National River Flow Archive (NRFA)

Science challenge

The National River Flow Archive (NRFA) collates, quality controls, and archives hydrometric data from 1500 gauging stations across the UK. The NFRA underpins hydrological research and water-management activities in the UK and delivers data and expertise to a multitude of stakeholders, including the UK Government and international organisations. The peak flow datasets provided by the archive form the basis of UK industry standard flood frequency estimates for planning and development purposes. The NRFA exists to provide not only a central database and retrieval service but also to promote best-practice in hydrometric monitoring and provide an extra level of data validation.

Project summary

The NRFA is mandated by UK government (Defra) and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to maintain and provide access to a comprehensive database of the country’s river flows and provide information on water resources nationally.

The NRFA has been hosted by UKCEH since 1982 and holds more than 65,000 station-years of river flow data. It acts as the UK’s focal point for river flow data. The data are derived from a network of gauging station networks across the UK, including the extensive networks operated by the Environment Agency (England), Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Department for Infrastructure – Rivers. The archive contains daily average and peak flow data, supported by catchment, photographic and contextual metadata, provides a unique, long-term perspective on river flow with direct applications for flood and drought management.

Hosted alongside the NRFA, the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (NHMP) aims to provide an authoritative voice on hydrological conditions throughout the UK. The­ Programme produces monthly hydrological summaries of the UK bringing together data on rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels and reservoir stocks and places them in an historical context.

River Duddon English Lake District

External website


  • To provide a central database and retrieval service for the UK’s hydrometric data
  • To integrate national hydrometric data from the UK’s hydrometric monitoring agencies
  • To provide long-term stewardship for national hydrometric data assets
  • To promote best practice in hydrometric monitoring
  • To provide an extra level of data validation
  • To engage in and support international water sharing initiatives by providing UK hydrometric data to other data centres (e.g. Global Runoff Data Centre)
  • To contribute to national and international initiatives to promote best practice in hydrometric data management.


Papers and outputs


All NRFA data and metadata can be accessed and downloaded from individual gauging station webpages. The gauging station webpages can be searched and navigated to from the Search page.


  • NRFA data is used in a number of UKCEH National Capability projects and programmes to underpin studies and models requiring observed river flow data
  • The Peak Flow dataset is a project funded by the four UK Measuring Authorities
  • The NRFA's utility is increased by close co-operation with the National Groundwater Level Archive maintained by the British Geological Survey. Both Archives are maintained by UKRI on behalf of the UK Government under a Memorandum of Understanding, with stakeholder liaison supported through the UK Surface and Groundwater Archives Committee.

Project lead - Isabella Tindall