Putting real-time data into the hands of water managers

A year on from the launch of the UK Water Resources Portal, it is being used as a valuable and reliable real-time water monitoring tool by environmental and water managers.

The web-based system tracks the latest hydrological situation across England, Wales and Scotland, allowing users to explore up-to-date data including rainfall, river flows, soil moisture and groundwater levels.

It makes use of very recently published real-time river flow data from the Environment Agency (EA) and puts it in the context of longer term water availability, using data from the National River Flow Archive based at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), including knowledge about drought indicators that have been developed through the About Drought programme.

It includes standardised indicators for rainfall (Standardised Precipitation Index), river flows (Standardised Streamflow Index) and groundwater (Standardised Groundwater Index), but allows users to switch to actual values, which can make them easier to understand. Indices can be compared between locations with very different rainfall and between times of year or be calculated over different time frames, depending on the user’s requirements.

Matt Fry, Environmental Informatics Manager at the (UKCEH), manages the data workstream of the About Drought knowledge exchange project. His focus has been on co-designing the tools to put the research programme’s data into the hands of users in an accessible and meaningful way. He says:

You do not need technical skills to use the UK Water Resources Portal. Anyone with an interest in current water resources or drought conditions can use it – from policymakers to members of the public, businesses to farmers and regulators to consultants. It really helps to raise awareness of the status of river flows and rainfall, particularly during drought episodes, and we believe it is an excellent communications tool for all sorts of end users and decision makers

Jamie Hannaford, Principal Investigator of About Drought and Principal Hydrologist at UKCEH, adds:

“The UK Water Resources Portal is a big advance in real-time data availability.”

The UK Water Resources Portal is just one of the many user-friendly data products from About Drought.

Explore the data platforms here.

Read more in the online About Drought Handbook.

Ecosystem report cards

The environment work stream has developed five ecosystem-based report cards to communicate the effects of drought in an accessible way. The report cards are a synthesis of existing knowledge and new research within the programme. The ecosystems are:

The report cards capture the latest, cutting edge data from the programme and designed to be used by all, including the general public. The series summarises current and future aspects of water scarcity in the main ecosystems of the UK and cover the ecosystem responses, future scenarios and potential for drought management.

Experts from About Drought discuss the past few months remarkable weather

Experts from the About Drought project have given updates on the recent changeable weather we’ve been seeing in the UK and further afield.

The team at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) released a blog post which focused on the hydrological transformation following the wettest February on record, which soon turned into one of the driest springs on record. Low soil moisture and river flows at the end of May have resulted in impacts on agriculture and the environment, and heightened concerns over water resources over the longer term.

“There is now an increasing risk of reduced crop yields and potential water use restrictions.”

Katie Muchan, Hydrologist at UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Find out more by visiting the UKCEH blog post which also highlights the UK Water Resources Portal, one of the outputs from About Drought.

Adding to the debate, Professor Len Shaffrey at the University of Reading contributed to a blog post exploring the reasons as to why we are seeing such changeable weather.

The article explores whether the persistent high-pressure “blocking” weather systems which bring clear, dry conditions for many days or weeks, are becoming more frequent. These systems are particularly synonymous with heatwaves and drought in summer and bitterly cold conditions in winter.

Len explains that changes in the Arctic, “might influence the frequency of blocking events”:

“The theories suggest that as the Arctic warms, changes in the strength and position of the northern hemisphere jet stream will allow blocking events to become more frequent.” 

Professor Len Shaffrey, professor of climate science at University of Reading

Find out more by visiting the Carbon Brief blog post.

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