Only a third of local authorities have enough staff to manage flash flood risk, experts find 

Click here to read the report

CIWEM has published a new report, funded by the Association of SuDS Authorities (ASA) and the Local Government Technical Advisory Group for Flood Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM), on Surface Water Management.

Risk Management Authorities (RMAs), particularly local government, are significantly under-resourced to manage surface water flood risk.

Only a third of RMAs that responded to a survey for the report said they have a full complement of staff to deliver surface water management and three quarters of RMAs are struggling to recruit new staff. The report also suggested half of the RMAs who responded don’t have locally ring-fenced budgets to manage surface water flooding.

Meanwhile, more than five million households are reported to be at risk from this form of flooding. Surface water management in England is not consistently coordinated or supported with enough locally allocated funds to sufficiently manage future flood risks.

CIWEM President Steve Thompsett says, “This research presents a picture of the increasing pressures from climate change and urban development, set against under-gunned authorities responsible for managing them. There is progress being made, following various reviews over recent years but it’s not yet feeding through into the lived experience of many overstretched authorities.

With flash flooding such as that which hit parts of England on Tuesday and London in July 2021 projected to become more prevalent, the need to manage surface water flood risk is critical. Responsibility lies with risk management authorities defined by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 – these are primarily local authorities and water companies.

Unlike flooding from rivers or the sea, surface water flooding can happen anywhere due to the nature of heavy downpours which commonly cause it.

Areas of particular risk are those with heavy urban development as increased areas of hard surfaces prevent rainfall and runoff soaking into the ground, exacerbating the problem.

The findings of the report identify areas where improvement can be made, including better cooperation between RMAs working in the same locations, government and the Environment Agency, particularly providing better clarity on expectations for managing surface water flood risk and where and how different responsibilities fall. The challenges can be overcome through improved leadership and clarity from across organisations.

To read the report and download the document, click here.

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