UK National River Flow Archive Data from R

Utility functions to retrieve data from the UK National River Flow Archive (<>, terms and conditions: <>). The package contains R wrappers to the UK NRFA data temporary-API. There are functions to retrieve stations falling in a bounding box, to generate a map and extracting time series and general information. The package is fully described in Vitolo et al (2016) "rnrfa: An R package to Retrieve, Filter and Visualize Data from the UK National River Flow Archive" <>.

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The UK National River Flow Archive serves daily streamflow data, spatial rainfall averages and information regarding elevation, geology, land cover and FEH related catchment descriptors.

There is currently an API under development that in future should provide access to the following services: metadata catalogue, catalogue filters based on a geographical bounding-box, catalogue filters based on metadata entries, gauged daily data for about 400 stations available in WaterML2 format, the OGC standard used to describe hydrological time series.

The information returned by the first three services is in JSON format, while the last one is an XML variant.

The RNRFA package aims to achieve a simpler and more efficient access to data by providing wrapper functions to send HTTP requests and interpret XML/JSON responses.


The stable version of the rnrfa package is available from CRAN:


Or you can install the development version from Github with devtools:


Now, load the rnrfa package:



Retrieve information for all the stations in the catalogue

The R function that deals with the NRFA catalogue to retrieve the full list of monitoring stations is called catalogue(). The function, used with no inputs, requests the full list of gauging stations with associated metadata. The output is a dataframe containing one record for each station and as many columns as the number of metadata entries available.

allStations <- catalogue()

The same function catalogue() can be used to filter stations based on a bounding box or any of the metadata entries.

# Define a bounding box:
bbox <- list(lon_min=-3.82, lon_max=-3.63, lat_min=52.43, lat_max=52.52)
# Filter stations based on bounding box
someStations <- catalogue(bbox)

Conversions of OS grid references

The only geospatial information contained in the list of station in the catalogue is the OS grid reference (column "gridRef"). The RNRFA package allows convenient conversion to more standard coordinate systems. The function "osg_parse()", for example, converts the string to easting and northing in the BNG coordinate system (EPSG code: 27700), as in the example below:

# Where is the first catchment located?
# Convert OS Grid reference to BNG
osg_parse(grid_refs = "SN853872")

The same function can also convert from BNG to latitude and longitude in the WSGS84 coordinate system (EPSG code: 4326) as in the example below.

# Convert BNG to WSGS84
osg_parse(grid_refs = "SN853872", coord_system = "WGS84")

osg_parse() also works with multiple references:


Time series data

The first column of the table "someStations" contains the id number. This can be used to retrieve time series data and convert waterml2 files to time series object (of class zoo).

The National River Flow Archive serves two types of time series data: gauged daily flow and catchment mean rainfall.

Catchment mean rainfall:

info <- cmr(id = "3001")

Gauged daily flow:

info <- gdf(id = "3001")

For more examples and details, please see the vignette.

Terms and Conditions

Please refer to the following Terms and Conditions for use of NRFA Data and disclaimer:

This package uses a non-public API which is likely to change. Package and functions herein are provided as is, without any guarantee.

Please note that this project is released with a Contributor Code of Conduct. By participating in this project you agree to abide by its terms.



Updated to v2.0 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. Developed new function to interface new API
  2. Updated existing functions to work with the new API

Updated to v1.5 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. osg_parse now does not fail when gridRefs is a mixture of upper and lower cases, thanks to Christoph Kratz (@bogsnork on GitHub, see!
  2. fixed tests for get_ts
  3. automatic deployment of website for documentation on github

Updated to v1.4 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. osg_parse now is vectorised, thanks to Tobias Gauster!

Updated to v1.3 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. Removed dependency from cowplot package

Updated to v1.2 and submitted paper to the R Journal

Major changes:

  1. Added some utility functions (e.g. plot_trend) to generate plots in the paper

Updated to v1.1 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. testthat framework for unit tests
  2. travis for continuous integration on linux
  3. appveyors for continuous integration on windows
  4. added code of conduct
  5. renamed functions to follow best practice
  6. moved package to root directory to follow best practice

Updated to v0.5.4 and submitted to CRAN.

Major changes:

  1. Michael Spencer (contributor) updated the function OSGparse to work with grid references of different lengths.

  2. Added testthat framework for unit tests

Reference manual

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2.0.4 by Claudia Vitolo, a year ago

Report a bug at

Browse source code at

Authors: Claudia Vitolo [aut, cre] , Matthew Fry [ctb] (Matthew supervised the unofficial API integration.) , Wouter Buytaert [ctb] (This package is part of Claudia Vitolo's PhD work and Wouter is the supervisor.) , Michael Spencer [ctb] (Michael updated the function osg_parse to work with grid references of different lengths.) , Tobias Gauster [ctb] (Tobias improved the function osg_parse introducing vectorisation) , Ilaria Prosdocimi [ctb] (Ilaria contributed to the adaptation of the package to the 2019 API)

Documentation:   PDF Manual  

Task views: Hydrological Data and Modeling

GPL-3 license

Imports rgdal, curl, jsonlite, lubridate, graphics, stats, httr, zoo, ggmap, ggplot2, sp, parallel, tibble

Suggests testthat, knitr, covr, lintr, rmarkdown

Suggested by winfapReader.

See at CRAN