Environmental management – guidance

Flood risk management: information for flood risk management authorities, asset owners and local authorities

Guidance and information on flood risk management and surface water management.


The Flood and Water Management Act provides for better, more comprehensive management of flood risk for people, homes and businesses, helps safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges, and protects water supplies to the consumer.

Serious flooding can happen at any time. Climate projections suggest that extreme weather will happen more frequently in the future. This act aims to reduce the flood risk associated with extreme weather.

Guidance and information notes

Defra has issued guidance and information notes on a number of different aspects under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010:

Co-operation and sharing of information guidance

The Flood and Water Management Act places a duty on all flood risk management authorities to co-operate with each other. The act also provides lead local flood authorities and the Environment Agency with a power to request information required in connection with their flood risk management functions. Guidance setting out the high level principles of co-operation and sharing of information

Surface water management plan technical guidance

This guidance provides a simplified overarching framework which allows different organisations to work together and develop a shared understanding of the most suitable solutions to surface water flooding problems. Principally, the surface water management plan guidance has been written for local authorities to assist them as they co-ordinate and lead local flood risk management activities.

Guidance for the development of the Section 21 register and record

Lead local flood authorities are required, under section 21 of the Flood and Water Management Act, to maintain a register of structures and features which are likely to have a significant effect on flood risk in their area. This guide includes an example template for what a register of structures or features, and a record of information about those structures or features, might look like:

Sustainable development

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 requires flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities (that did not previously have such a duty) to aim to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development when exercising their flood and coastal erosion risk management functions. The act also requires the Secretary of State to issue guidance on how those authorities are to discharge their duty, including guidance about the meaning of sustainable development. The guidance for England has now been published (and the Welsh Assembly government is in the process of preparing one for Wales). Guidance for risk management authorities on sustainable development in relation to their flood and coastal erosion risk management functions.

Reservoir safety

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 amends the Reservoirs Act 1975. It introduces new arrangements for reservoir safety based on risk rather than the size of the reservoir:

  • reservoir flood mapping: on-site and off-site reservoir flood plans
  • undertakers of the highest consequence reservoirs are requested to prepare an on-site plan to support off-site emergency planning
  • flood (inundation) maps of every reservoir under the Reservoirs Act 1975 in England and Wales have been made available to Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) and to reservoir undertakers to assist them in the preparation of off-site and on-site emergency plans
  • on-site emergency plans: prepared by reservoir owners

On-site emergency plans: templates and guidance

Guidance notes

Guidance on the preparation of second generation Shoreline management plans (SMP) was published in 2006. These plans are now virtually complete in England and published on the Environment Agency’s website.

Defra’s Policy statement on appraisal of flood and coastal erosion risk management contains policies and outlines guidance for operating authorities and others involved in managing flood and coastal erosion risk. More detailed technical guidance on how to do appraisals in accordance with the Defra policy statement has been produced by the Environment Agency. The new guidance (FCERM-AG) replaces the previously flood and coastal defence project appraisal guidance. Details of how operating authorities in England and Wales should use this new guidance can be downloaded from the Environment Agency website:

Supplementary appraisal guidance

  • Treatment of agricultural land (PDF, 104KB, 7 pages) provides an update on the valuation of agricultural land – May 2008
  • Risk to people guidance (PDF, 169KB, 15 pages) covers a method for the valuation of the risk to life associated with flood risks - May 2008
  • Interim Guidance Note (PDF, 160KB, 10 pages) takes account of Defra’s policy on socio-economic equity and appraisal of human-related intangible impacts of flooding – July 2004
  • Interim Guidance Note (PDF, 235KB, 12 pages) on how changes in HM Treasury guidance appraisal and evaluation in central government (the ‘Green Book’) should be applied to appraisal of flood and coastal erosion risk management projects – March 2003
  • supplementary Green Book guidance Accounting for environment impacts. The Green Book outlines techniques for valuing non-market effects and this supplementary guidance covers the practical application of these techniques, specifically for valuation of environmental effects – February 2012
  • Coastal Squeeze Guidance (PDF, 50.6KB, 7 pages) on the appraisal and assessment of plans and projects in areas where there is an ongoing loss of habitat in European sites due to a combination of flood risk management and sea level rise – September 2005

Local flood risk management strategies: tools for support

The Environment Agency has produced tools to help Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) consider the impacts of climate change on sources of local flood risk. This will help LLFAs to develop their local flood risk management strategies in England.

As a LLFA, your local flood risk management strategy must:

  • assess the local flood risk
  • set out objectives for managing local flooding
  • list the costs and benefits of measures proposed to meet these objectives, and how the measures will be paid for

Detailed climate change information is available for each River Basin District across England and Wales. Digital geospatial maps are available for each River Basin District. These contain the latest UK climate change projections (UKCP09) that is relevant to local flood risk.

Managing flood risks: who is responsible

Defra has overall national responsibility for policy on flood and coastal erosion risk management, and provides funding for flood risk management authorities through grants to the Environment Agency and local authorities.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is responsible for taking a strategic overview of the management of all sources of flooding and coastal erosion. This includes, for example, setting the direction for managing the risks through strategic plans; providing evidence and advice to inform Government policy and support others; working collaboratively to support the development of risk management skills and capacity; and providing a framework to support local delivery. The Agency also has operational responsibility for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea, as well as being a coastal erosion risk management authority. As part of its strategic overview role, the Environment Agency has published a National Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy for England. The strategy provides a lot more information designed to ensure that the roles of all those involved in managing risk are clearly defined and understood.

Lead Local Flood Authorities

Lead Local Flood Authorities (unitary authorities or county councils) are responsible for developing, maintaining and applying a strategy for local flood risk management in their areas and for maintaining a register of flood risk assets. They also have lead responsibility for managing the risk of flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses.

District Councils

District Councils are key partners in planning local flood risk management and can carry out flood risk management works on minor watercourses, working with Lead Local Flood Authorities and others, including through taking decisions on development in their area which ensure that risks are effectively managed. District and unitary councils in coastal areas also act as coastal erosion risk management authorities.

Internal Drainage Boards, which are independent public bodies responsible for water level management in low lying areas, also play an important role in the areas they cover (approximately 10% of England at present), working in partnership with other authorities to actively manage and reduce the risk of flooding.

Highway Authorities

Highway Authorities are responsible for providing and managing highway drainage and roadside ditches, and must ensure that road projects do not increase flood risk.

Water and Sewerage Companies

Water and Sewerage Companies are responsible for managing the risks of flooding from water and foul or combined sewer systems providing drainage from buildings and yards.

Duty to co-operate

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 all risk management authorities mentioned above have a duty to co-operate with each other and to share data. A key theme of the Pitt Review was for flood risk management authorities to work in partnership to deliver flood risk management better to the benefit of their communities.

Regional Flood and Coastal Committees

Eleven Regional Flood and Coastal Committees have been established in England. These are responsible for ensuring coherent plans are in place for identifying, communicating and managing flood and coastal erosion risks across catchments and shorelines; for promoting efficient, targeted investment in flood and coastal erosion risk management; and for providing a link between flood risk management authorities and other relevant bodies to develop mutual understanding of flood and coastal erosion risks in their areas.

Department of Communities and Local Government

Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) through Local Planning Authorities have a key role in the planning process to ensure flood risk is appropriately taken into account in the planning process. The policy on how to take flood risk into account can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework. DCLG are also responsible for Building Regulations.

Contact us

Please email floodwateract@defra.gsi.gov.uk to be added to our mailing list to be kept informed of further developments.

Internal drainage board orders

Statutory notices for proposals relating to internal drainage boards.