Improved Forecasting Model For Surface Water Flooding Developed

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs has been working on developing and trialling improved capabilities for predicting surface water flooding to help the Met Office and Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre improve guidance for first responders on the possible impacts of surface water flooding.


Approximately three million properties across England and Wales are at risk of this kind of flooding, as are rail and road infrastructure.


The new Surface Water Flooding Hazard Impact Model (SWFHIM), developed to improve management for surface water flooding, has produced impact severity maps to improve the information in flood guidance statements, which includes five-day assessments of surface water flood risk at the county level for England and Wales.


Situations can now be forecast that could cause flooding, put communities at risk and threaten lives and livelihoods. The Flood Forecasting Centre expects to use the SWFHIM in forecasts from this year.


Last year, Sir James Bevan – chief executive of the Environment Agency – explained in a speech during the CIWEM Surface Water Management Conference that the reality is that surface water flooding is a “real and growing threat – to life, to property, to the economy, to the country”.


The reason this is the case is because of the reach of this kind of flooding and the effect it can have not just on homes and businesses, but the entire infrastructure of a town or city, “disrupting pretty much all aspects of modern life”.


Sir Bevan went on to say that this kind of flooding generally hits communities that can least afford it the most, with urban areas especially susceptible because of the amount of concrete to be found. Poorer urban areas with high density housing are the most at risk, because of the number of people and parking spaces and paved drives that don’t absorb rainwater.


Population growth means that there are more people at risk and a growing urban population means more people now live in cities, where the effects are more keenly felt. The impact of climate change will also see more flash flooding and overloading of the sewerage network and the Environment Agency has now improved how flooding is forecast.


People are now provided with better information so they can see if they’re at risk – which you can do online with ease. In addition, the manner of response when flooding threatens has also been upgraded so that more people can be deployed more quickly to more places when help is needed.


Record levels of investment in flood defence construction projects are also now being made, with £2.6 billion set to be invested to offer further protection to 300,000 homes come the year 2021.