Natural flood management (NFM) involves working with nature to reduce the risk of flooding for communities. It uses various techniques to restore or mimic the natural functions of rivers, floodplains and the wider catchment. It aims to store water in the catchment and slow the rate at which water runs into rivers, to help reduce flooding downstream. NFM is also referred to as ‘working with natural processes’, ‘nature-based solutions’, ‘slow the flow’, ‘sustainable land management’ or ‘upstream management ’.
For several years, local Rivers Trusts have been implementing NFM techniques across the country in both urban and rural locations. Natural Flood Management uses natural processes to slow the flow of water, reducing the chance of flash flooding, as well as increasing water storage throughout the landscape.
Some NFM techniques include:
- Leaky dams - a series of logs across the watercourse to mimic naturally fallen trees, this helps to slow the movement of water through the catchment.
- Rain gardens and Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDs) - Often in urban areas to reduce the risk of flooding and run-off.
- Woodland creation - Tree planting (in the right places) is a fantastic, natural way to manage flood risk. The leaves can intercept rainfall, slowing the rate at which rain hits the ground and subsequently enters our rivers. In addition, the roots can help bind together the soil reducing sediment washing into our rivers. Tree planting is also a fun task for volunteers; it's a really satisfying activity that can have amazing impacts on the wider ecosystem.
- Making space for water such as wetlands and storage ponds - by storing water during extreme rainfall events, wetlands can reduce the amount of surface water elsewhere in the catchment. Wetland plants can also help filter and improve water quality. Not only that, but wetlands can also help us to adapt to our changing climate.
natural flood risk management measures were installed by local Rivers Trusts in 2022-23
Natural Flood Management in the Wyre Catchment
The Wyre Natural Flood Management project (Wyre NFM project) uses nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk in the Wyre River Catchment, using a blend of public and private finance.
The project is led by The River Trust, Triodos Bank UK, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Flood Re, Co-Op Insurance and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Dan Turner, Technical Lead for the project at The Rivers Trust, said: "We know that hard-engineered solutions alone will not address our future flood risk challenges and must be supplemented by natural solutions, but a lack of mechanisms to finance these solutions, at scale, remains a significant barrier to uptake."
This project is the first of its kind in the UK to use private finance for natural flood management measures, including the use of private investment.
The team is now applying the learnings from this model to develop projects in other locations. However, it is important to note that every catchment is different and will have it's own requirements in implementing and financing natural flood management interventions.