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Large-scale river flow archives: importance, current status and future needs

By David M. Hannah, Siegfried Demuth, Henny A. V. van Lanen, Ulrich Looser, Christel Prudhomme, Gwyn Rees, Kerstin Stalh and Lena Tallaksen

Abstract

Time-series for river gauging stations are core blue-skies and applied\ud research resources for understanding impacts of climate and anthropogenic\ud change on basin hydrology. River flow archives hold vital information\ud for evidence-based assessment of past hydrological variability,\ud and support hydrological modelling of future changes. River discharge\ud is an integration of basin input, storage and transfer processes to the\ud gauging point. It is important to set basin outlet data in regional to\ud global and long-term contexts: to better understand nested scales of\ud variability; to pinpoint locations and time periods most sensitive to climate\ud and human impacts; to make predictions for ungauged basins;\ud and to inform decision makers on water security issues, and where and\ud when to take measures to mitigate water hazards and stress, including\ud floods and droughts (Dai et al., 2009; Bonnell et al., 2006; Feyen &\ud Dankers, 2009; Haddeland et al., 2006; Hannah et al., 2005). Thus, there\ud is clear rationale for supporting large-scale (i.e. regional to continental to\ud global) river flow archives. Notable examples of such databases include\ud that held by the WMO Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC) and the\ud UNESCO Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network\ud Data (FRIEND) European Water Archive (EWA). For large-scale river\ud flow archives to be valuable research resources, they must be fit for\ud purpose. However, these databases are at risk due to a possible decline\ud in network coverage, associated time-series truncation, growing human\ud impact on (near-) natural flows, and increasingly restricted access to\ud national-scale data. This commentary aims: (1) to demonstrate largescale\ud river flow datasets are crucial to advance hydrological science and\ud solve operational issues; (2) to assess the current status of large-scale\ud river flow datasets; and (3) to propose ways forward to consolidate historical\ud data and secure future river flow data

Topics: Hydrology
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1002/hyp.7794
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:10290
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