The Hydrology of the UK: A Study of Change

The Hydrology of the UK: A Study of Change

The Hydrology of the UK: A Study of Change

The Hydrology of the UK: A Study of Change


The Hydrology of the UK assesses the changing hydrology of the UK, focusing on key issues that affect the fundamental hydrological processes and have important implications for water resource management, flood risk and environmental quality.


Every professional group needs to review its practice at intervals—whether to recognise achievements or to reflect on unknowns. Hydrologists take stock at least as often as others because ours is an interdisciplinary science. Indeed, hydrology ranges from the purest science to the most applied technology. It draws together earth and life sciences, engineering and social science. Some of its practitioners address immediate political concerns, while others tackle matters of theoretical consequence.

The hydrological cycle follows water in any of its forms from cloud to land to river to sea to cloud. However, hydrology could not emerge as a subject until hydrometric measurement took root after the Renaissance and especially during the Industrial Revolution. Once river flows were quantified through seasons and years, the subtleties of their different regimes challenged the comprehension of river and water supply engineers. The link to climate was pursued vigorously and subsequent stimulus was added by the modifications caused by geology, soils and vegetation. Changes superimposed by humankind through agricultural intensification and urbanisation were to follow as topics of concern.

A major change, dated to the 1970s, occurred when hydrologists took the transformation of water quality along its natural pathways as a fruitful line of enquiry. Environmental controls on that quality were seen in the acid rain phenomenon, and in diffuse pollution from land clearance and agroforestry practices. With the change came a renewed interest in the flux of sediments and chemicals from source to sea.

As the millennium comes to a close, it is noticeable that hydrologists have been major users of remote sensing, and of information technology, including Global Information Systems (GIS). Consequently, they have become not just expert in regional environmental databases but can contribute to the many global circulation models from which climate change predictions emerge. Their ability to manipulate data warehouses of spatial and time series information coincides with the advent of the CD-ROM and the World Wide Web as accessible repositories of past and present knowledge.

Water is essential to so much that is either enjoyable or utilitarian in life

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