Measuring resilience to flooding and coastal change

We’ve looked at ways to measure changes in resilience to flooding and coastal change over time


FRS20288 Report - Measuring resilience to flooding and coastal erosion

FRS20288 Supporting paper - The challenges of using social resilience indicators


The aim of this research project was to determine what measurements could be used to track changes in resilience to flooding and coastal erosion locally and nationally in England.

Monitoring trends in resilience over time will allow for a better understanding of the impact of government policy and demonstrate progress against implementation of the Environment Agency’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy.


The research team worked together with over 100 FCERM stakeholders to design a range of potential indicators of flood and coastal resilience. The project secured input from stakeholders together with documented evidence to understand how local and national resilience can be developed, supported or strengthened by different resilience actions, and how potential indicators could work in practice.

The project produced 4 ‘use cases’ of different flooding, erosion and local contexts to consider what resilience means and how it could be tracked locally. The project also captured feedback from stakeholders on the proposed indicators, including what existing data was available for tracking progress and how data could be collected to populate the indicators.


The project identified a set of 34 indicators that could be used to track changes in resilience under the headings of ‘placemaking’, ‘better protect’, ‘respond’ and ‘recover’. Examples of indicator topics include: land use, development and adaptation plans; property flood resilience, nature-based solutions and asset condition; flood warnings and community participation; and insurance and rate of recovery. These indicators could support the development of a baseline of resilience at the national and local levels and helping to drive a change from a focus on flood protection to embracing a broader range of resilience actions. The indicators can also have an impact on decisions for social, economic, institutional, environmental and physical resilience.

The project identified where indicators are ‘ready now’ and can be measured by data or information that is already available. It also identified indicators that will need ‘further development’ before they can be used.

Using the project findings

This research is the foundation for building an agreed approach to measuring resilience over time to demonstrate progress against the FCERM Strategy.

The Environment Agency will use the research findings to further test and refine the proposed indicators. Informed by this research, Defra will update on progress to develop a national set of indicators in spring 2023.

This research does not represent a final position on which indicators the Environment Agency, Defra or others may adopt.

A Welsh translation of the summary is also available.

Supporting Paper

The supporting paper gives an overview of issues and existing work on social resilience from disaster and hazards literature. It reviews the indicators available in England at a community or local level. The paper then presents 2 case studies which explore the practical issues in estimating community resilience at this level in England. This leads on to a discussion of the challenges and opportunities for creating social resilience indicators for flooding.

The paper identifies the difficulty in operationalising social resilience indicators due to:

  • lack of publicly available data

  • different geographical boundaries used in different data sets

  • the age of the available data limiting its accuracy

However, despite the challenges associated with using social resilience indicators, they should not detract from their benefits. We need to work towards improving the data available and develop a more sophisticated and inclusive resilience framework.

Project managers: Hayley Bowman and Kate Kipling, FCERM Research, Environment Agency.

Published 27 April 2021
Last updated 14 November 2022 + show all updates
  1. Full report uploaded. Summary modified by adding details, approach, findings and using the project findings.

  2. Welsh translation of the summary uploaded.

  3. Supporting paper published under documents heading. Summary of paper added to webpage body.

  4. First published.