Developing our flooding knowledge

As the strategic flood risk management authority in Scotland we have developed our knowledge of the sources and impacts of flooding. Supported by the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, we have developed a knowledge base of methods, guidance and summaries that may be useful to responsible authorities, academic projects and consultants delivering flood risk management projects. By using standard approaches and national methods our shared knowledge of flooding in Scotland will increase and we can continue to build a national picture of flood risk that reflects local circumstances.

National Flood Risk Assessment

First published in December 2011, the NFRA has provided Scotland with the knowledge and tools to assess the causes and consequences of flooding. We have worked with key stakeholders to review and update the NFRA as part of preparations for the second planning cycle. This is a key requirement of the FRM (Scotland) Act 2009 which states that SEPA must review and update the NFRA every 6 years.

The National Flood Risk Assessment 2018 and data explorer tool is now available.

Our understanding of flood risk - both within SEPA as an organisation and in the wider professional and scientific community - is constantly developing. It is not a static field of work. Periodic review and update is essential to ensure processes and products remain robust, deliver value and effectively support sustainable flood risk management in Scotland. There have been a number of changes since the 2011 NFRA including advances in how properties at risk have been identified.

For more information you can view our NFRA animation or our Frequently Asked Questions.

For information on Flood Risk Management in England you can visit the Environment Agency website

 Flood maps

A key milestone of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 was the production of flood hazard and flood risk maps. A summary of the methods used to produce the maps, including assumptions and interpretation guidance, are available.

Flood modelling guidance has been developed, which provides a common technical basis to support responsible authorities in the planning, development and use of flood models to inform flood risk management decisions. Using a consistent framework to guide model development will support a common understanding and effective communication of flood study needs within and between organisations

In addition, a Local Authority Flood Study Checklist has been developed to provide support to local authorities and other commissioning authorities when undertaking scoping studies to inform sustainable flood risk management. 

Additional information on surface water flooding may be available from local authorities that have undertaken an integrated catchment study in partnership with Scottish Water. Studies were undertaken for Aberdeen, Falkirk, Dundee Tayside (focussing on Dundee to Arbroath), Edinburgh and  across the Ayrshire Local Plan District (focussing on Ayr, Irvine and Kilrmarnock).

Flood risk management and climate change

One of the elements supporting flood risk management is a consideration of any impact of climate change on river flows. SEPA commissioned the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) to undertake an evaluation of the risk of fluvial flood flow changes across Scotland based on earlier studies for the Environment Agency (EA). This report supports the development of the Flood Maps and is referenced in SEPA’s Flood modelling guidance.

The CEH Report, An assessment of the vulnerability of Scotland’s river catchments and coasts to the impacts of climate change, is a complex document which is not readily accessible. For this reason, we have published a summary report of the project.

The purpose of the summary report is to provide a more accessible abstract of the approach and key findings of the full report. The summary should be used in support of the main report to enable partner organisations, particularly Local Authorities to use the information on potential climate change impacts on fluvial flooding.

Gravel deposits and flood risk to agricultural land

Following the extraordinary flooding of winter 2015/16, SEPA agreed to NFU Scotland’s request to examine the role played by sediment deposits in flooding at three different sites across Scotland – the River Feshie where it meets the River Spey, the River Tay near Ballinluig, and the River Dee at Ballater. That work is now complete and full details can be found in the final report - Gravel Deposits and Flood Risk to Agricultural Land.

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)

SEPA, in partnership with Scottish Water, local authorities and Scottish Government has collected LiDAR data to support the delivery of flood risk management in Scotland. LiDAR data is subject to conditions of sharing and use and we can only share it with those partners involved on the project.

Natural flood management

Natural flood management is considered in Flood Risk Management Strategies and is part of the catchment led and sustainable approach to flood risk management implemented by the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. A map showing areas where  further detailed assessment should take place are featured on our flood maps. The map should be considered alongside guidance on how areas where identified and how to interpret the information.

Natural flood management involves techniques that aim to work with natural hydrological and morphological processes, features and characteristics to manage the sources and pathways of flood waters. These techniques include the restoration, enhancement and alteration of natural features and characteristics, but exclude traditional flood defence engineering that works against or disrupts these natural processes. - Scottish Advisory and Implementation Forum for Flooding.

We have published the Natural Flood Management Handbook to provide a practical guide to the successful implementation of natural flood management. It is primarily for local authorities tasked with the delivery of actions set out in the Flood Risk Management Strategies. The guidance provided is informed by demonstration projects and studies undertaken by SEPA and partners that have highlighted some of the requirements for the effective delivery of natural flood management.

To help us learn more about natural flood management we are working with organisations including local authorities, researchers and charities to run demonstration and research projects like those on the Allan Water , the Eddleston Water and Firth of Forth Futurescapes. We are also looking at how we can integrate flood risk management and river basin management objectives through the pilot catchment project.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss a flood risk management project with a member of SEPA’s Flood Unit please get in touch.