Natural flood management

What is natural flood management?

Natural flood management, or NFM, considers the hydrological processes across the whole catchment of a river or along a stretch of coast to identify where measures can best be applied, with a focus on increasing water retention capacities. NFM interventions are used as preventive measures looking beyond managing floods at household or town level to manage floods at catchment level. NFM interventions can be are protection measures (Layer 1) to increase flood resilience using non-structure measures or engineering such as building with nature. Moreover, NFM can also be regarded as prevention measures (Layer 2) because they reduce flood consequences and damage by keeping water away from people in flood prone areas.

Natural flood management and FRAMES

A total of three pilot projects implemented NFM measures to lower flood risk in different catchments in the United Kingdom: Medway, Lustrum Beck and Southwell catchments.

How is natural flood management linked to the layers of MLS?

The knowledge gained from the three pilot projects looking at critical infrastructure are linked as follows to the layers of the MLS approach:  

  • Layer 2, spatial adaptation: limits flood consequences by (a) increasing water storage capacity and enhanced biodiversity leading to more ecosystem services in the catchment; (b) improving the zoning of flood prone areas considering vulnerable areas and communities.
  • Layer 3, preparedness and response: supports flood preparedness by (a) raising flood risk awareness among farmers/landowners and b) building social capital enhancing community resilience.
  • Layer 4, resilient recovery: when flood preparedness actions are taken this leads to a better flood recovery for communities.

Lessons learnt

The main lessons learned when working with natural flood management can be found here.

Relevant adaptive capacities needed

To accomplish actions successfully, certain capacities are more needed than others. More specifically: the combination of flood risk management strategies in response to climate change depends on the adaptation space and capacity of institutions (Berkhout, Hertin and Gann, 2006). Since institutions have the ability to stimulate the capacity of  a society to adapt to climate change from the local to the national level (Gupta et al., 2010), stakeholders and organizations involved in FRAMES focused on the development of adaptive capacities at local and regional level.

The adaptive capacities that were employed and developed during the pilot projects working with natural flood management are shown in the spiderweb below. We will provide more detail for those capacities that significantly increased during the pilots.

NFM.pngFigure 1: Development of adaptive capacities in natural flood management

  • Single loop learning: learn from the past. Traditionally, flood risk was managed only with hard infrastructure in these pilots. However, learning from past events and experiences proved useful for improvement of FRM in the areas.
  • Diversity of measures: combine, combine, combine. In FRAMES pilots, a combination of several NFM measures was applied to increase flood resilience at catchment level.
  • Trust: nothing happens without trust. When implementing NFM at a catchment level, local authorities need to build trust with local communities (farmers/landowners).
  • Continuous access to information: share what you know. Local authorities provided the community with flood risk information and established an increase of their flood risk awareness.
  • Act according to plan: stick to what you intended to do. An agreement was signed with farmers and landowners – they are now obliged to maintain the NFM beyond the lifespan of the pilot project.
  • Accountability and institutional memory: clarify, maintain and monitor agreed upon responsibilities. In this example, the agreement states that farmers or  landowners are responsible for maintaining and monitoring  the NFM interventions.
  • Human and financial resources: add when needed. The agreement in this pilot  also states that communities receive an economic inceptive to maintain the NFM interventions for the coming five years.
  • Capacity to improvise: be flexible. The communities in these pilots increased their social capacity to deal with floods.
  • Collaborative leadership: do not exclude anyone. The collaboration between local authorities and vulnerable communities improved.

What tools were used during NFM pilot projects?

There are many tools that can be used when combining NFM with MLS. The FRAMES pilots have selected and successfully used the tools listed in the table below. More information can be found by clicking on the links provided, or by visiting the description of the pilots.

We also uploaded a full list of all tools used to improve the management of MLS.

Name of tool Main objective Description
Stakeholder analysis Identify all stakeholders in the area A stakeholder analysis will identify all actors along with their interests and potential issues who will have a role in MLS before engaging them in the process.
Community based approach / participation approach Collect data with emphasis on participation from the community Approach to include those (potentially) affected as key partners in developing strategies related to their assistance and protection.
Social media Communication and dissemination To increase and improve the flood awareness and self-efficacy of citizens and organizations, social media channels are advised to be used: YouTubeTwitter, Facebook, local press (TV, newspaper, magazines, radio), websites, newsletters, brochures, leaflets, events and meetings.  ·


Hier wordt aan gewerkt of naar verwezen door: Layer 2- Spatial adaptation