How smarter flood mangement can help make us more resilient to flooding

, 30 January 2017
How smarter flood mangement can help make us more resilient to flooding
Flood / Hugh Clark

By Fran Southgate

Wetlands Landscapes Officer

I’ve just had a rather unusual experience. I’ve been reading a policy document by the Green Alliance, which instead of making me want to fall asleep, makes me want to leap for joy. Policy doesn’t generally do that for me, but this document was a real breath of fresh air. The common sense summary looks at some of the money which has been spent since the year 2000 on both protecting people from flooding, and on cleaning up floods and it comes to some unsurprising conclusions.

The Smarter flood management document brilliantly summarizes how funding on flood protection is more or less back to front in its approach, and in some cases, utterly ridiculous. It’s something of a relief to read, as we’ve been trying to articulate this for a long time, but it re-iterates that England’s current approach to flood risk is contradictory and skewed towards reacting once the flooding has happened, instead of preventing or reducing the risk of the flooding happening in the first place.

Since the year 2000, over 12 billion pounds have been spent on clearing up the devastation caused by floods, and hundreds of thousands of people (as well as a lot of wildlife) have been affected. £5 billion was spent in 2015 alone. However the report reveals that twice as much money is spent on dealing with the after effects of flooding than is spent on preventing flooding in the first place.

It is particularly striking that nearly four times as much money is spent on land management that ignores or increases flood risk than on land management that helps to prevent flooding. This makes a farce out of our current flood policies and signifies the need for a complete re-think of current knee jerk reactions to flooding. The report recommends much more investment in activities which prevent flooding coming from upstream such as our Sussex Flow Initiative which uses Natural Flood Management to help reduce the flood burden in our rivers and rain gardens which help to reduce urban surface water flooding.

The Investing in resilient catchments approach makes three clear recommendations :-

  • 1.That we should use the Common Agricultural Policy or its replacement to reward land management that helps to prevent flooding.
  • 2.Establish a dedicated fund for natural flood management and
  • 3.Set up regional Catchment Management Boards to create an integrated system of managing floods.

I couldn’t agree more, although we also need to acknowledge the role that building and construction plays in increasing flooding – creating non permeable concrete and tarmac surfaces, which cause huge amounts of water to run off over short spaces of time, flooding homes and businesses.

Overall though, this report is a concise and intelligent document, and as policy goes, a rather good read! You can find the document at

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