Report from the BHS Working Group on the Future of UK Hydrological Research – a chance to comment

The BHS Working Group (WG) met for the first time on 26th April 2019 at the Royal Society in London. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss research priorities for UK-based hydrological scientists. A short report of the meeting can be found in Circulation Issue 142. A full report can be downloaded below. If you wish to comment on the report then please use the comments box at the bottom of the page.

The Report includes suggestions for both short and long term priorities that came out of the discussions.  A summary of priorities for the longer term is as follows:


  1. 1. Observational needs

1.1.   Discharge measurements sufficiently accurate to calculate incremental discharges downstream.

1.2.   Catchment precipitation inputs to much higher accuracies for better characterisation of catchment water balance and forecasting purposes.

1.3.   Total subsurface storage at scales useful for defining some “process response unit”

1.4.   Better characterisation of dynamic storages in different layers

1.5.   Better characterisation of controls on fluxes of water and solutes in different layers (including hot spots / hot moments / preferential flows / non-homogenous turbulence / …) in relation to soil hydrological functioning and land management


  1. 2. Modelling needs

2.1.   An open benchmark modelling framework based on scale dependent closure schemes for discretisations of the landscape (including residence/transit times and other dependent processes) with which new model developments can be evaluated more rigorously than current practice.


  1. 3. Theoretical needs   

3.1.   Upscaling/downscaling in deriving closure schemes for 2.1 and understanding hydrological patterns in the landscape.

3.2.   A framework for storing and adding to hydrological knowledge and understanding, both quantitative and qualitative.

The issue now is how to take these suggestions forward. We are looking to create some small groups to champion at least some of the priorities. If you might wish to be involved please email


In 2020, before lockdown, a meeting was convened at Birmingham University to discuss future observational needs for hydrological science.   This has led to 4 outcomes. A report of the meeting (see link below to download); the start of a summary table of current observational capabilities; a “White Paper” on observational needs (see link below to download); and an Invited Commentary in the journal Hydrological Processes.  This has been made open access by the NERC HydroJULES project and can be read for free at    


We wish to involve as many people from the BHS Community as possible in this initiative.   Unfortunately COVID has changed the original plans to have a session at BHS2020, but we do hope to organize an online discussion meeting though BHS.   In addition you are invited to contribute by adding to the comments section below.     

        Download Report of Birmingham Meeting on Observational Needs (January 2020)

        Download Table of Current Observational Capabilities (July 2020)

        Download Working Group “White Paper” on Observational Needs (July 2020)


How you can help 

We are requesting help with completing the Table of Current Observational Capabilities. If you download the file, you will see that this is still incomplete. You can email suggestions for modifications/updating of existing entries or the creation of new entries to As this information is received the table will be updated.

We are also inviting comments on the White Paper. This is intended as a basis for discussion, not as a finalised document. You can either post comments using the facilities at the bottom of this page or, if you prefer, email your comments to me at    It would be could to get some real discussion going about future strategies now that we have these baseline documents.

There has also been some progress on thinking about the future theory and modelling needs, in relation to the range of hydrological behaviours in the UK and the context of potential future change. The outcomes of this will be reported later.