SEPA publishes guidance on natural flood management

date21 January 2016

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published a new handbook to help local authorities and landowners implement natural flood management measures.

The Natural Flood Management Handbook was launched at an event held by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. The impact of recent flooding has shown that new ways to manage flooding are needed, and the handbook details how natural flood management can contribute, as part of a suite of measures, to help reduce the impact of frequent flooding on a smaller scale.

A key element of sustainable flood risk management involves finding ways to manage flooding at its source, rather than solely focusing on traditional engineering further down the catchment. This can include, for example, riparian planting, reinstating flood plains, restoring coastal areas or returning watercourses back to their natural shape.

These measures can play an important role in reducing flooding during smaller, more frequent, events while simultaneously delivering many other benefits.

SEPA has responsibility, under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, for co-ordinating the delivery of sustainable flood management in Scotland, and in particular to set objectives and identify actions to manage flood risk with relevant partner organisations, including natural flood management.

Heather Forbes, Senior Policy Officer in SEPA’s Flood Risk Management team, said:

“Flooding has caused devastation and misery for many people across Scotland in recent weeks, and highlighted the increasing pressure on flood risk defences. To continue to focus only on managing flooding through these traditional means is not sustainable. By managing the sources and pathways of flood waters further up the catchment, we can help to reduce the impacts on any defences downstream.


“This new handbook has been produced to guide those responsible for implementing natural flood management approaches, and provide them with the necessary information. This document will be updated as our understanding of natural flood management develops.”

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said:

“Having met with many people who have seen their homes and livelihoods damaged due to flooding over recent weeks, I am all too aware of the devastation that flooding can cause.

“The Scottish Government is working with SEPA to ensure that local authorities have the information they need to deliver flood risk management actions on the ground and last week we announced Scotland’s first national flood plan. 

“The launch of this new handbook will also provide practitioners with valuable information on how best to implement natural flood management measures.”

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