Natural Flood Management

What is Natural Flood Management?

Natural flood management (NFM) is when natural rather than structural processes are used to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. These may involve reinstating the natural meander of a river further upstream, changing land management practices so water is absorbed more readily or improving water flow through built-up areas to limit the flood risk.

There has been much discussion in our local communities about the future risks of floods following the devastating effects of Storm Desmond in 2015. Conversations have been made around the need for an approach that surveys the challenge as a whole rather than pushing the problem ‘downstream’.

Catchment-based Flood Management

The Environment Agency has used animation to illustrate a catchment-based approach to flood management. This harnesses green engineering solutions like tree planting and natural flood plains to mitigate flooding throughout the length of a watercourse. If NFM is a concept relatively new to you then it's a good place to start as to what measures can look like and the impacts they can have.

The Evidence behind Natural Flood Managment

There is much evidence from The Environment Agency of successful NFM measures they’ve employed that have reduced the flood risk of smaller floods across small to medium catchment areas.

The agency has produced a high-level summary of key findings from their Evidence Directory. This allows flood risk managers an overview of the different types of natural flood management with further reading and case studies.

Natural Flood Mananagement In Action

Cumbria Woodlands was funded by Cumbria Community Foundation via the Farmer Network to promote natural flood management and provide education events and resources on the topic, relevant to Cumbria, its landscapes and land use. As part of this work, we hosted a webinar, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, about practical application of NFM. We also produced some short video resources about NFM as applied at Birds Park Reservoir above Kendal, the town most impacted by Storm Desmond in 2015.

NFM Options

Dave Kennedy explains how different NFM methods can be used in different landscapes and amongst existing land use and designations.

NFM and Ecology at Birds Park

Dave Kennedy shows how the ecology and biodiversity of an NFM site can benefit as a side effect from the installation of flood measures.

Natural Flood Management Webinar

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - the practical application of Natural Flood Management

Our speakers were: Philip Roe, Forester with Forestry England, talking about the Slow the Flow, Pickering; Huw Thomas, Project Manager Hydrologist with Forest Research; and Dr Paul Quinn, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (and a special advisor to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee on flooding) speaking about Belford, Northumberland.

Natural Flood Management for Farmers

  • The Farmers View - This article highlights research undertaken by CREW, Centre for Expertise for Waters. They looked at the barriers farmers have that limit the implementation of natural flood risk management on their land.
  • Natural Flood Management Measures - West Cumbria Rivers Trust have developed a practical guide on natural flood management measures for landowners and farmers in the North West
  • SRUC Natural Flood Management, A Farmer's Guide - SRUC, Scotland's Rural College have produced a similar publication for landowners and farmers in Scotland

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