Water Topic 1

Variability and change in water systems

Water Topic 1 (WA-1) addresses the detection and attribution of system responses to environmental drivers – monitoring and modelling over the longer term and larger scales including analysis of uncertainty

The science of Topic WA-1 is delivered through four inter-related areas of research:

  • WA-1.1 Continued long-term monitoring and integrated observation of freshwater systems
  • WA-1.2 Quantifying variability in water quality, quantity and ecosystems health
  • WA-1.3 Model, attribute and predict impacts of climate and land cover change on hydrological and freshwater systems
  • WA-1.4 Management and dissemination of freshwaters data

The focus of these four research areas is to:

1. Maintain and improve our monitoring capability for key variables at sites of national importance.

2. Identify trends and patterns, both in central tendency and variability of key descriptors of the physical, chemical and biological condition of rivers and lakes.

3. Maintain and disseminate consistent data and methodologies for the application of scenarios of climate and land cover change, and assessing the robustness and uncertainty of models to predict beyond the range of historical data.

4. Develop, and support the implementation of, a framework for the management of data within the Water Programme (in collaboration with, and with the support of, the Environmental Information Data Centre – EIDC).

These activities inform and are informed by their counterparts in the Biogeochemistry and Biodiversity Programmes and the EIDC.

External support and collaboration

Topic WA-1 undertakes a broad range of research which is supported by numerous stakeholders. These range from members of the public through to agencies and governmental bodies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the National Biodiversity Network and the European Union.

Areas of research

Areas of research relevant to Topic WA-1 include:

  • Freshwater microbial ecology
  • Hydroecology
  • Long-term chemical and biological monitoring of lakes
  • Monitoring upland forested catchments
  • Hydrology and ecological/chemical functioning of lowland permeable catchments
  • Assessing the condition of Scottish standing waters
  • Quantification of trends and variability in water systems
  • River flow frequency estimation and forecasting
  • Assessing water resources in a changing world
  • Sustainable management of freshwaters and wetlands

Collaborative research projects

Topic WA-1 participates in many collaborative projects. Examples include:

National Capability activity

National Capability activity within Topic WA-1 includes:

  • Data holdings (e.g. National Water Archive, Flood Estimation Handbook datasets)
  • Operation of key nationally distributed long-term experimental and monitoring field sites (e.g. LOCAR, Boxford, Plynlimon, Cumbrian Lakes and Loch Leven)
  • Hydrological observatories from Source to Sea (Tay, Ribble, Conwy, Thames)
  • Freshwater Ecological databases, monitoring, data coordination and supply (e.g. National Invertebrate Database)
  • CEH Intelligent River Network
  • Informed expert integration, interpretation and analyses of a wide range of national datasets
  • Ability to analyse large-scale spatial and temporal environmental datasets using modern statistical techniques