This is now my third post about flooding, and it is raining again. First I posted about flooded lanes near Mill Meece and the ditches by Century Wood almost bursting their banks, and then two weeks later when the water level was much lower. During this time I’ve gathered some useful links with live information and predictions about water levels in England, which I describe in this post. I hope this will be useful to other wood owners and woodlanders in general. There are similar resources in Wales and Scotland.
On the face of it, rainfall observations and forecasts from the MET Office and other meteorological services should tell you what the local water levels are. However, water doesn’t run off hills and even fields immediately, and there may even be active management of water levels with sluices being opened or closed.
The most immediately useful data comes from the Environment Agency’s (EA) network of monitoring stations. Their River and Sea Levels in England site has maps and a search box which let you find stations on watercourses in the area of your land. Some show records over longer time ranges than others, but in all cases you can hover over the line with your mouse pointer to get measurements at several times each day.
One approach is to record when nearby ditches or streams are high or low in your area in your woodland logbook (you do keep some kind of diary, don’t you? 🙂 You can then compare this to the numbers from the charts on the website, and get an idea what different measurements correspond to on the ground.
River Levels UK has similar charts based on the EA data, with more historical data shown, and even links to the raw data going back years which you can cross reference with your own records and photos of extreme water levels. There are yet more alternatives, which reuse EA data as part of the government’s Open Data initiative.
More well known are the flood alerts and warnings published by the EA on their website, and often featured in TV weather forecasts and news reports.
The same site also has maps of long term flood risk, which can be used as estimates of whether high water levels are likely to flood your land or not. The alert levels on these maps correspond to the levels on the live charts from the EA monitoring stations.
There are also networks of webcams showing live feeds of river levels, including Farson Digital’s Watercams site.
With all this data at your fingertips, it should be possible to convert warnings from an agitated weather forecaster on TV into your own prediction of what will happen to your wood and when, hours or even days after the heavy rain itself passes through.