2 Current management of flood risk |
12. Defra is the lead Government department for all
flood risk in England. In practice, however, the Department's
day-to-day involvement with flooding is limited. Responsibility
for flood risk management has now almost entirely been devolved
to the Environment Agency ('the Agency'), an associated public
body of Defra. Flood risk management consumes over half of the
Agency's £1 billion budget, which it spends on building and
maintaining flood defences, producing flood maps of areas at high
risk and running its flood warning system.
The Agency is also currently developing Catchment Flood Management
Plans, to cover all of England (and Wales) by 2009.
These are strategic plans intended to assess current and future
flood risks across a whole river catchment area, and to co-ordinate
action accordingly. It is also developing 11 River Basin Management
Plans for completion by 2009, as required under the Water Framework
main flooding responsibilities now involve providing funding to
the Agency, and setting the Agency targets (such as the number
of houses to be protected for a certain investment).
13. The summer 2007 floods highlighted two overarching
weaknesses with the general approach to flood risk management
in England. The first relates to flood risk type. There are four
main recognised types of flood riskriver flooding, coastal
flooding, surface water flooding, and groundwater flooding. The
2007 floods revealed that, to date, most organisations have focussed
almost exclusively on river and coastal flood risk,
and much less so on the risks associated with surface water and
groundwater flooding. This is apparent even in the current Governmental
organisational structure. The Environment Agency is the lead delivery
body for flood risk management. However, many of its main responsibilitiesincluding
its flood defences, maps and warning systemsare geared
to river and coastal flooding only. We also received criticism
that Catchment Flood Management Plans and River Basin Management
Plans did not effectively address typical 'inland' kinds of flood
risk, such as surface water flooding.
These limitations were apparent during the events of summer 2007the
largest surface water flooding event ever experienced in the UK.
The Government has acknowledged that the experience of 2007 "suggests
that surface water flooding may be more of a problem than was
once thought to be the case".
We discuss surface water flooding in more detail in Chapter 3.
14. The second main, broad, drawback with the management
of flood risk in recent timesagain accentuated during the
events of the summeris that flooding, as a policy issue,
has tended to be dealt with largely in isolation from other issues.
For example, the Government strategy document Making Space
for Water (2004) did not explore in detail how flood
risk management could be combined effectively with some other
aspects of water management, such as water reuse. Some other European
countries have a more 'integrated' approach to water management,
whereby several water-related issues (water demand and supply,
flooding, drought, pollution caused by runoff, and so on) are
considered together. In Germany and France, there has been widespread
diffusion and adoption of sustainable water practices since the
1980s, including common use of sustainable drainage systems which
often have multiple benefits related to flood risk, water supply
and water quality. The recent strategy document Future Water
(2007) shows that Defra recognises the benefits of an integrated
approach to water management, but the UK is still lagging behind
other European countries in some regards.
We discuss some practical policies that can arise from an integrated
approach to water management in Chapter 3.
31 2006-07 figures. Taken from: Environment Agency,
Annual Report and accounts 2006-07, July 2007, HC 834,
p 4. The Agency's flood maps are available at Flood, Environment
Agency website, www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects. Back
Committee of Public Accounts, Fourth Report of Session 2007-08,
Environment Agency: Building and maintaining river and coastal
flood defences in England, HC 175, Ev 26. Back
A map of the River Basin Districts is available at Water Framework
Directive: Find Out About Your River Basin District, Environment
Agency website, www.environment-agency.gov.uk. Back
Q 308 [Lindsey Marsh Internal Drainage Board] Back
Pitt Review, Learning the lessons from the 2007 floods,
December 2007, p 67. Back
Defra, Future Water, Cm 7319, February 2008, p 57. Back
Integrated Water Management is generally considered to cover integration
across catchments, between functions, and between land and water
management. Whilst the UK has developed integration across catchments
over the last 70 years, with the end of the experiment of Regional
Water Authorities, functional integration weakened and integration
of land and water management has always been weak. Back