Kral, F.; Fry, M.; Dixon, H.

Integrated Hydrological Units of the United Kingdom: Groups
(IHU Groups)

This dataset is part of Integrated Hydrological Units (IHU) of the UK, a set of geographical reference units for hydrological purposes including river flow measurement and hydrometric data collection. Groups represent the intermediate units of IHU in terms of spatial resolution. The most common size of a group is around 400 square kilometres. Each Group carries a name constructed from names of the major river flowing through the Group, the major river flowing into the Group, the major river into which the Group flows, and sometimes also from local county names. Each Group consists of one or more Section and Groups can be combined to form Hydrometric Areas without Coastline. Identifiers and attributes have been calculated so that direct upstream and direct downstream IHU units can be selected. This layer currently covers Great Britain only as no dataset with river geometries and names with suitable detail is available for Northern Ireland.

Publication date: 2015-02-03

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Format of the data: File geodatabase

You must cite: Kral, F.; Fry, M.; Dixon, H. (2015). Integrated Hydrological Units of the United Kingdom: Groups. NERC Environmental Information Data Centre.



Study area
Temporal extent
2014-08-20    to    …

Provenance & quality

The main inputs for development of Integrated Hydrological Units (IHU) of the UK were data held by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Specifically, the cumulative catchment area raster and outflow raster from the Integrated Hydrological Digital Terrain Model (IHDTM) [1]. The vast majority of the watercourse names come from the subset of CEH UK river centreline network enriched by names from Ordnance Survey 1:50K Gazetteer [2]. Some names were obtained from or verified using other readily available sources like OpenStreetMap ( and WikiPedia ( Bespoke FORTRAN functions, part of the CEH Flood Estimation Handbook code set, were used for catchment delineation. These functions enable sensible interlocking catchments boundaries to be created for the whole IHDTM surface. The option that does not leave gaps between catchments was specified [1]. Except for the catchment delineation, ArcGIS was used as the main GIS platform. Custom Python code was developed to drive the whole process and to perform hierarchical and network tasks. The full name of each IHU Section was derived from three rivers defining the section: the largest (in terms of cumulative catchment area) inflowing river other than the main river in the Section, the main river in the Section, and the largest river flowing into the downstream Section. If no such inflows exist, words 'Source', 'Sea', or the name of the main river in the downstream Section are used as appropriate. A similar approach was adopted for IHU Group names, although group names were edited manually to a great extent to ensure they are simple and readily understood.

[1] Morris, D.G. and Flavin, R.W. 1990. A Digital Terrain Model for Hydrology. Proc 4th Int. Symposium on Spatial Data Handling. Zurich, 1, 250-262.
[2] Moore R V, Morris D G and Flavin R W, 1994. Sub-set of UK digital 1:50,000 scale river centreline network. NERC, Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford.


This dataset is included in the following collections

Integrated Hydrological Units of the United Kingdom

Supplemental information

National River Flow Archive website providing access to river flow data downloads as well as contact information for the NRFA enquirers service which provides other datasets and monthly, annual and occasional reports on river flow conditions.

Correspondence/contact details

Matt Fry
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford
OX10 8BB


Kral, F.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Fry, M.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Dixon, H.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Other contacts

NERC EDS Environmental Information Data Centre
NERC Environmental Information Data Centre
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Additional metadata

Topic categories
Inland Waters
catchment,  England Great Britain,  hydrology,  Hydrology Scotland United Kingdom Wales watershed
Spatial representation type
Spatial reference system
OSGB 1936 / British National Grid
Last updated
06 May 2022 10:01