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Go with the flow

Connecting UK hydrology nationally and internationally

by John Rodda, Harry Dixon and Alan Jenkins (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)

Geoscientist Online 13 April 2010

Since the 1970s, NERC-chaired committees have met annually to provide a platform for coordination of UK activities in hydrology nationally and internationally, particularly in research in hydrology and water resources management. At present this committee is the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology with its secretariat at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Wallingford. The membership is drawn from a wide range of departments of national government, devolved governments and agencies, together with UK representatives of international non-governmental organizations and of initiatives within international programmes (see Box 1 for list of organisations currently represented). The British Geological Survey (BGS) and International Association of Hydrogeologists are both represented on the committee.

At the 2011 meeting on the 2 March, news of national initiatives was one of the two main items considered. Progress in forecasting research was one topic discussed by the Met Office, while CEH described developments in relation to NERC’s Theme Action Plans. One example of recent international research was a study of trends in European streamflows from some 400 natural catchments which was conducted by CEH in collaboration with an international team as a contribution to the IHP FRIEND programme. The results showed negative trends in eastern and southern regions and positive trends elsewhere. The EA touched on work to build capability in hydrology to ensure sufficient hydrologists were available with appropriate skills. The proposed establishment of a Scottish Centre of Expertise for Water was one of the items mentioned by SEPA; progress on the new Floodline Warnings Direct Service another. BGS commented on a number of activities including modelling climate change impacts on UK groundwater resources and a survey of molybdenum in drinking water. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency reported on a recent programme of spot gauging at monitoring sites to support WFD monitoring, abstraction and discharge consents, some 1000 requests for flow data having been received during the year. This part of the agenda concluded with comments from the British Hydrological Society on the Society’s programme.

The second major item dealt with international programmes, particularly UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme (HWRP) of WMO. The UK currently has observer status at the IHP Intergovernmental Council, the most recent 19th Session taking place in Paris in July 2010. Submitted to this meeting were reports of UK activities germane to the IHP, in particular on the FRIEND, HELP, G-WADI programmes and the ISI (see Box 2). A report was tabled from the CEH secretariat on the 19th Session, items of most interest being: progress with the current Phase VII of the Programme (2008-2014), plans for the next phase (IHP-VIII, 2014-2019), the reduced budget for the IHP and the growing number of UNESCO Water-Related Category 2 Centres. An evaluation of IHP-VI (2002-2007) was started in February and more recently the UK has been asked for comments on the concept note for IHP-VIII, a number being forwarded to the IHP Secretariat. One concern is how to incorporate in the new phase what has been learned from evaluations of previous phases; another is tailoring the plans to the money available to execute them.

The UK is involved in a number of activities contributing to the HWRP of WMO, for example, preparing a flood forecasting manual and reporting on techniques for hydrological data rescue, as well as being represented on the Advisory Working Group of the Commission for Hydrology. The Commission regulates the HWRP in its four-yearly sessions, its four main work areas currently being: water resources assessment, quality management, hydrological forecasting and prediction, together with water, climate and risk management. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Commission which will have its next session in 2012. This year the WMO Congress will meet in May and June to decide the Organization’s programme and budget for the coming 4 years. One of the last items on the agenda was a report from the UK Committee for IAHS. This committee’s task is to link hydrologists in the UK with the Association. IAHS is one of the Convenors of the Exeter International Symposium on Weather Radar and Hydrology to be held in April and the Association will publish the proceedings in one of its “red books”. Later this year the IAHS General Assembly will be held within the IUGG General Assembly in Melbourne, where IAHS is organizing 10 symposia and workshops a number being convened by UK hydrologists.

The UK Committee for National and International Hydrology is always keen to hear from UK hydrologists/hydrogeologists who are currently/or would like to be involved in the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme or WMO Hydrology and Water Resources Programme. For more information, please contact Harry Dixon at CEH Wallingford ([email protected]).

Box 1: Organisations Represented on the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology
Main organisation Subsidiary organisation
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)  Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) 
  British Geological Survey (BGS) 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)   
Department for International Development (DFID)   
Department for Transport (DfT) - Highways Agency   
Welsh Assembly Government   
Scottish Government   
Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)   
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland (DARDNI)   
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)   
Environment Agency (EA)   
Met Office   
British Water   
UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR)   
British Hydrological Society (BHS)   
UK Committee of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS)   
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Commission for Hydrology (WMO-CHy)   
UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP):   
  Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data Programme (FRIEND) 
  Hydrology, Environment, Life and Policy Programme (HELP) 
  Water and Development Information for Arid Lands Programme (G-WADI) 
  International Sedimentation Initiative (ISI) 
  IHP Ecohydrology Initiative 
  UNESCO IHP-HELP Centre of Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee 
UK National Commission for UNESCO   
Box 2: Some of the initiatives the UK is currently contributing to as part of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme
FRIEND: Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data 
G-WADI: Global Network on Water and Development Information in Arid Lands 
HELP: Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy 
ISI: International Sediment Initiative 
Ecohydrology Programme 
IHP-HELP Centre of Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee