Flooding in and around rivers
When rivers and their catchments are healthy, flood risk can drop significantly
Flooding is a natural event. In fact, from an ecological perspective, it’s a really important process! It can help to create new habitats, transport nutrients, and consequently increase biodiversity. However, flooding is happening on a scale far greater than ever before.
The river landscapes of today look very different from those undisturbed by human activity. Many of the wetlands which used to store water have been lost; natural, permeable surfaces have been replaced with impermeable concrete; and river channels have been straightened, meaning that water flows through them faster than before.
In many places, it’s not possible to return our rivers to a completely natural state—but we can restore some of the features which hold and slow the flow of water. We work with nature and local land managers to create nature based solutions, such as natural flood management. This reduces the risk of flash floods downstream, giving communities valuable time to protect themselves, their homes, and their businesses.
Flood-risk-reducing features have a wealth of other benefits, too. Creating landscapes which store more water makes us more resilient to periods of drought—and developing new wetlands can help to filter out pollutants in the water. Restoring rivers by re-meandering (otherwise called re-wiggling) creates a greater level of habitat diversity, making the river hospitable to more species. Adding vegetation, trees, and Natural Flood Management measures can all help to increase biodiversity.
What is Natural Flood Management?
Natural Flood Management is the use of natural materials and processes to store and slow the flow of water through a river catchment. It can include things like:
- Leaky dams: branches or tree trunks placed strategically into the river, mimicking the natural obstruction which would occur naturally. This helps to hold back water and release it slowly over time.
- Buffer strips: strategically planted strips of vegetation within a field which help to slow the flow of water running off of the land. They also help to filter out pollutants!
- Ponds and shallow scrapes: these pools are designed to fill with water during heavy rain events, which helps to prevent the river from being overwhelmed.
natural flood risk management schemes were put in place by local Rivers Trusts in 2021
At The Rivers Trust, we’ve been working to develop technical tools which help us to identify the best sites for implementing flood management measures. This helps us. Our local member Trusts then use this information to decide where to plant new trees, create new wetlands, and restore rivers.