Delivering sustainable flood risk management: guidance (2019)

Second edition of statutory guidance to SEPA, local authorities and Scottish Water on fulfilling their responsibilities under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009.


Climate change projections for Scotland suggest that the number and severity of storm events that could result in flooding are likely to increase. This could place pressure on our existing defences and reveal new areas at risk of flooding. To manage these risks, we must continue to improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of flooding and deploy more sustainable approaches to tackle flood risk and build flood resilience for both current and future climate.

This guidance complements the flooding legislation that was introduced in 2009, the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 (the Act). It sets out statutory guidance to SEPA, local authorities, Scottish Water, Forestry Commission Scotland, Cairngorms National Park, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on fulfilling their responsibilities under the Act, and in particular on the steps that should be taken to manage flooding in a sustainable manner. The guidance is intended to 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 reaffirms the six following overarching outcomes for Scotland:

1. A reduction in the number of people, homes and property at risk of flooding as a result of public funds being invested in actions that protect the most vulnerable and those areas at greatest risk of flooding.

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

3. Sustainable surface water management that decreases burdens on our sewer systems while also delivering reduced flood risk and an improved water environment.

4. Coasts and estuaries managed in a way which aims to reduce flooding, respects the changing nature of the coast and takes into account potential impacts of interventions on flooding and erosion in adjacent areas.

5. A well informed public who understands flood risk and takes actions to protect themselves, their property or their businesses.

6. Flood management actions being undertaken that will stand the test of time and be adaptable to future changes in the climate.

Guidance to support delivery of these outcomes is provided through seven themed sections, which cover topics like understanding flood risk, catchment flood management and selecting and implementing sustainable actions. Technical guidance on appraising flood management options is provided separately.

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

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