Natural Flood Management

water@leeds: Natural Flood Management

Natural Flood Management (NFM) is defined as the alteration, restoration or use of landscape features, to reduce flood risk. water@leeds: Natural Flood Management is an interdisciplinary research cluster, and our aim is to become a centre of excellence for NFM research through collaborative research (internally and externally). We are also training the next generation of graduate and postgraduate students, and actively work to ensure our science leads to real world impact. 2016 will see four new PhD students joining us to study NFM related issues in the Coverdale catchment.


Climate projections for the UK suggest that total rainfall will increase in winter and decrease in summer, while individual rainfall events may increase in intensity, especially in winter. These phenomena point to a possible increase in flooding. This means that future flood risk depends on both economic and environmental change. The UK’s current annual estimated flood damage cost in £1.1 billion.

Strategies for Natural Flood Management

NFM aims to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood (the flood peak) or to delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare for floods. NFM strategies van be loosely classified by their likely location and distribution in the catchment.

NFM strategies rely on one, or a combination of, the following underlying mechanisms:

  • Storing water by using, and maintaining the capacity of ponds, ditches, embanked, reservoirs, channels or land
  • Increasing soil infiltration, potentially reducing surface runoff, although this can be offset by greater subsurface flows. Free-draining soil will make saturation less likely, and evaporation from soil can also make space for water
  • Slowing water my increasing resistance to its flow, for example, by planting floodplain of riverside woods
  • Reducing water flow connectivity by interrupting surface flows of water

Recent NFM Publications

  • Gao, J; Holden, J; Kirkby MJ (2016): The impact of land-cover change on flood-peaks in peatland river basins. Water Resources Research doi: 10.1002/2015WR017667
  • Milner, AM; Robertson, A; McDermott, MJ; Klaar, M; Brown LE (2013): Major flood disturbance alters river ecosystem evolution. Nature Climate Change 3, doi: 10.1038/nclimate1665
  • Gao, J; Holden, J; Kirkby MJ (2015): A distributed TOPMODEL for modelling impacts of land-cover change on river flow in upland peatland catchments. Hydrological Processes, 29, doi:10.1002/hyp.10408