UK Flood Review – Improved Flood Modelling, Infrastructure Protection and Temporary Defences

The UK’s Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom yesterday set out how lessons from last winter’s floods have helped build a new approach so the nation is better prepared and more resilient to flooding, now and in coming years.

Improved rain and flood modelling, a significant increase in new temporary flood defences and greater protection to infrastructure were all outlined in the government’s National Flood Resilience Review.

The review was commissioned after thousands of houses across northern England were flooded during December last year.

There will now be £12.5 million made available for new temporary defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps, at seven strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the Environment Agency (EA) will have four times more temporary barriers than last year.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said, “last winter we saw just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the nation’s flood defences.

“Work is already underway towards £12.5 million of new temporary defences stationed around England, better protection for our infrastructure and new flood modelling that makes better use of data and technology.

“We are absolutely committed to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5 billion up to 2021 so we can help protect families, homes and businesses this winter.”

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency added, “We worked closely with the government on this review. I welcome these plans setting out how the country can become more resilient to flooding in future. The extra funding will help us to do even more for local communities so that we can better protect homes and businesses and respond even more rapidly and flexibly when extreme weather strikes.”

Protection of Key Local Infrastructure

The review also reveals utility companies’ commitment to increase flood protection of their key local infrastructure, such as phone networks and water treatment works, so they are resilient to extreme flooding.

As many as 530 key infrastructure sites across England are still vulnerable to flooding, according to the report.

Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, said “This is an important step in the fight against flooding as these new measures will help to protect communities from the perils of extreme weather.

“The government has made clear that we expect water and telecoms companies to work ever closer together to improve their preparation and response to flooding, making sure lifelines such as mobile phone masts and water treatment works continue to function even when the Great British weather is throwing its very worst at us.”

Advancements in Assessing Flood Risk

A major part of the review is a new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in England. For the first time, Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with Environment Agency modelling to provide a new assessment of flood risk.

An infographic summarising recent advancements in assessing flood risk using innovative weather and climate science. Image: Met Office
An infographic summarising recent advancements in assessing flood risk using innovative weather and climate science. Image: Met Office

Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said, “It is important that policy on flood risk is underpinned by credible and objective scientific evidence and analysis. This review used new modelling techniques to challenge our ideas around the frequency and location of extreme flooding.

“We were able to model what level of rainfall would be worse than anything that we have experienced but still possible for our climate. This information enabled us to look again at how bad coastal and river flooding could be under such extreme conditions to ensure we are better prepared. This work was overseen by an expert group brought together from across industry and academia.”

£2.5 Billion to be Invested in Flood Defences Between 2015 and 2021

This builds on the £2.5 billion already being invested between 2015 and 2021 to strengthen our flood and coastal defences, as well as spending £1 billion on maintaining the nation’s flood defences over this Parliament.

Following the National Flood Resilience Review, the government is launching four new trailblazing projects to develop, test and accelerate new ways of managing the environment; this will include a project in Cumbria, which focuses on natural flood management strategies and up-to-date modelling and data tools.

With the evidence of the National Flood Resilience Review, the government says it will now turn its attention to investment after 2021, making sure funds are directed where they are needed most.