Latest knowledge on Flood Risk Management in Europe now available

The STAR-FLOOD consortium is proud to present the latest knowledge on Flood Risk Management in Europe. The state-of-the-art knowledge is documented in four handy reports: 

  1. The  flood  problem and interventions
  2. An exploration of Governance Challenges
  3. European flood regulation
  4. Similarities  and differences between the STAR-FLOOD consortium countries

The reports present a good overview of the state of affairs in Flood Risk Management in Europe in 2013. Best practices, remaining challenges and knowledge gaps are pointed out. The next step in the project is to perform 18 case studies in 6 countries. The studies will be aimed at further specification of issues and appropriate governance solutions towards resilient Flood Risk Management.

 

A short summary of each report is provided below.  

1. The  flood  problem and interventions

This  report summarises current thinking on the  nature  of  the  flood problem,  the  intended  objectives,  and  the  consequently  appropriate  courses  of  action. It identifies the role that Flood Risk Governance needs to play to be able to fulfil Flood risk management objectives. The report concludes with the identification of knowledge gaps related to the following questions: 

  • What  kinds  of  competences  are  necessary  to  develop  appropriate  and  resilient  Flood  Risk Management  Strategies? 
  • Do  the  actors  that  are  involved  have  those  competences,  or alternatively, can additional actors that do have the competences be involved? 
  • Does the designated ‘Competent Authority’ have those competencies?

2. An exploration of Governance Challenges

In  order  to  make  European  regions  more  resilient  to  flood  risks  a  broadening  of  Flood  Risk Management  strategies  (FRMSs)  might  be  necessary.  The  development  and  implementation  of FRMSs  like  risk  prevention,  flood  defence,  mitigation,  preparation  and  recovery  is  a  matter  of governance,  a process of more or less institutionalized interaction between public and/or private entities  ultimately  aiming  at  the  realization  of  collective  goals. STAR-FLOOD investigates Flood risk governance using four dimensions: actors, rules, power  and  resources, and discourses.

Major  challenges  in  the  actor  dimension  are  the necessity  to  organise  joint  working  between  relevant  actors  in  an  effective  way,  to  adequately involve  stakeholders  and  to  optimise  the  science-policy  interface.  In  the  rule  dimension  we  have found that the major challenge concerns the translation of general Flood Risk Management principles into a set of more specific organisational, substantive and procedural provisions. Efficient and joint use of resources is the major challenge addressed under the power and resources dimension. The overarching discourse-related governance challenge is the realisation of a discursive shift. Overall, our exploration indicates that FRGAs tend to be highly fragmented. The overall challenge flood risk governance has to face is the development and implementation of inspiring bridging concepts which change agents may use to create synergies between key actors involved in  flood risk governance. Concepts like Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) or climate proofing are examples of this. Empirical research is needed to further elaborate on this.

3. European flood regulation

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD) are the core of European flood regulation. The Directives provide several potential opportunities for improving Flood Risk Governance,  but it  is  not  self-evident  that  all  of  these  opportunities  will  materialise  in  all  Member States (MSs). This report indentifies the challenges and knowlegde gaps regarding the implementation of the Directives.

Instead of the more traditional top-down legalistic approach, these Directives emphasise the importance of more bottom up initiatives from the actors who have to implement the Directives. Combined with the expanded freedom and flexibility for national and local governments, with this new approach, the FD is the first Water Directive in EU law that does not offer  an  equal  minimum  level  of  protection  for  EU  citizens.  While  both  Directives  are  meant  to harmonise European legislation, much flexibility on objectives and measures in the FD is left to the MSs, justified by the nature of flooding and the subsidiarity principle. This creates multi-actor, multi-level and multi-sector challenges. For instance, the FD sets out general obligations for transboundary cooperation, but at the national level, the scope and distributions of  duties,  rights  and  powers  of  the  various  organizations  involved  should  be  set  out  in  law.  Other challenges identified in the literature are concrete issues related to mandatory flood risks assessments, flood  risk  maps,  and  Flood  Risk  Management  plans,  but  also  the  involvement  of  the  public  and stakeholders,  the  science-policy  interface,  uncertainties  related  to  climate  change  predictions  and effects,  the  coordination  with  the  WFD,  the  lack  of  safety  standards,  the  lack  of  possibilities  for  EU citizens  to  rely  on  substantive  provisions  before  the  administrative  courts  and  finally,  transboundary aspects such as issues of scale, mismatches between national policies, the assessment of transboundary effects and division of costs related to this. 

4. Similarities  and differences between the STAR-FLOOD consortium countries

This report highlights the main similarities and differences between Flood Risk Management Strategies (FRMSs) and Flood Risk Governance Arrangements (FRGAs) in the 6 STAR-FLOOD consortium countries, complemented with some interesting examples from other European countries. It also provides an  initial  check  list  of  potential  factors  explaining  stability  and dynamics in FRGAs and a list of  practical  questions related to FRGAs in the consortium countries.

The findings suggest mutual influences (but not necessarily causal relations) between experiences with floods, the institutional organisation of water governance and the types of FRMSs  actually  applied.  Notwithstanding  the  differences, similarities between The Netherlands, France, the UK and Belgium have been dentified. All these countries went through some similar stages from a dominant civil engineering paradigm, via a shift towards ‘non-structural measures’ and a wish to accommodate water, towards an acknowledgement of the need to take consequences of climate change into account. In Sweden, on the contrary, the significance of floods has been relatively low until recently (but its importance is expected to increase due to the expected consequences of climate change). On the other extreme, Poland is known to be short on resources for dealing with flood risks. An important conclusion is that FRMSs are  not  feasible  everywhere, but have to fit the specific context.