how science can be used as a stimulus for stories and stories as a stimulus for science.  This has included creative scenario-ing of possible drought futures and explorations in how drought might be visualised using science interweaved with storying.

DRY’s interdisciplinary team has involved drought risk scientists (hydrologists, ecologists, agronomists) working with hazard geographers, social science researchers in health and business, along with those working in media and memory, and applied storytelling.

This conference shares themes researched within the DRY project, including how we might:

  • Rethink ‘drought data’ – its hybridity and variations in scale
  • Explore drought values and perceptions that influence behaviours
  • Scenario future drought working with science and narrative
  • Exploring drought cultures within the UK
  • Develop ‘DRY Thinking’ as a process – Drought Risk and You

The conference will be accompanied by the DRY Exhibition, showcasing resources generated by the DRY process, including the DRY Story Bank, the DRY Utility and DRY Action Learning Resources (e.g. around UK Drought Myths in engagement).

Organised by Professor Lindsey McEwen (UWE, Bristol), Emma Weitkamp (UWE, Bristol), Joanne Garde-Hansen (University of Warwick), Antonia Liguori (Loughborough University), Mike Wilson (Loughborough University) and the DRY consortium

For any further information, please email: DRY@uwe.ac.uk

Report back from Drought & Water Scarcity Conference

Drought and Water Scarcity: addressing current and future challenges, International Conference

View presentations below

This international event was held at Pembroke College, University of Oxford over 20-21 March 2019.

Speakers from around the world gathered to present and discuss their research on drought and water scarcity.  There was an impressive range of data, topics, in-depth knowledge and communication insights which demonstrated the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of research into drought and water scarcity.

Delegates heard that drought and water scarcity are expected to become more severe due to the influence of climate change and pressure on water resources from economic and demographic changes.  The impacts of this affects hydrology, agriculture and farming, industry and communities.  Water and the lack of water effects every aspects of society and the environment, and the lack of water has profound consequences.

You can see the full programme here.

A number of the oral and poster presenters have kindly given permission to share their work.  You can access the presentations by clicking on the links below.

 

Presentations available to view

 

Amanda Fencl, University of California, Davis – “Interconnections between Research on Groundwater, Drought and Climate Change

Anne van Loon, Birmingham University – “Drought in the Anthropocene: vulnerability & resilience

Antonia Liguori, Loughborough University – “Learning around ‘storying water’ to build an evidence base to support better decision-making in UK drought risk management

Ayilobeni Kikon, National Institute of Technology Karnataka – “Application of Optimized Machine Learning Technique in Drought Forecasting Using SPI

Caroline King, CEH; co-authored with Daniel Tsegai, Programme Officer, UNCCD Secretariat – “A review of methods for drought impact and vulnerability assessment

Cedric Laize, TBI & GeoData Institute – “Relationship between a drought-oriented streamflow index and a series of riverine biological indicators

Christopher Nankervis, Weather Logistics Ltd – “Use of Copernicus seasonal climate forecast model data to improve the accuracy of long-term forecasts: the UK Summer Rainfall Insights project.”

Daniela Anghileri, University of Southampton – “Strengthening research capabilities for addressing water and food security challenges in sub-Saharan Africa

Emma Cross, Environment Agency – “The 2018 heatwave; its impacts on people and the environment in Thames Area

Elizabeth Brock, Met Office; Katherine Smart, Anglian Water – “Re-analysis of historical events using up to date extreme value techniques, to determine the return period of historical and stochastic droughts, with particular reference to ‘severe’ or 1 in 200 year return period events

Feyera A. Hirpa, Ellen Dyer, Rob Hope, Daniel O. Olago, Simon J. Dadson, University of Oxford – “Finding sustainable water futures in the Turkwel River basin, Kenya under climate change and variability

Fiona Lobley, Environment Agency – “2018 dry weather and its impacts; looking ahead to 2019

Frederick Otu-Larbi, Lancaster University – “Modelling the effects of drought stress on photosynthesis and latent heat fluxes.

Granville Davies and Miranda Foster, Yorkshire Water – “Water resources in Yorkshire, UK in 2018: drought management, perception and communication

Harry West, University of the West of England, Bristol – “Examining spatial variations in the utility of SPI as a 3-month-ahead environmental drought indicator

Henny van Lanen, Wageningen University & Research – “The 2018 NW European Drought: warnings from an extreme event

Katherine Smart, Anglian Water; Elizabeth Brock, Met Office – “Re-analysis of historical events using up to date extreme value techniques, to determine the return period of historical and stochastic droughts, with particular reference to ‘severe’ or 1 in 200 year return period events

Kerstin Stahl, Freiburg – “Customizing drought indices to improve drought impact monitoring and prediction

Kevin Grecksch, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford – “Achieving water efficiency through social norms in the public sector

Len Shaffrey, NCAS, University of Reading – “Has climate change increased the chance of events like the 1976 North West European drought occurring?”

Lucy Barker, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – “How severe were historic hydrological droughts in the UK? Insights from a systematic characterisation and ranking of events back to 1891

Mark Smith, Hydro-Logic Services (International) Ltd – “Recent trends in water resources planning and management, and the rising importance of planning processes in reflecting the ‘consequences’ of relevance and interest to customers and stakeholders

Massimiliano Pasqui, CNR – “A customizable drought monitoring and seasonal forecasting service to support different users’ needs

Matt Fry, CEH – “The Historic Droughts Inventory: an accessible archive of past drought impact information for the UK from diverse documentary sources

Miranda Foster and Granville Davies, Yorkshire Water – “Water resources in Yorkshire, UK in 2018: drought management, perception and communication

Mike Morecroft, Natural England – “Drought impacts on the natural environment and lessons for climate change adaptation

Nikos Mastrantonas, CEH – “Drought Libraries for enhanced resilience in long term water resource planning in the UK

Paul Whitehead, University of Oxford – “Impacts of climate change on water quality affecting upland and lowland rivers, wetlands and delta systems

Peter Anthony Cook, NCAS-Climate, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading – “Variations in the West African Monsoon from reanalysis and model results

Peter Kettlewell, Harper Adams University – “Mitigating drought impact on crop yield by applying film-forming polymers

Rob Wilby, Loughborough – “Challenging the mantra of wetter-winters, drier summers in the UK

Ruth Langridge, University of California, Santa Cruz – “Groundwater management in planning for drought: experience from California, USA

Sandra Santos, Wageningen University – “Improving institutional frameworks integrating local initiatives from communities exposed to drought and water scarcity in Ecuador

Stephen McGuire, SEPA – “Assessing the impacts of water scarcity in Northeast Scotland through the summer of 2018.”

Wiza Mphande, Harper Adams University – “Elucidating Drought Mitigation with Antitranspirants in Spring Wheat