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Implementation of the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009: Annual Report to the Scottish Parliament - 2010

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Section B
Flood Risk Management

12. Flooding in Scotland

Flooding can have serious effects on health and wellbeing, homes, businesses and the environment. It can also affect transport infrastructure and cause major disruption to vital services. This winter has been one of the most severe in living memory, which has meant communities have had to deal with unusually long periods of snow and extreme cold and icy conditions. Additionally, some parts of Scotland had to contend with flooding once the snow and ice began to thaw, exacerbated by exceptionally heavy rainfall in some areas.

13. Commencing the Flood Risk Management Act ( FRM)

In December 2010 the 2nd Commencement Order under the FRM Act was brought into force, giving local authorities general powers to manage flood risk. These powers include the ability to carry out clearance and repair work, and implement flood protection schemes with the associated statutory procedures.

The Order also brought into effect provisions for local authorities to acquire land, to enter land, and to obtain information about ownership or other information of the land. The Order repealed the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961, except for flood prevention schemes already underway under the Act.

14. A partnership approach to implementing FRM

The Scottish Government has established an implementation programme for the FRM Act - the Scottish Advisory and Implementation Forum for Flooding ( SAIFF). SAIFF assists the Government in preparing and introducing its policies under the FRM Act, whilst also providing a forum for SEPA, local authorities, Scottish Water and others to work together to successfully translate the legislation into practical improvements to how flooding is managed. The advisory groups established under SAIFF have played an important role in shaping the Government's consultation on 'Delivering Sustainable Flood Risk Management', SEPA's work on developing a national flood risk assessment for Scotland, and in taking forward research and projects examining more natural approaches to tackling flooding.

15. Ministerial guidance - sustainable flood risk management

The FRM Act places statutory duties on the Scottish Ministers to issue guidance on what it means to manage flooding in a sustainable way. The Scottish Government issued a consultation on this guidance on 18 January 2011.

The guidance is an important step towards placing flood management on a more sustainable footing. The guidance will help ensure adoption of consistent principles and approaches based on good practice lessons in flood risk management.

In promoting a more sustainable approach to flood risk management, the guidance establishes five overarching outcomes for Scotland:

  • Public funds invested in actions that protect the most vulnerable and those areas at greatest risk of flooding.
  • Rural and urban landscapes with space to store water and slow down the progress of floods.
  • Integrated urban drainage that decreases burdens on our sewer systems while also delivering reduced flood risk and an improved water environment.
  • A well informed public who understand flood risk and the actions they can take to protect themselves, their property or their businesses.
  • Flood management actions that will stand the test of time and be adaptable to future changes in the climate.

Guidance to support the delivery of these outcomes is provided across seven core sections on topics that include partnership working, catchment flood management and selecting sustainable actions. Technical guidance on appraising flood management options is also provided.

The guidance was developed in close collaboration with SEPA, local authorities, Scottish Water and a wide range of stakeholders representing public bodies, representative groups, flood risk management professionals and other interested parties.

16. Progress towards delivering FRM outcomes

A summary of progress in delivering the outcomes that will underpin sustainable flood management in Scotland is provided below.

Public funds invested in actions that protect the most vulnerable and those areas at greatest risk to flooding

National Flood Risk Assessment ( nFRA)

An important stage in the sustainable management of flood risk is the preparation of a national flood risk assessment ( nFRA) to identify those areas most vulnerable to the impacts of flooding. This work, which is being led by SEPA, is an important step in delivering a risk-based approach to flood management, and will have a central role in targeting future efforts and investment to tackle flooding and its impacts.

The approach and principles underpinning the assessment have been developed in close consultation with local authorities, Scottish Water and other stakeholders. This assessment is due to go out for consultation in the summer, and will be submitted to Scottish Ministers thereafter for approval.

Economic Activity Map

Developing a plan led approach to flood risk management

On 8 September SEPA launched a consultation exercise 'Panning for floods - planning for the future' to establish a set of principles to support the preparation of flood management plans for Scotland, and for stakeholder engagement in this planning work. The proposals in the consultation were well received and are being used to take forward a closely coordinated approach to preparing flood risk management plans.

Flood protection schemes

The 2007 concordat between local authorities and the Scottish Government brought to an end to former ring fenced schemes; amongst these was the former scheme for flood protection projects. Local authorities were given greater flexibility in how they used their resources to reflect local needs and priorities.

Against this backdrop, local authorities have continued to progress such schemes to protect their communities from the risk of flooding. Particular examples included the completion by Edinburgh City Council of the Braidburn scheme, and the confirmation of Moray Council's proposed Elgin scheme.

Improving our understanding of flooding and its impacts

Using joint funding from the Scottish Government, SEPA and themselves, Scottish Water are leading the procurement of much needed LiDAR data (high resolution information on the elevation of Scotland's landscape) which will support improved modelling and mapping of flooding across Scotland. This will ultimately lead to better information on actions to tackle flooding and its impacts.

The Scottish Government funded a research project into groundwater flooding, which is less well understood in Scotland than other sources of flooding. Groundwater flooding occurs when flooding causes unusually high groundwater levels which rise above surface level and, combined with prolonged heavy rainfall, can cause significant damage to electricity services and property basements. The project has identified areas of Scotland that are susceptible to groundwater flooding, and this information is being incorporated in the national flood risk assessment that is being prepared by SEPA.

A project to map pluvial flooding across Scotland has also been commissioned by SEPA. This project will, for the first time, provide a national overview of those areas of Scotland that are most susceptible to pluvial flooding. It will play an important role in helping to target investment in urban drainage, and other actions to tackle flooding caused by intense rainfall in urban areas.

Reservoirs (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government is taking important action to promote the safe operation of Scotland's Reservoirs. This has included introducing the Reservoirs (Scotland) Bill to Parliament on 6 October 2010. The Bill introduces a risk-based approach to reservoir management to ensure a greater level of protection for public, property and infrastructure from the risk of flooding from reservoirs, without placing unnecessary burdens on reservoir owners.

Rural and urban landscapes with space to store water and slow down the progress of floods

The Scottish Government continues to work with the Tweed Forum, SEPA, Dundee University and other partners on the Eddleston Water project to take a catchment approach to land use management. The project, which is on the tributary of the Tweed, considers how to best engage with land managers to deliver changes that will reduce flood risk and improve the water environment, such as river and flood plain restoration.

Results from the project will help address the gaps in our knowledge about implementing natural flood management, as well as delivering results under the WFD. The project has now moved to phase 2 and the Government has agreed funding for a further 3 years. The project is supported by SEPA through its river restoration fund which supports improvements to the quality of Scotland's rivers.

A scoping study has been carried out for the Allan Water to look at and assess the potential for using natural flood management techniques in order to reduce the risk of downstream flooding, whilst taking the opportunity to benefit biodiversity and the local communities. The project is led by SEPA but involves many other partnerships, including local authorities with an interest in the area, This study will lead to the future publication of a restoration strategy for the area.

A project led by RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is being carried out on the Firth of Forth to identify opportunities for large-scale habitat creation around the Skinflats reserve. SEPA, SNH, FCS, and local authorities along with land managers are all working together to ensure the best options are taken to improve habitats in the surrounding areas. This is an example of sustainable flood management that encourages biodiversity and creates an environment with educational and recreational benefits. Stage 1 is underway, where habitat creation has transformed farmland behind a seawall into a new wetland area.

Adopting a more natural approach to flood risk management can involve restoring flood plains or coastal areas and creating wetlands or other features to store or slow the progress of flood waters. The land required for this type of work is often already being used for other purposes, for instance farming. The Scottish Government is funding research into methods of compensating land owners, or using other incentives, to allow such land to be used for flood protection.

Integrated urban drainage that decreases burdens on our sewer systems while also delivering reduced flood risk and an improved water environment

The Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership ( MGSDP) continues to embrace a holistic approach to managing surface water, which will reduce flood risk whilst unlocking development potential, improving water quality and allowing residential areas to co-exist with the natural landscape. Based on their experience and previous lessons learnt, the MGSDP has been working with the Scottish Government on the production of guidance on tackling surface water management in a collaborative manner. This guidance will be published in support of the wider sustainable flood risk management guidance.

Scottish Water ( SW) and SCOTS have developed agreements under Section 7 of the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 that allows SW and local authorities to share a single drainage system, and encourages best practice in the use of Sustainable Urban Drainage ( SUDS).

A well informed public who understand flood risk and the actions they can take to protect themselves, their property or their businesses

SEPA - Floodline Warning Direct ( FWD)

SEPA will be launching its new Floodline Warning Direct ( FWD) service in March 2011. FWD will provide a service to businesses and members of the public whereby messages will be sent, free of charge, to mobiles or landlines providing information of any expected flood event in the local area. The scheme will operate in 48 areas across Scotland. It will also guide those who have registered for the scheme to websites for more in depth up to the minute details of any event. Chart to come from SEPA

Scottish Flood Forecasting Service

Funding has been provided by the Scottish Government to assist SEPA and the Met Office establish a Scottish Flood Forecasting Service ( SFFS). The close partnership approach matches hydrological and meterological expertise for the first time, and the project will result in better flood forecasting and warning information being made available to the public. It represents a step change in the delivery of flood warning in Scotland. The SFFS will produce daily statements for local authorities and emergency services, detailing risks as they develop, and providing early warning of potential flooding which will allow authorities and emergency services extra time to prepare for any inevitable flooding events. This service will go live in March 2011 along with FWD.

Scottish Flood Forum

The Scottish Flood Forum ( SFF) has, in the past year, provided direct community support and recovery after severe flood events to communities around Scotland. The SFF established flood recovery centres across Scotland (in Stonehaven, Huntly, Perth and Dumfries) and worked with agencies and local authorities as an independent voice for communities in the recovery and resilience process. The SFF support communities after the recovery operation has ceased by providing practical information, training and support surgeries in local flood recovery centres months after a flood event has passed.

The SFF continues to develop Community Flood Groups by working with voluntary and public partners to expand the 27 flood groups which the SFF has established throughout Scotland.

The SFF is also supporting SEPA's work to raise awareness of flood risk by encouraging individuals to sign up to the new national flood warning dissemination service - Floodline Warning Direct ( FWD).

Other work to raise awareness of flooding and its impacts

The Government is conscious of how important it is to ensure the public are fully informed of their flood risk, and have the knowledge to enable them to prepare and take action to assist them in protecting themselves and their property. To assist future generations in becoming more involved, and to understand the important part they can play in flood risk management, the Government is working with Learning Teaching Scotland ( LTS) to ensure that the new Curriculum for Excellence which is about to be rolled out across both primary and secondary schools includes awareness of flooding.

As part of the wider Citizen Science project on raising awareness of rivers and their catchments, the Government is working in partnership with LTS, SEPA, SQA, the Met Office to teach school children about river catchments and flooding.

Scottish Water, in conjunction with SCOTS, the Scottish Flood Forum and other relevant bodies, are in the early stages of developing a communications protocol to make communications in the event of a flood more customer-focused for both customers and external stakeholders.

SEPA have also issued some publications for the general public on flood risk management: http://www.sepa.org.uk/flooding/flooding_publications.aspx

Flood management actions that will stand the test of time and be adaptable to future change

Climate change predictions indicate that there is likely to be an increase in the number and the intensity of rainfall events across Scotland. SEPA has commissioned a project, 'An Assessment of the Vulnerability of Scotland's river Catchments and Coasts to the Impacts of Climate Change', to gain a better understanding of the implications of climate change on any future flooding events. By using a high emission scenario along with standard return periods, this project aims to estimate any regional changes in climate change predictions over the next seventy years. It will also make an assessment on the vulnerability of coastal areas to climate change.