Flood hydrology roadmap sets out 25-year vision to help predict and manage flood risk

Cars in a flooded river

Lancaster experts have contributed to a flood hydrology roadmap that sets out a vision to help scientists and practitioners better predict future flood events and improve flood resilience across the UK.

The roadmap, launched by the Environment Agency, brings together the views of more than 100 experts from over 50 organisations. It will improve hydrological data, models and science which can be used to inform how we adapt to flood risk from our rivers, surface water, groundwater and reservoirs.

These models will underpin flood risk management for decades to come, with benefits to areas including:

  • design and maintenance of flood defences;
  • national and local flood risk assessment and mapping;
  • the design and operation of flood forecasting and warning schemes;
  • design and operation of sustainable drainage systems; and
  • understanding the impact of climate change on future flood risk.

The roadmap will also help us understand the impact of climate change on flood risk and will support modelling of past and future climate change impacts.

Rob Lamb, Professor in Practice at Lancaster University, Director of JBA Trust, was involved with developing the project’s proposal and plans, supported the lead author, and was a member of the roadmap steering group.

He said: “By bringing together the views of scientists and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and sectors, the roadmap advances flood hydrology both as a technical discipline and as a profession. It is a landmark report that will shape hydrology and flood management for years to come.”

The roadmap project also involved a machine learning experiment by Lancaster University graduate student Henry Moss, supervised by Professor David Leslie of Lancaster University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. They aided a focus group process within the creation of the roadmap by applying automatic language processing to cluster questionnaire responses into groups. This produced results in seconds that would normally take focus groups hours to achieve.

The Environment Agency has already secured £6.9 million over six years to start delivering on the roadmap and is working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resource Wales, Department for Infrastructure Northern Ireland and UK Research and Innovation to identify routes to further funding.

Dr Sean Longfield, Lead Scientist on Flood and Coastal Risk Management Research, for the Environment Agency, and an author of the report, said: “This roadmap provides us with a fantastic opportunity to better understand the science behind flooding and will be an invaluable tool in helping us understand future flood risk.

“The Environment Agency is working hard to ensure recommendations from the roadmap are followed up on so we can develop the next generation of flood hydrology knowledge, methods, models and systems that will underpin flood and coastal risk management for decades to come.”

The roadmap is intended to cover England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland from 2021 to 2046. A Flood Hydrology Roadmap Governance Board has been established to ensure the roadmap is taken forward.

It comes as the government’s investment in flooding has doubled to a record £5.2 billion between 2021-27, creating around 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to better protect hundreds of thousands of properties across England.

The report will be available to view here: flood hydrology roadmap

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