After a tempestuous winter, weather patterns in March were more typical of a normal early spring. It was a notably mild month and rainfall totals were in the normal range at the national scale but generally below average across southern Britain and particularly dry in some eastern areas.

Generally, river flows declined substantially through March but contrasts in catchment geology exercised a strong influence on runoff patterns. Flows in permeable southern catchments remained high and groundwater flooding persisted throughout the month in some vulnerable locations.Map or river flows for March 2014

The assessment is contained in the latest monthly hydrological summary for the UK, the most authoritative analysis of water resources status in the country. The monthly summaries are produced by the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme, operated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in conjunction with the British Geological Survey.

Despite mostly modest replenishment during March in some areas, stocks in all index reservoirs (or reservoir groups) remained more than 90% full entering April, and close to capacity in many. Soil moisture deficits began building from early March across most of the English Lowlands and groundwater recharge was seasonally modest across most major aquifers.

Summary author, Terry Marsh from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “The legacy of the exceptional winter rainfall ensures that groundwater levels in most index wells and boreholes remain notably high for the early spring. Correspondingly, the water resources outlook is very healthy and particularly so across southern Britain.”

The summary reports:

  • For the UK as a whole, the winter half-year (October-March) was the wettest in a series from 1910 and, with the exception of Anglian and Yorkshire, all regions were notably wet in this timeframe.
  • Early March witnessed the end of a remarkable river flow runoff episode as outflows from Great Britain fell below average (for the time of year) for the first time since the third week of December. During this period, the 90-day average outflow exceeded the previous highest, in a series from 1961, by an appreciable margin.
  • In March 2014 some parts of eastern and central England recorded sequences of 15 or more days with precipitation largely restricted to fog-drip and accumulated totals less than 1mm.

The monthly summary is a look back at hydrological events occurring in March 2014. For the latest information on flood warnings please visit the Environment Agency.

A PDF of the full 12-page March 2014 summary can be downloaded here. [PDF 1.84MB]

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology jointly operates the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (for the UK) in conjunction with the British Geological Survey. NHMP scientists produce the UK Monthly Hydrological Summary which assesses rainfall, river flows, groundwater and reservoir levels. They also operate the UK’s National River Flow archive. The NHMP also has a remit to analyse major flood and drought events in the UK and analyse long term trends in UK hydrological data. The UK Monthly Hydrological Summary is published on, or before, the tenth working day, of the following month. A Hydrological Outlook for the UK is also available.

Additional information

Read the full March 2014 Hydrological Summary for the UK [PDF, 1.84MB]

Hydrological summary archive - dating back to December 1988

Details of the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme

Latest Hydrological Outlook for the UK

National River Flow Archive

CEH blog: Winter 2013/14 rainfall records at CEH's Wallingford meteorological station

Media enquiries related to the Hydrological Summaries should be directed to the CEH Press Office. Our scientists can provide explanation and analysis of historic hydrological patterns, possible future scenarios under climate change and scientific understanding of the current situation. We are not able to comment on immediate operational issues.

If you wish to reproduce figures from the Monthly Hydrological Summary please respect the copyright credits contained within the document.

Key for river flows graphic:

Key for riverflow graphic

You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via Twitter and our RSS news feed.

Science areas: