Assessing the value of seasonal hydrological forecasts for improving water resource management: insights from a pilot application in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)


Improved skill of long-range weather forecasts have motivated an increasing effort towards developing seasonal hydrological forecasting systems across Europe. Among other purposes, such forecasting systems are expected to support better water management decisions. In this paper we evaluate the potential use of a real-time optimisation system (RTOS) informed by seasonal forecasts in a water supply system in the UK. For this purpose, we simulate the performances of the RTOS fed by ECMWF seasonal forecasting systems (SEAS5) over the past ten years, and we compare them to a benchmark operation that mimics the common practices for reservoir operation in the UK. We also attempt to link the improvement of system performances, i.e. the forecast value, to the forecast skill (measured by the mean error and the Continuous Ranked Probability Skill Score) as well as other factors such as bias correction, the decision maker priorities, hydrological conditions and level of uncertainty consideration. We find that some of these factors control the forecast value much more strongly than the forecast skill. For the (realistic) scenario where the decision-maker prioritises water resource availability over energy cost reductions, we identify clear operational benefits from using seasonal forecasts, provided that forecast uncertainty is explicitly considered. However, when comparing the use of ECMWF-SEAS5 products to ensemble streamflow predictions (ESP), which are more easily derived from historical weather data, we find that ESP remains a hard-to-beat reference not only in terms of skill but also in terms of value.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020



  • Seasonal hydrological forecast
  • Reservoir operation
  • Forecast skills
  • Forecast value
  • Water supply
  • Operational decisions

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