A consortium led by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) has begun a 15-month study to scope the requirements for a new national floods and droughts research infrastructure.

The £500,000 investment seeks to understand the data required to improve the prediction and mitigation of floods and droughts nationally, and the infrastructure required to enable these measurements to increase the UK’s resilience to such events.

Each year river and tidal flooding is estimated to cause around £1 billion of damage to UK properties.

The National Farmers' Union estimates flooding in the winter of 2013 and 2014 which saw around 45,000ha of agricultural land flooded, cost the agricultural industry around £19 million. In recent years, the issue has become a recurring problem in many areas.

However, despite the wide-ranging effects of extreme hydrological events, businesses, industry and researchers lack much of the fundamental data required to fully understand the long-term impacts, as well as the underlying environmental conditions which may exacerbate or limit their occurrence.

The scoping study will be consultative, collecting views from a broad range of stakeholders, including the academic community, businesses, landowners, government and regulatory agencies.

The study will undertake a broad review of past and ongoing flood and drought monitoring programmes to better understand existing infrastructure both in the UK and internationally.

It will additionally consider the benefits of potential investments, such as the establishment of networks of sensors in catchments throughout the UK and the development of near real-time data to increase understanding of extreme hydrological events.

The study will be lead by researchers from the UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology and carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Bristol, Imperial College London, and the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Dr. Iain Williams, director of Strategic Partnerships at NERC, said: “This is an exciting investment for NERC. Extensively scoping this programme and reaching out to a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in flood and drought resilience will enable us to understand and develop the case for further investments across all regions of the UK.

"Such long-term national infrastructure will help us meet the demands of adapting to a changing climate and improve the UK’s resilience to extreme hydrological events.”

Prof. David Hannah, professor of Hydrology at the University of Birmingham and the scoping project’s independent Steering Committee chairman, added: “This work is much needed to better understand complex hydrological processes.

"Future investment in a national floods and droughts research infrastructure will deliver truly transformative science with benefits for societal resilience under anticipated hydrological variability and change.”