Building with Nature

Working with Natural Processes: the evidence behind natural flood management

20 March 2018 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
The UK repeatedly experienced severe flooding in recent years. This has raised the profile of Natural Flood Management (NFM) creating a prominent discussion on the benefits of working more closely with natural processes to help reduce flood risk and complement more traditional engineering responses. The aim is to manage and reduce flood risk in a more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way. On March 14 there was a conference in Edinburgh to launch the Environment Agency’s “Working with natural processes evidence base” as a comprehensive synthesis of the extensive research done on this topic.

Following the Pitt Review, the Environment Agency defined NFM has taken action to manage fluvial and coastal flood and coastal erosion risk by protecting, restoring and emulating the natural regulating function of catchments, rivers, floodplains and the coast. Although this is not a new concept, there is no comprehensive synthesis of the extensive research that has been done on this subject. Previous research has been disseminated and often not presented in a way that is accessible to FCERM and NFM practitioners.

Series of conferences
During a series of events the Environment Agency's "Working with Natural Processes Evidence Base" will therefore be launched. This evidence base has been developed to help flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) authorities understand, justify, develop and implement FCERM schemes with natural processes to reduce the risk of flooding The conferences are jointly coordinated by the Environment Agency, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Presentations of existing projects
The conference on March 14 included presentations of a range of existing projects that have successfully implemented NFM measures on the ground, through effective partnerships, using a range of funding streams. The conference also launched the NFM Network Scotland. This Scottish Government led initiative aims to provide a focal point for NFM practitioners to share knowledge, research and experience in practical aspects of assessing and implementing NFM. While the network will have a Scottish focus it will be open to anyone.

Interreg Building with Nature
The Scottish partners from Interreg VB North Sea Region project Building with Nature were well represented at the meeting with speakers such as Chris Spray Professor at the University of Dundee, Mark Wilkinson of the James Hutton Institute, Luke Comins director at Tweed Forum, Heather Forbes of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Debi Garft of the Scottish Government. Egon Baldal of the Dutch lead beneficiary Rijkswaterstaat of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management spoke to those present about the sharing of knowledge and participation in transnational efforts such as Interreg Building with Nature and the new cluster project, now called 7uP. Only in working together and integrating our knowledge can we optimize the employment of Nature Based Solutions to counter the effects of climate change.

Were you unable to attend? Please have a look at the presentations of the conference.