England’s Environment Agency Emphasizes Importance of Natural Flood Management

The Chief Executive of the Environment Agency (EA) in England, UK has emphasized the importance of natural flood management in the fight against growing flood risk and climate change.

In a report published by the Environment Agency, Chief Executive Sir James Bevan outlined his vision for natural flood management to be seen as a core part of the nation’s defence against flooding, alongside its programme of “crucial bricks and mortar hard defences”.

The report evaluates the impact of the national Natural Flood Management Program, which received £15 million in government funding, and found that it had created an equivalent of 1.6 million cubic meters of water storage and increased flood resilience to 15,000 homes.

In addition, the programme contributed to nature recovery: improving 4,000 hectares of habitat, improving 610 kilometres of river and planting 100 hectares of woodland.

Sir James Bevan said, “The warning signs of the climate crisis are stark – and sadly devastating flooding is likely to become a more familiar sight over the next century.

“As we prepare for more extreme weather events, we must use every weapon in our armoury and Natural Flood Management will play an essential role in this.

“By harnessing the power of nature alongside our traditional flood defences, we can not only help keep communities safer but also create wildlife havens and tackle the climate emergency.”

Natural flood management (NFM) helps to slow the flow of water across the landscape – including the re-meandering of rivers, the restoration of wetlands and targeted woodland planting.

NFM measures include planting trees and hedges to absorb more water, creating leaky barriers to slow water flow in streams and ditches and restoring salt marshes, mudflats, and peat bogs. Examples can be found in Somerset and Yorkshire.

In fact between 2017 and 2021, EA invested £15 million of government funding to benefit people and learn more about NFM through 60 pilots across England. Of these, 26 were catchment scale pilots led by risk management authorities and 34 were community scale pilots led by local groups and charities (see map).

NFM Programme Projects England. Image: Environment Agency

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “We know that flooding can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, homes and livelihoods. That is why we are investing a record £5.2 billion in flood and coastal defences to ensure more communities are better prepared – and nature-based solutions are a key component of this.

“The additional benefits of Natural Flood Management for people and wildlife are vast – helping us reach our ambitious Net Zero targets, providing vital new habitats and creating areas of natural beauty for people to enjoy for generations to come.”