Countryside river
National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (NHMP)

Science challenge

Floods and droughts have the potential to cause major disruption to livelihoods, infrastructure and the economy. A sound understanding of current hydrological status and water resources, and trends in river flows is essential in order to forewarn of changing hydrological conditions and for society to cope with extreme events. The National Hydrological Monitoring Programme provides this service in the UK.

Project summary

The National Hydrological Monitoring Programme provides independent, authoritative advice on UK hydrological conditions and water resource status. It has been providing monthly Hydrological Summaries and reports of major hydrological floods and droughts since 1988. The NHMP is a collaboration between the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the British Geological Survey, the Met Office and the UK measuring authorities.

The NHMP brings together and analyses data on rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels and reservoir stocks. For example, it investigates long-term hydrological trends using the extensive data holdings of the National River Flow Archive and the National Groundwater Level Archive.

The work carried out by the NHMP team has made a contribution to the public debate around floods and droughts over the years. There has, inevitably, been media interest in the Hydrological Summaries in the wake of major events, and NHMP team members have regularly given interviews, providing a public face to the reports. There were more than 1000 separate media articles on drought and subsequent flooding which quoted NHMP outputs from 2010 up to the end of 2012; team members also engaged in more than 20 TV and radio interviews for outlets including the BBC and Sky News.

Some of the reports have gone on to inform other reviews and enquiries including written and oral evidence to parliamentary select committees. After the devastating summer floods of 2007, NHMP assessments of the event, its magnitude, impacts and description of the issues related to measuring high flows informed the Pitt Review which was described as "one of the widest ranging policy reviews ever carried out in the UK". During the winter flooding of 2015/2016 the NHMP was prominent in national papers, on national radio and the resulting report was featured in the Environment Agency’s review of the impact of the event.

NMHP map January 2020

External website


  • To provide a service that delivers independent, authoritative UK-wide monitoring of the current hydrological situation to inform a very wide user community who need information on water resources status
  • To put major floods and droughts in a long-term historical context
  • To quantify long-term trends and variability in hydrological variables.


Further information


Papers and reports


Communication and presentations


UKCEH national capability

  • There is an ambition to integrate the NHMP with existing monitoring activities, including COSMOS-UK and the Hydrological Outlook
  • NHMP has very strong links with the National Capability SUNRISE project’s 'Hydroclimate Extremes' Work Package, which has a significant component aimed at developing monitoring and outlooks for India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a wider global hydrological outlook.


  • NHMP work benefits from synergistic links with a number of ongoing or recently concluded projects, including IMPETUS, Historic Droughts, STAR, COSMOS-UK, DrIVER, RADAR and ASTRID)
  • The UK Water Resources Portal development builds on recent projects such as the HydEOMex project (Hydrology Earth Observation Modelling Exploration) funded through the NERC Climate Services sandpit. This is developing tools for monitoring using existing UKCEH/BGS work through the Outlooks and the Drought Portal, combined with Earth Observation data provided by other academic partners
  • A linked investment is the Drought and Water Scarcity Programme follow-on funding, via the £2m ENDOWS project (started 1 April 2017 for two years) aimed at translating drought programme science into tools for decision makers.

Project lead - Simon Parry