Understanding water data from the Environment Agency

Understanding a city is not only understanding the activities of the people in and around the city. It is also about monitoring the state of the environment, to see how it affects those activities. In the MK Data Hub, we include water flows and risks of flooding in Milton Keynes through our standard APIs data feeds from the Environment Agency about water levels.

What are those feeds and what to do with them?

The original purpose of making such data feeds available is naturally related to flooding. Through these, we can see at different points in Milton Keynes’ territory how various bodies of water are behaving. For example, using the data feed Water Level Gauge – Bletchley – E21505 it is possible to clearly see how much the water is rising (in meters) in the river Ouzel because of rain, or other weather conditions (see live chart below). One of these feeds also show the monitoring of water flow in Broughton, where we can see how fast the water is going in cubic meters per second (see live chart below). Through using such data feeds, it would be possible to create a flood warning system providing alerts when the water levels are much higher than usual. Naturally, the Environment Agency already provide such a system, which is integrated into the MK Data Hub as an event feed. This feed generates an event for every flood warning emitted by the Environment Agency, indicating the severity of the alert. There are many other potentially interesting things to do with those feeds however. They have been updating every day for about 18 months now, generating enough data to understand the behaviour of the various bodies of water they are monitoring. It would be interesting for example to use these data to check how those behaviours reflect the changes in weather as captured by various weather stations around the city, and see if water levels could be predicted based on those.

How do we get those data?

The data feeds mentioned above are all integrated into the MK Data Hub using the Environment Agency Real Time flood-monitoring API. This API provides data about the location of gauges and their readings in a dedicated JSON format on a daily basis. We therefore developed a small tool to transform those into EEML, so that they can be automatically uploaded everyday using the Data Hub’s feed writing API.