What’s the issue?
Flooding presents a serious threat to our water environment and biodiversity. The effects of climate change means that we are predicted to experience increased frequency and intensity of rainfall which may lead to extreme flood events becoming more common in the future.
In November 2007, the EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) came into force. Its purpose is to establish a framework to assess and manage flood risk and to reduce the adverse consequences of flooding on human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity. Member States are required to identify areas at risk from flooding and to develop management plans to prevent flooding and to protect these areas. The environment, climate change and sustainable land use practices must be taken into account when developing these plans.
In 2018 the Office of Public Works (OPW) published Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) for each of our 29 river basins (as required by the Flood Directive). The plans set out proposed measures for managing flood risks within the river basin. The plans can contain both structural and non-structural measures.
Traditional, reactive flood defence works involve many types of physical modifications which can deteriorate and impair the hydromorphological conditions of water bodies, including structure of the river bed and of the riparian zone. In turn this can lead to increased flooding further downstream and deterioration in biodiversity.
What needs to change?
The Floods Directive must be aligned with the Water Framework Directive (WFD) mainly through the coordination of the FRMPs and River Basin Management Plans. The FRMPs must take the environmental objectives of the WFD into account, as well as characteristics of the river basins, while also promoting sustainable land-use practices and improvement of water retention.
SWAN is advocating for the increased use of natural water retention measures or ‘nature based solutions’ for flood management. Some of these measures include river restoration, protecting and restoring coastal habitats such as saltmarshes and reconnecting floodplains, among others. The use of natural water retention measures provides benefits beyond enhanced biodiversity and flood mitigation, often such measures can also improve water quality, air quality and can mitigate the effects of climate change.