Resilience in local flood risk management strategies

Local flood risk management is shifting focus, to fully embrace a wide range of innovative actions to enhance flood resilience.

In 2020, the Environment Agency’s National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (NFCERMS) for England was published. The Strategy’s long-term vision is for ‘a nation ready for, and resilient to, flooding and coastal change – today, tomorrow and to the year 2100’.

This vision is supported by three long-term ambitions, underpinned by evidence about future risk and investment needs:

  • Climate resilient places
  • Today’s growth and infrastructure, resilient in tomorrow’s climate
  • A nation ready to respond and adapt to flooding and coastal change

Flood and coastal resilience can be defined as preparedness and the ability to cope with, or recover from, flooding or coastal change, and is therefore at the heart of the national strategy.

Figure 1: Flood risk management and resilience

Ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit, the Environment Agency warned that adaptation and becoming resilient to the effects of climate change, is just as important as mitigation. Many local authorities have now declared climate emergencies.

Local Flood Risk Management Strategies (LFRMS) set out how Lead Local Flood Authorities manage local flood risk (i.e. flood risk from surface water, ordinary watercourses and groundwater). As well as how they undertake flood risk management responsibilities as required under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.

In line with the NFCERMS, it is important that local flood risk management is shifting focus, to fully embrace a wide range of innovative actions seeking to enhance flood resilience, in addition to and complimenting the flood alleviation schemes funded through the capital programme. This ambition is being further developed over the coming years by the 25 Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programmes.

The focus of conventional flood alleviation schemes is through investment to reduce the risk by reducing the probability and severity of harm posed by the hazard. However, it is not possible to provide such schemes for every community at risk, due to a range of environmental, technical and funding limitations. Adopting a wider range of alternative actions though, alongside the capital programme, can help to increase our flood resilience. Such approaches can manage flood risk by reducing the likelihood and the impact (for example natural flood management interventions in the catchment). Or these approaches might only help reduce the consequences and impact of flooding (such as property flood resilience, flood warning and emergency plans).

Figure 2: Flood resilience cycle

This combination of both traditional, engineered, flood alleviation schemes alongside wider catchment and community resilience actions, is a vital response as climate change increases flood risk. Such a strategy helps to include communities that would otherwise not qualify for an engineered scheme and hence remain at ever increasing flood risk.

By implementing these wider actions to manage the risk of flooding (by either reducing the probability and/or the long-term impact), vulnerable communities will become more resilient to flooding. Ultimately allowing them to become sustainable and thriving places to live, work and explore that are better prepared to respond to and recover from flooding.

The flood resilience cycle (Figure 2) identifies the six key themes which are fundamental to flood resilience: anticipate, assess, reduce, prepare, respond and recover. These themes provide a framework to be considered when developing LFRMS to manage local flood risk, giving a priority and focus on the need to plan, train, exercise and evaluate.

Want to know more?

For more information about our Local Flood Risk Management expertise, visit our dedicated LFRM webpage here, or email Anna Beasley.

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