9 Glossary

In this glossary, the often used terms in this Guidebook are described in alphabetical order. The glossary explains how the authors used the term in the context of this Guidebook on flood risk management and governance, without scientific justification and reference. In the Index you can find for each term in which section of the Guidebook it is used.

An individual or organisation who has the power to act (or conversely to prevent others from acting), within a certain domain and certain rules of the game. Actors have an interest in the outcome of a decision process or will be affected by the consequences of a decision taken by other actors and the resulting actions.

Adaptive capacity
The ability to learn and adjust natural or human systems in response to actual or expected external changes in order to moderate harm or to exploit beneficial opportunities (

Bridging mechanisms
Tools and instruments that combat fragmentation and create synergies by linking and aligning flood risk management strategies, public and private actors from various domains and levels of decision-making, and/or other governance aspects.

Capacity to resist
The ability of the natural and human system in a specific region in terms of reducing the likelihood or magnitude of flood hazard.

Capacity to absorb and recover
The ability of the natural and human system in a specific region in terms of reducing the consequences of a flood, enabling the system to absorb a flood and/or quickly recover form a flood.

Consequences of flooding
Economic, social or environmental damage (or benefits) resulting from a flood, including causalities and harm to individuals.

Disaster management or Emergency management
The management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.


A connected set of statements, ideas, concepts, categories and stories through which meaning is given to social and physical phenomena, and which is produced and reproduced through an identifiable set of practices.

Economic efficiency
The use of financial resources in an efficient way, based on the ratio of desired outputs(s) to input(s).

Efficiency or Resource efficiency
The use of resources, including financial, technological and human resources, in an efficient way, based the ratio of desired outputs(s) to input(s).

Emergency management
See Disaster management.

Exposure to floods
People, economic, social or cultural assets and activities, livelihoods, environmental services and resources, and other elements of social or natural systems present in places that could be adversely affected by a flood.

EU Floods Directive
Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the assessment and management of flood risks, which entered into force on 26 November 2007.

EU Water Framework Directive
Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy, which entered into force on 22 December 2000.

Flash flood
Flooding via precipitation in steep catchments with fast runoff. Floods occur fast and the response time is short.

Flood defence
Strategy aiming to decrease the probability of flooding, by infrastructural flood defences, such as dikes and weirs, as well as by increasing the capacity of existing channels, increasing space for water and by creating space for upstream water retention.

Flood preparation and response
Strategy aimed at decreasing the consequences in time of flooding, by flood warning, disaster management and evacuation.

Flood recovery
Strategy aimed at a quick recovery after a flood, including reconstruction and rebuilding plans as well as compensation and insurance systems.

Flood risk
A function of the probability of a flood event and its consequences. Similarly, it can be specified as a function of three flood hazard, vulnerability and exposure.

Flood risk management
Activity involving risk analysis, assessment of risks, and identification and implementation of measures to reduce flood risks or to deal with flood risks otherwise.

Flood risk management strategy
Specific goal-oriented way of reducing flood risks or dealing with floods in another way. The five flood risk management strategies distinguished in this Guidebook are 1) Flood prevention, 2) Flood defence, 3) Flood risk mitigation, 4) Flood preparation and response and 5) Flood recovery.

Flood risk governance arrangement
Interplay (practices and processes) between the actors involved in all policy domains relevant for flood risk management; their dominant discourses; formal and informal rules of the game; and their power and resource base.

Flood risk mitigation
Strategy focusing on decreasing the magnitude or consequences of flooding through measures inside the vulnerable area, such as retaining or storing water in or under the flood-prone area, flood zoning or (regulations for) flood-proof building.

Flood risk prevention
Strategy aiming 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).

Floods Directive
See EU Floods Directive.

Fluvial flooding
Flooding by rivers or seasonal snow melt.

Good practice
Good practices are projects, instruments or other practices that have proven to be effective in order to reach the goals of flood risk management in different contexts.

Set of steering processes and practices through which decisions are taken and implemented, and decision-makers are held accountable. See also Flood risk governance arrangements (more specific).

A physical event or human activity with the potential to result in harm (e.g. the loss of life, injury, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage).

A claim to some form of power in some domain which is accepted by those over whom it is used. Legitimacy encompasses accountability, transparency, social equity, participation, access to information, procedural justice and acceptability.

Pluvial flooding
Flooding by local precipitation.

Probability of flooding
The likelihood of a flood event occurring in a certain period. For instance, a 1:100 flood has a yearly likelihood of 1/100 to occur.

Resilience to flooding
The ability of the natural and human system in a specific region to deal with disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning. It consists of the capacity to resist flooding, the Capacity to absorb floods and to recover from floods, and Adaptive capacity.

A stock or supply of money, materials, human capacity, knowledge and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organisation to exercise power and manage flood risks.

Resource efficiency
See efficiency.

See Flood risk.

Formal or informal prescriptions or restrictions on what may be done or is required to be done or may not be done, including social norms, (in)formal agreements, legislation and enforcement mechanisms.

Unity (as of a group) that produces, or is based, on community of interests, objectives, and standards. In terms of flood risk management, solidarity may mean equal safety standards or equal sharing of the cost for measures or recovery among citizens.

Principle advocating the devolution of decision making to the lowest appropriate scale, with collaboration and coordination at the highest level necessary.

Sustainable urban Drainage System. A natural approach to slow down or hold-back water that runs of from a property or other development.

Tidal flooding
Flooding by storm surges from the sea.

Ultimate aim
The objective to achieve with flood risk management. In this Guidebook we distinguish Resilience, Efficiency and Legitimacy.

Vulnerability to floods
Degree to which a natural and human system in a specific region is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of flood events.

Water Framework Directive
See EU Water Framework Directive.