2.1 Flood risk management strategies

Flood risk management in European Member States has traditionally focused on structural solutions to defend against flooding, and this ethos can be described as: ‘keeping the water away from people’. However, it is now widely recognised that Flood Risk Management requires a mixture of options aimed at minimising both the probability and the consequences of flood events. For example such a diversified approach is recommended in recent policy documents such as the EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) and the UNIDSR Hyogo Framework for Action. In the STAR-FLOOD project we have made a distinction between five flood risk management strategies, which can be combined in a diversified approach. These strategies are illustrated in Figure 2.1.

figuur 2.1 flood risk strategies

In this Practitioners Guidebook we have clustered the five strategies  by relevance to the three main occasions, before a flood, during a flood and after a flood[1]:

  1. Before a flood event:
    1. Flood risk prevention aims to decrease the consequences of flooding by decreasing the exposure of people and property via measures that prohibit or discourage development in areas at risk of flooding (e.g. spatial planning, re-allotment policy, expropriation policy). The main focus of this strategy is to “keep people away from water” by building only outside flood-prone areas.
    2. Flood defence measures aim to decrease the probability of flooding. This is accomplished using infrastructural flood defences, such as dikes and weirs; by increasing the capacity of existing channels; by increasing space for water and by creating space for upstream water retention. In other words, ‘keeping water away from people’.
    3. Flood risk mitigation focuses on decreasing the magnitude or consequences of flooding through measures inside the vulnerable area. The magnitude of flooding can be decreased by retaining or storing water in or under the flood-prone area (e.g. rain water retention). The consequences can be reduced by flood zoning or (regulations for) flood-proof building.
  2. During a flood event:
    1. Flood preparation and response measures include developing flood warning systems, preparing disaster management and evacuation plans and managing a flood when it occurs.
  3. After a flood event:
    1. Flood recovery, includes reconstruction and rebuilding plans as well as public compensation or private insurance systems.

[1] The division between before, during and after a flood is based on the risk management cycle and resilience literature. Yet, it is rather intuitive and not always clear-cut. For example, flood warning systems and evacuation plans that fall under the strategy of flood preparation and response should already be developed before a flood in order to function well. For recovery mechanism such as insurance the same is valid. Furthermore, strategies may be interlinked. For instance, a high insurance premium in a high risk area may have the effect that people will not build there (prevention), or will take measures to flood-proof their houses (mitigation).

Textbox 2.1. Link with the Floods Directive (2007/60/EC)
Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks – or in short the Floods Directive – entered into force on 26 November 2007. This Directive requires Member States to: (1) assess the risk from flooding to water courses and coast lines, (2) map the flood extent, assets and humans at risk in these areas; and (3) take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this flood risk.

The Directive also reinforces the rights of the public to access flood risk information and to have a say in the planning process.

The Floods Directive is carried out in coordination with the Water Framework Directive. Flood Risk Management Plans and River Basin Management Plans are coordinated, through the public participation procedures in the preparation of these plans.

The implementation of the Floods Directive has, and will continue to influence flood risk governance in EU Member States. For some countries it is a major driving force for change. With the finalisation of Flood Risk Management Plans in 2015, the first cycle of implementation of the Floods Directive has come to an end. STAR-FLOOD analysed the influence of the Floods Directive on flood risk management and governance and delivers lessons for improving the second cycle of implementation. These lessons are described in the deliverables “Design oriented framework (D5.2)” and the forthcoming “Policy briefs (D7.3)” (see §8.2.1.).