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:
- The flood problem and interventions
- An exploration of Governance Challenges
- European flood regulation
- 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.