Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

About the project

The past decade has seen significant developments in the approaches to assessing and managing flood risk. Major research projects (such as the FREE, Floodsite, FRMRC, iCOASST, RASP) and industry driven innovations (particularly within the insurance sector, water companies and environmental consultants) have all contributed to these advances. As a result of these multiple (but largely independent) strands of innovation, the UK has established a pre-eminent position in the science and practice of flood risk analysis and long-term infrastructure investment planning.

Programmes such as the National Flood Risk Assessment (NaFRA) and the Long Term Investment Strategy (LTIS) (undertaken by the Environment Agency) have built upon this knowledge and continue to represent leading international practice. LTIS is particularly noteworthy as the first national infrastructure investment strategy that is explicitly based on national flood risk analysis.

Although the past decade has been powerful in driving innovations it has, understandably, led to a proliferation of techniques that are difficult for practitioners and researchers to access and build upon. Many users are now confused as to what best practice is, and the credibility of the results? Recent publications that question some of these results have been a legitimate challenge to complex environmental models. It is now timely to confirm, consolidate and disseminate the current state-of-art through concerted knowledge transfer and provide the platform for future advances and collaboration between business and academia.

Our objective is to capture the lessons, consolidate understanding and disseminate the methods used for assessing flood risk and determining future infrastructure investments. We will transfer the knowledge and understanding of these approaches to stakeholders with the public (e.g. Environment Agency and Network Rail), private (e.g. international consultants) and academic sectors.

FoRUM will also provide a platform for developing a common understanding of alternatives approaches and the uncertainties associated with each. In turn this will provide the foundation for the co-evolution of future advances that respond to the increasingly nuanced and complex stakeholder questions (around how to invest limited resources to maximise resilience of infrastructure networks). The specific objectives of FoRUM are therefore to:

  • Objective #1 – Capture and transfer knowledge from previous research and applications relating to the assessment of national flood risks. The project will bring together this understanding and establish the foundation for future developments.
  • Objective #2 – Provide a consolidated view of the credibility of existing flood risk analysis. Considerable controversy surrounds the estimate of national risk. The project will bring the available evidence and understanding together to inform this debate.
  • Objective #3 – Capture and transfer knowledge from previous research and applications relating to assessing long-term flood risk management investment planning. FoRUM will promote the uptake of more advances methods, and ensure scientific developments continue to have relevance to real world choices.
  • Objective #4 – Provide illustrative case studies of the transformative benefits that science is having on national and local flood risk assessment and investment planning.

Project team

The research team is led by Professor Jim Hall and Paul Sayers in the ECI at Oxford with support from Professor Rob Nicholls (Southampton) and Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell (Oxford).

FoRUM is also linked closely with leading practitioners with an interest in flood risk and ability to make use of innovative science, including:

  • Mr Ian Meadowcroft (Environment Agency, Investment and funding)
  • Dr Mike Steel Environment Agency (flood analysis and NaFRA)
  • Dr Kate Avery (Network Rail)
  • Dr Keith Colquhoun (Thames Water)
  • Dr Rob Lamb (JBA)
  • Dr Jon Wicks (CH2M HILL)
  • Mr Shane Latchman (AIR)
  • Ben Gouldby/Mike Panzeri (HR Wallingford)

Project workshops and supporting material

Project News

February 2016

What are the steps required for a flood resilient society?

Paul Sayers explores the steps required to create a flood resilient society in the article ‘We should not be surprised‘ as featured in the February edition of Public Sector Executive magazine. In the article, Paul stresses the need for a more strategic approach to flood risk management over traditional flood approaches. He highlights a mix of strategic management tools which could co-exist alongside appropriately designed and maintained flood defences. These include payments to landowners for temporary upstream storage, and affordable insurance options for the vulnerable. A strategic response to flood management such as this requires a greater joining up of actors (communities, government, investors) and their actions. Read the full article in Public Sector Executive.

January 2016

FoRUM provides evidence to Infrastructure Review

Paul Sayers provided a summary of the climate impacts on the performance of flood defence infrastructure to the LWEC / Environment Agency sponsored investigation. The analysis provided was published in 2015 by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

His review highlighted that climate change can affect the performance of flood and coastal erosion risk management infrastructure (FCERMi) through a number of mechanisms. This review highlights that whilst it is well known that climate change can influence the performance of FCERMi in a number of ways, there is extremely poor quantitative understanding of the physical processes of time-dependent deterioration and the impact of changing loads (and the interactions between these) on the reliability of FCERMi. If FCERMi is to be more robust to future climate uncertainties, there is an urgent need for research to better understand these interactions in the long-term. This must be coupled with an updated approach to design and management that considers changes in extreme values, storm sequencing, spatial coherence, or more subtle impacts from changes in temperature, solar radiation and combinatorial affects. Report: Sayers, P., Walsh, C. and Dawson, R. (2015) Climate impacts on flood and coastal erosion infrastructure. Journal of Infrastructure Asset Management, Institution of Civil Engineers, London.

November 2015

FoRUM contributes to the highly influential Working Group F of the European Commission

FoRUM were invited to present to Working Group F of the European Commission. Working Group F provides a forum for government representatives from each Member State to exchange good practice in flood risk management. The presentation, provided by Jaap Flikweert of RHDHV, on behalf of the FoRUM project team focused on the importance of developing a credible understanding of national risk models but the difficulties in validating such models. Comparisons are drawn between RASP (Sayers and Meadowcroft, 2005, Hall et al, 2002, Gouldby et al, 2008) and the VNK system models used in the Netherlands. The representatives of the Member States provided excellent feedback and recognised the approaches FoRUM is promoting. View attendees | View presentation.

Project Publications

NaFRA and LTIS Development Group Resources