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BGS publication included in Environment Agency’s review of drought in the UK

A BGS essay on groundwater and drought has been included in the Environment Agency’s review of the research and scientific understanding of drought.

05/12/2023 By BGS Press
Dry River Pang, Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire, during the drought of 2022. BGS © UKRI.
Dry River Pang, Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire, during the drought of 2022. BGS © UKRI.

The Environment Agency (EA)’s Chief Scientist’s Group commissioned a series of essays in 2022, aiming to collate and appraise the current research and scientific understanding of drought and its effects. Published on 28 November 2023, the review is the EA’s largest-ever consultation of drought experts in England and includes an essay by John Bloomfield, the groundwater resources science lead at BGS, and Christoper Jackson, BGS Head of Environmental Modelling.

The essay, Groundwater droughts in England: a review of current understanding and knowledge gaps, and opportunities and priorities for future research, addresses droughts in the groundwater component of the terrestrial water cycle in England and identifies a series of knowledge gaps that frame future research needs.

It includes an overview of groundwater drought research, observational evidence for groundwater drought in England, modelling and forecasting of groundwater droughts and a summary of the knowledge and research gaps, including opportunities for future research.

Thirteen knowledge or research gaps are outlined in the essay by BGS, with associated opportunities for future research also identified. These include:

  • a systematic review of methods used to define meteorological, hydrological and other types of drought
  • establishing instrumentation to characterise drought propagation through the full terrestrial water cycle in catchments representative of the range of hydrogeological settings in the UK
  • mapping the sensitivity of groundwater systems in England to drought

The EA’s Chief Scientist’s Group want to build on the review’s findings and identify where further research could deliver benefits for drought management and resilience, both now and in the future.

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Groundwater can provide a resilient supply of water and supports ecologically important flows during shorter droughts; however, it is particularly susceptible to prolonged droughts. We were very pleased to contribute to this initiative from the Environment Agency as it gave us the opportunity not only to benchmark BGS’s extensive work on groundwater drought characterisation, analysis, modelling and forecasting, but also to work with partners to identify the outstanding research gaps and needs across the terrestrial water cycle.


John Bloomfield, groundwater resources science lead at BGS.

This review was commissioned by the EA’s Chief Scientist’s Group, which provides scientific knowledge, tools and techniques to enable us to protect and manage the environment as effectively as possible.

Alongside the review, the Environment Agency’s Chief Scientist’s Group has also produced a blog, Creating a better place: exploring the science of droughts.  

The Environment Agency works to create better places for people and wildlife and support sustainable development.

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