Leading the way in Natural Flood Management

Interest in new green approaches to flood risk management, also known as Natural Flood Management (NFM), has grown dramatically in recent years following a spate of significant flooding events and the need to look for more solutions.

We have been at the cutting edge of these approaches for 10 years and were selected by the Environment Agency to lead a national project to bring together the evidence on the effectiveness of NFM and also to produce maps of the country identifying where NFM might be applicable.

If properly assessed, planned and executed NFM can not only reduce the risk of flooding to people, property, businesses and infrastructure, but also increase the resilience of both existing and new hard flood defences to projected climate change effects. It also generates multiple other benefits for the environment and people.

NFM is part of an approach to flooding known as Working with Natural Processes (WWNP) which can reduce flood risk through protecting, restoring and emulating the natural regulating function of catchments, rivers, floodplains and coasts. We led the Environment Agency’s two-year research programme into these flood management techniques.

Lydia Burgess-Gamble, the Environment Agency project manager for the new WWNP Evidence Base, identified four key messages from the work:

  • Working with natural processes is not a new concept
  • It works for smaller more frequent floods in small to medium catchments
  • It can complement hard engineering schemes
  • It almost always achieves multiple benefits for the environment and people

The new WWNP Evidence Directory launched last week and consists of:

  • Evidence – what we know and don’t know about the effectiveness of 14 natural flood management measures in catchment and coastal areas, together with the benefits they can bring to people and the environment. It features 65 case studies, which are being hosted by the JBA Trust, from across the country including Pickering and areas surrounding the three major Yorkshire Rivers.
  • Interactive Maps – these identify different types of natural flood management measures that may work in a catchment and where you can potentially locate them.

Steve Maslen, Head of Environmental Services, commented, “The Evidence Base and new Maps now provide valuable tools for all those people and organisations interested in managing flood risks more sustainably.”

This two-year project, also identified knowledge gaps that need to be investigated to improve the evidence base. These gaps will be addressed through three major pieces of research that have just been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). We will be involved in two of these pieces of research working with the University of Reading and the University of Lancaster to assess the effectiveness of natural flood management in both lowland and upland landscapes.

Want to know more?

Contact Steve Maslen or visit our Natural Flood Management web page for more information.

The Environment Agency’s presentation explains the Evidence Directory in more detail.

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