Over recent years technological advances have started to feed into the hydrology research field. This has resulted in real-time river flow monitoring now being possible. The acquisition of real-time river flow data is an essential component for flood forecasting and allows for the validation of rainfall-runoff and hydraulic modelling approaches whilst also providing information directly to key stakeholders.

Knowing the peak flow rate of rivers and streams during floods is necessary for the successful management of flood incidents, for developing accurate flood models and ultimately for helping protect people and businesses from the impacts of flooding.


This research, undertaken by Newcastle University, utilises non-contact sensors and platforms to deliver this real-time river flow information. This enables flood flow properties to be monitored at multiple locations across a river catchment, at low-cost, and communicated in near real-time.

From this the measurement of fundamental hydraulic processes, with the potential for enhanced flood warnings, during high magnitude events when traditional river gauging methodologies often fail can be undertaken.

TENDERLY (Towards END-to End flood forecasting and a tool for ReaL-time catchment susceptibilitY)

Through working firstly as part of Project SINATRA and now as part of Project TENDERLY within the NERC Flooding From Intense Rainfall (FFIR) programme research undertaken at Newcastle University has helped:

  • demonstrate the impact of image based non-contact methods for quantifying flash flood events
  • advance new techniques for providing real-time hydraulic data which can aid flash flood event forecasting methods; and
  • establish an online image-based hydrometric monitoring network nested within current operational monitoring platforms of the Environment Agency (EA) / Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

More information on the FFIR programme can be found on the ‘About FFIR’ page and also here.

The innovative techniques and outcomes produced from the research have since been applied internationally with research being undertaken in Chile in collaboration with national government agencies to provide better flood warnings.

This next stage of the research will help to develop a low cost tool kit for the implementation of the hydrological monitoring systems in low income countries. This approach can be used for short-term, early warning to protect lives and infrastructure, as well as longer-term areal coverage where the established national network cannot cover, with direct development implications including hazard maps and infrastructure site planning.