Jamie Hannaford, Principal Hydrologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, looks at the current water resources situation and how it may evolve in the coming months using Hydrological Summary, Hydrological Outlook and interactive water situation monitoring tools. 

Given the current low river flows, soil moisture and groundwater levels and reservoir levels, there is inevitably increasing concern over prospects for water resources this summer.

Increased demand from the heatwave has put short-term pressure on water supply, and should river flows continue to fall, there will be growing threats to water supply later in the year. Even now, low river flows are causing environmental stress in aquatic ecosystems and the dry soils have resulted in challenges for farmers, caused stressed terrestrial habitats and severe wildfires following the recent heatwave.

The recently published Hydrological Summary documents the UK water resources situation, based on data up to the end of June. We can see that average river flows for June were categorised as ‘below normal’ or ‘exceptionally low’ across most of the country and the lowest on record (for the month of June) for some rivers – for example, the Yscir in south Wales, the Taw in Devon, and the Waveney in East Anglia. The map below shows that river flows for most catchments have also been exceptionally low since the spring (April-June 2022).

The most up-to-date picture of the hydrological situation is provided by our UK Water Resources Portal, which provides near real-time data on river flows across the country (in practice, the most up-to-date data is from a few days before the current day)

The Portal for 18 July shows that across nearly all of the country, river flows were below normal and in most cases in the ‘notably low’ or ‘exceptionally low’ category for that day. Rivers can vary a lot day by day, so this is only a snapshot and a fuller assessment will be made of the July river flows when we get to the end of the month.

The full blog from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology can be read here.

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