Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hydrological Outlook from August 2014

The latest Hydrological Outlook states that the groundwater levels in August will generally be unaffected by the amount of rainfall we have.  This is because large soil moisture deficits have built up over the summer and rainfall will not reach the water table while these deficits exist.

Looking further ahead, the prediction for precipitation over the next 3 months is not a clear "wet" or "dry" scenario:  "The probability that UK precipitation for August-September-October will fall into the driest of five categories is around 20% and the probability that it will fall into the wettest category is 25-30%".  The timing of the soil moisture deficit being overcome by rainfall (and the reduced efforts of sunshine and plants in evaporation and transpiration), and thus the groundwater recharge season starting, will depend upon when the rain falls, and how persistent it is.

The general outlook is for groundwater levels to be in the near-normal range across the majority of aquifers.

For further information see the full Hydrological Outlook for August.

[Apologies for not posting this sooner.]

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

July 2014 overview

Groundwater levels, July 2014
July was a pleasant summer month over most of the UK.  The rainfall total was slightly below average, but the distribution varied significantly.  Thunderstorms brought downpours to areas of the Midlands, the south-east and East Anglia.  Wales and parts of England were notably dry.

Groundwater levels in the very responsive Carboniferous Limestone aquifer of south Wales fell as a result of the low rainfall there.  This is the only site with below normal groundwater levels on our map this month.

Across the rest of the UK, groundwater levels are in the normal or above normal range for the time of year.  Levels are falling at the moment as we are in the recession phase of the annual cycle of groundwater fluctuations.

Below is the hydrograph for Wetwang, a 46 m deep borehole used to measure groundwater level in the Chalk aquifer in Yorkshire.  The dashed line shows the average groundwater level by month.  The observed level (solid black line) indicates the low levels at the start of the year, followed by a rapid recovery during the wet months of January and February.  The steepest section of the recovery shows almost 10 m rise in water level in a little over a month.  The recession, which started in late February, was initially steep, followed by a period of rather stable level during May and June.  During July the groundwater level at Wetwang has closely followed the monthly average line.  Groundwater levels are expected to continue to fall until the autumn.

Groundwater levels at Wetwang, unconfined Chalk

Friday, 18 July 2014

Groundwater outlook - from July 2014

Hydrological Outlook from July 2014
At this time of year, significant groundwater recharge is unlikely and groundwater levels are not strongly influenced by variations in rainfall.  Levels are expected to fall during the next three months along a similar trajectory to recent months.  There is unlikely to be any significant change to the groundwater situation until October, when water use by plants reduces and rainfall will begin to dictate the groundwater outlook.

View or download the most recent Hydrological Outlook from the Hydrological Outlook UK website.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

June 2014 overview

Groundwater levels, June 2014
Groundwater levels normally fall in the summer months.  Recharge is limited as most of the rain that falls is captured by dry soils and used by growing plants. Groundwater drains naturally from aquifers towards rivers
and the sea.  During these months, there is more water leaving the aquifers than replenishing them, so we see water levels fall.  This falling section of a groundwater hydrograph is called the recession.

Hydrographs in most wells are showing the summer recession.  For example, in the Chalk aquifer at Little Bucket Farm, and in the Permo-Triassic Sandstones at Bussels No. 7a.
Falling groundwater levels in the Chalk at Little Bucket Farm (Kent)

Heavy rainfall in some areas in May was enough to interrupt the recession, so we see the hydrograph curving upwards, e.g. in the Lincolnshire Limestone at New Red Lion.
Interrupted recession in the Lincolnshire Limestone
at New Red Lion (east of Grantham, Lincolnshire)

Levels in some areas remain exceptionally high for the time of year, due to the exceptional spring rainfall, even though they are falling.  This is the case in the Permo-Triassic Sandstone aquifers of the north west (e.g. Skirwith) and the south west (e.g. Bussels No. 7a).

For more information, see the Hydrological Summary for June 2014 [PDF].

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

May 2014 overview

Groundwater levels, May 2014
The weather in May was changeable, and the total rainfall varied significantly across the UK.  We saw heavy rainfall at the end of May, which caused unusually low soil moisture deficits in most areas. Despite the generally high rainfall, groundwater levels mostly continued to fall.

Chalk water levels generally fell during May but remained within the normal range or above, with exceptionally high levels at Stonor Park (Chilterns). However, in Yorkshire levels remained below average, even though the monthly rainfall total over the chalk of Yorkshire was mostly >175% of the average for May.  Local rises in levels were recorded in parts of Lincolnshire and Suffolk.

In the Permo-Triassic sandstones, despite falls, water  levels remained above previous monthly maxima in the north-west (for the fifth consecutive month) and were also very high in the south-west. Levels elsewhere were above average and rose in north Wales.

In the Upper Greensand of south-west England, at Lime Kiln Way, levels fell slightly 
but remained above the previous monthly maximum for the fourth consecutive month. 

In the Magnesian Limestone, water levels in the indicator boreholes were notably high in the north. In the other limestone aquifers, levels returned to the normal range, except at Pant y Lladron where they were exceptionally high with a rise of 5m recorded across the 24th-25th May in response to rainfall

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Groundwater outlook - from May 2014

Hydrological Outlook from May 2014
The latest Hydrological Outlook suggests that groundwater levels will continue to fall over the next 3 months, as would be expected for the time of year, as precipitation for May-June-July is likely to be in the typical range for this period.

Parts of Eastern England will continue to have below average groundwater levels, while those in North West England are likely to remain above average as levels in the Permo-Triassic sandstone respond slowly to rainfall.  Groundwater levels in Southern England over the next month are expected to be above average on the whole (with local variability from normal to exceptionally high).  Although levels may be above normal for the
time of year, high groundwater levels in the late spring and early summer are unlikely to cause any
new groundwater related flooding.

View and download the most recent Hydrological Outlook from the website.

BGS Groundwater Science works with partners to produce this monthly report which gives an outlook for river flows and groundwater levels over the coming months.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

March 2014 overview

Groundwater levels, March 2014
March was unusually typical! After several months of exceptional rainfall, rainfall totals for March were within the normal range at the national scale. Rainfall was, however, below average over swathes of England and Wales, north-eastern Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland.

The groundwater recharge season has ended in many lowland areas, with hydrographs showing falling levels.  However, levels in the index wells remain within or above the normal range for the time of year.

Areas impacted by groundwater flooding are diminishing, however, it remains an issue in some areas, such as parts of Berkshire, south London, north Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

Hydrograph at Newbridge
(Permo-Triassic sandstone, south west Scotland)
Record monthly maximum levels were recorded in Skirwith and Newbridge boreholes (Permo-Triassic sandstones of north west England and south west Scotland) for the third successive month, though levels did peak during March.

For more information, see the Hydrological Summary for March 2014 [PDF].

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

BGS research recognised in the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment

Work initiated and funded by BGS through the Groundwater Science Directorate has been recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Research published by  Chris Jackson, Alan MacDonald, David Macdonald, George Darling, Brighid Ó Dochartaigh and Lou Maurice has just been cited in the Freshwater Resources chapter (Ch 3) of the Working Group II contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5).

The Groundwater Science directorate continue to work on issues related to environmental change and groundwater resources and quality. For example, with work focussing on analysis of reconstructed groundwater levels, analysis of historic droughts (a NERC funded UK Droughts Programme project with a range of academic partners), and, along with CEH, analysis of the role of climate change as one of multiple stressors on water resources and ecosystem services across Europe with a case study focussing on the Thames Basin (the EU FP7 funded MARS project).

Montage of BGS Groundwater scientists cited in IPCC report

The papers cited are:
·         Jackson, C.R., R. Meister, and C. Prudhomme, 2011: Modelling the effects of climate change and its uncertainty on UK Chalk groundwater resources from an ensemble of global climate model projections. Journal of Hydrology, 399(1-2), 12-28
·         Guardiola-Albert, C. and C.R. Jackson, 2011: Potential Impacts of climate change on groundwater supplies to the Doñana wetland, Spain. Wetlands, 31(5), 907-920.
·         MacDonald, A.M., R.C. Calow, D.M.J. MacDonald, W.G. Darling, and B.É.Ó. Dochartaigh, 2009: What impact will climate change have on rural groundwater supplies in Africa? Hydrological Sciences Journal, 54(4), 690-703
·         Taylor, R.G., B. Scanlon, P. Döll, M. Rodell, R. van Beek, Y. Wada, L. Longuevergne, M. Leblanc, J.S. Famiglietti, M. Edmunds, L. Konikow, T.R. Green, J. Chen, M. Taniguchi, M.F.P. Bierkens, A. MacDonald, Y. Fan, R.M. Maxwell, Y. Yechieli, J.J. Gurdak, D.M. Allen, M. Shamsudduha, K. Hiscock, P.J.-F. Yeh, I. Holman, and H. Treidel, 2013a: Ground water and climate change. Nature Climate Change, 3(4), 322-329
·         Taylor, R.G., M.C. Todd, L. Kongola, L. Maurice, E. Nahozya, H. Sanga, and A.M. MacDonald, 2013b: Evidence of the dependence of groundwater resources on extreme rainfall in East Africa. Nature Climate Change, 3(4), 374-378.

Congratulations to everyone in BGS who has contributed to the IPCC reports.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Groundwater outlook - from March 2014

BGS Groundwater Science has been working with partners to develop a forecast for river flows and groundwater levels over the coming months — Hydrological Outlook UK.  You can view and download the most recent Hydrological Outlook from the website.  They are published monthly.  Here, we will summarise the latest groundwater outlook.
Hydrological Outlook from March 2014

As described in the previous post, groundwater levels in February remained high across most of the major aquifers.  Even with modest rainfall over the period to mid-April, groundwater levels are expected to remain high.

3 month outlook

Over a 3 month period (March to May), it is likely that levels will return to more normal conditions for the time of year in many areas.  Below average groundwater levels will probably persist in the Chalk of eastern England.  Levels are expected to remain high for the time of year in:

  • the southern Chalk (with an ongoing elevated risk of flooding in susceptible areas), and in
  • the Permo-Triassic aquifers of northwest England and southwest Scotland.
View or download the most recent Hydrological Outlook from the Hydrological Outlook UK website.

February 2014 overview

Groundwater levels, February 2014
Groundwater levels - February 2014

February was another exceptionally wet month, during which groundwater levels continued to rise across most aquifers.  Groundwater flooding occurred in the south and south-west of England.

Southern Chalk

Exceptional February groundwater levels were recorded over most of the southern Chalk.  Groundwater flooding was widespread from Dorset to Kent, and impacts on property and infrastructure were widely reported.  In some localities this flooding was the most severe since the winter of 2000/01.

Record monthly maximum levels were recorded at a number of monitoring sites, including:

Levels stabilised and fell overall across the south-western Chalk and South Downs by the end of the month.  However, groundwater flooding is ongoing in some areas, where it is likely to persist throughout the spring.

Northern and Eastern Chalk

Levels in the northern and eastern Chalk (East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire) rose during February but remained at or below average, with the exception of Wetwang.

Permo-Triassic Sandstones

Groundwater levels were above normal in the Midlands and north Wales, and exceptionally high elsewhere.  Record monthly maxima were recorded for the second consecutive month at:
For more information, see the hydrological summary for Febuary 2014 [PDF].

Friday, 14 February 2014

January 2014 overview

Map showing index well groundwater levels for January 2014
Groundwater levels - January 2014
January saw a continuation of the exceptionally wet weather that began in December 2013.  For example, much of central and southern England received over twice the average rainfall for January.

The persistent rainfall has led to significant recharge across the southern Chalk outcrop, with new January maxima established for six Chalk boreholes.  For example, Chilgrove House well has overflowed.  We believe this well has the longest continuous observation of water levels in the UK - the record starts in 1836 - and such artesian conditions have only happened 6 times before.  Groundwater emergence in bournes has also been observed, e.g. the South Winterbourne (Dorset), Aldbourne (Berkshire), Lavant (Hampshire) and Nailbourne (Kent).

Levels are now increasing in the northern and eastern Chalk, which received less rainfall in December, but these are still below average.

Above average levels have been observed in the Permo-Triassic sandstones of the Midlands and north Wales.  In the north-west and south-west these have been exceptionally high, with record monthly levels recorded at Newbridge, Skirwith and Bussels.

In other aquifers, levels were typically above average, with Ampney Crucis (Jurassic limestone) registering exceptional levels.

With rising water levels in the southern Chalk, concerns over sewer surcharging and groundwater flooding heightened through January; flood alerts were widespread across the southern Chalk (from Dorset to Kent, but predominantly in the west), and were also issued for the Lower Greensand in south-west Surrey. The high water levels on the interfluves will gradually feed into the lower parts of catchments over a period of weeks to months, and it is likely groundwater flooding will persist well into the spring. In some of the major river valleys (e.g. the Thames Valley), elevated groundwater levels in superficial sands and gravels are exacerbating current flooding and the risk of future flooding

For more information, see the hydrological summary for January 2014 [PDF].