River Wharfe
Hydrological Outlook

Science Challenge

Providing a trusted forecast of the likely state of UK river flows and groundwater levels can benefit people in a wide range of sectors, such as water and energy companies, farmers and local authorities, potentially avoiding or increasing resilience to the adverse consequences of floods and droughts.

Project summary

The Hydrological Outlook is a monthly long-term hydrological forecast, which started in 2013. It provides an insight into future hydrological conditions across the UK. Specifically it describes likely trajectories for river flows and groundwater levels on a monthly basis, with particular focus on the next three months.

Well established monitoring programmes provide the current status of both river flows and groundwater levels at many sites across the UK, and data from these programmes provide the starting point for the Outlook. A number of techniques are used to project forwards from the current state and results from these are used to produce a summary that includes a highlights map. A range of supporting outputs are also produced to accompany each monthly outlook.

The Hydrological Outlook is delivered in partnership by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and involves the Natural Environment Research Council's British Geological Survey (BGS), the Environment Agency (EA), the Met Office (MO), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and for Northern Ireland, the Department for Infrastructure - Rivers (DfIR).


  • To provide a UK-wide outlook of the likely water resources situation over the timescales of one month to a year into the future, to inform a very wide user community who need information on water resources status to make management decisions.


Papers and outputs

  • A non-exhaustive list of publications that refer to or use the Hydrological Outlook methods or results is available on the Hydrological Outlook website.


UKCEH national capability


  • The modelling for the Outlook is based on UKCEH's foremost hydrological models, such as Grid-to-Grid and PDM. There are also explicit links with Hydro-JULES - in fact the Hydrological Outlook work is joint funded by the UK-SCAPE and Hydro-JULES programmes
  • The modelling work benefits from synergistic links with a number of research projects (e.g. DrIVER, IMPETUS, EDGE, ENDOWS). The work provides a platform for future efforts to develop hydrological monitoring and forecasting tools. There is potential for combination with other activities (e.g. the UK Water Resources Portal). Most recently the potential has been demonstrated through the NERC-funded HydEOMex project (Hydrology Earth Observation Modelling Exploration), which is developing tools for monitoring using existing UKCEH/BGS work through the Outlooks and the UK Water Resources Portal, combined with Earth Observation data provided by other partners
  • A major linked activity was the Drought and Water Scarcity Programme follow-on funding, in the forms of the £2m ENDOWS project that translated drought programme science into tools for decision makers. ENDOWS' hydrological forecasting task took Hydrological Outlook outputs and developed enhancements for stakeholders in the water supply, agriculture and the environmental sectors.

Project lead - Jamie Hannaford