March was a changeable month: there were dry, sunny spells and some spring warmth for most, but also wet, blustery periods and wintry interludes in places. For the UK as a whole, March was mild (the joint fifth warmest for the UK in a record from 1910) and rainfall was near-average. While some northern and western areas were significantly wetter than average, south-east England was dry, and also saw the warmest temperatures – it was the second warmest March in a record from 1910 for the Southern and Anglian regions.

The assessment is contained in the latest monthly hydrological summary for the UK written by Dr Jamie Hannaford, 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 in conjunction with the British Geological Survey.

With significant rainfall since mid-February, river flows in many upland catchments were above normal and, correspondingly, the last two months have seen delayed but welcome replenishment in most northern and western reservoirs. Steep increases have returned stocks to near- or above-average for the first time since the autumn in many impoundments, and March stocks were near-average at the national scale. However, stocks remained >10% below average at Bewl and Roadford in southern England. In south‑east England, the modest winter half-year recharge is evident in below-normal groundwater levels across much of the Chalk outcrop.

Hydrological summary river flow March

With early April also seeing little rainfall in the English Lowlands, significant recovery is unlikely before evapotranspiration rates climb steeply in late spring. Low groundwater levels (and low flows in some groundwater-fed rivers) may be expected to persist in parts of south-east England and could lead to some localised pressures on water resources later in the year.

A PDF of the full 12-page March 2017 summary can be downloaded here.

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 normally published on, or before, the tenth working day, of the following month. A Hydrological Outlook for the UK is also available, and is updated monthly.

Additional information

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.

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