FloodScape seeks sustainable solutions for NW Europe
Managing flood risk today is about more than building the traditional defences of embankments, walls and barriers. Egon Walesch of the UK Environment Agency, who is also project manager of FloodScape, explains why the role of floodplains should be revisited.
In an ideal world, floodplains would be left to play their natural role and accommodate floodwater. However, in an increasingly crowded world, encroaching development has led to the occupation of areas at risk from flooding.
Consequently, those at risk demand flood defences and, all too often, they believe that the protection afforded is absolute. This means that people are unprepared for the flood that exceeds the design standard of the defence.
It follows that flood risk management must address the residual risk, public awareness of risk and the need for different approaches. This in turn means that we need to find new ways of managing floodplains and gaining public acceptance of these changes and the inherent flood risk.
As a society, we need to learn to live with flood risk. This is the premise behind the Flood-Scape project.
Hard engineering it is often not sustainable in the longer term. Climate change is testing the conventional techniques of flood management, that is, building walls, embankments, gates and barriers.
It is costly and no longer sufficient to build flood defences higher and assume they will never fail. This practice also has a major impact on the landscape, wildlife and people’s enjoyment of river spaces.
Recent government policy shifts dictate the need for effective new solutions that heed conservation and spatial planning as well as water management. Increasingly there is also a political and practical imperative to foster public awareness and support.
This demand for innovative, inclusive, approaches to managing flood waters has drawn together four northern European countries for Floodscape. The UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany aim to share experiences and best practice across national boundaries.
Seven pilot schemes
The initiative is assisted by EU grant aid of almost e4.4 million under the Interreg IIIB NWE programme which has levered a total of e8.8 million to fund the four year project, currently including seven pilot schemes.
Each partner is pursuing a flood action plan and jointly, they aim to reduce the costs and risks of innovation. All face similar challenges.
The Netherlands, for example, has now adopted a policy of seeking storage within the catchment rather than raising river dykes. In addition, the Dutch Rivers Region further Development (NURG) Programme promotes co-operation between three Dutch ministries and the provinces, to support national policy for the ‘Green Environment’.
Each pilot aims to contribute new sustainable landscapes combining water with nature conservation, agriculture and recreation. Three of the pilots are located along the river Thames in south-east England.
The project is looking at restoring the area around Ham to tidal flood meadow through a community-based plan. In the Thames Gateway, which is earmarked for economic regeneration and improvement, FloodScape is working with planners, developers and architects to masterplan developments with climate change and flood management in mind. And in the Inner Thames area and North Kent Marshes the scheme is exploring the possibility of re-introducing some form of tidal flooding into areas, to reduce the impact of uncontrolled and damaging flooding.
In the Netherlands, FloodScape is co-developing a flood action plan to create more space for water in the Hurwenense region. A flood storage area along the river Waal will create a new landscape for nature conservation, agriculture, recreation and accommodate the needs of the existing clay extraction industry in the flood plain.
In Belgium, FloodScape is helping to plan a new flood storage area, restoring the natural floodplain and reducing flood risk to the city of Antwerp. The project is also helping develop a plan to manage flooding and enhance recreation and nature conservation on the river Durme.
German project partners are developing a sustainable flood risk management plan for the catchments of the Fulda and Diemal rivers. A small flood retention basin at Katzenmeuhle is being constructed under FloodScape to provide better flood protection for the towns of Schauenburg and Baunatal.
The FloodScape Project will lead to the development of new ‘hard’ (in urban areas) and ‘soft’ (in agricultural and rural areas) landscapes. Its success depends on individuals and organisations from both the public and private sector understanding and embracing the reason for new landscapes and the decision making process that has led to their development.
Each pilot scheme has prepared a communication strategy that opens a dialogue with stakeholders and invites participation at various stages throughout the project.
FloodScape is also playing its part in reminding people that as well as the efforts of organisations and institutions in managing flood risk, as individuals we all have to take responsibility to ensure that we are prepared for future events.
FloodScape project partners
Environment Agency (UK)
Government Service for Land and Water Management (DLG Netherlands)
Ministry of the Flemish Community, Waterways and Marine Affairs Administration (Belgium)
Hessen Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Forest (Germany)
Federation for the Waste Water System and Flood Defence Baunatal-Schauenburg (Germany)