Forecasting flooding

As the flood warning authority for Scotland SEPA forecasts flooding and delivers Floodline, a 24/7 live flooding information and advice service. This page tells you more about how we forecast flooding and the types of flooding that can impact our communities.

Scottish Flood Forecasting Service

We have a network of over 250 rainfall, river and coastal monitoring stations throughout Scotland that generate data 24 hours a day. This hydrological information is combined with meteorological  information from the Met Office. Our team of experts then predict the likelihood and timing of river, coastal and surface water flooding. This joint initiative between SEPA and the Met Office forms the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service.

The Scottish Flood Forecasting Service produces daily, national flood guidance statements which are issued to Category 1 and 2 agencies, such as emergency responders, local authorities and other organisations with flooding management duties.

Each daily statement gives an assessment of the risk of flooding for the next five days and provides organisations with valuable time to put preparations in place to reduce the impact of flooding.  The statements also contribute to Floodline , by supplying specific information which allows us to issue timely flood messages. Read our guide to learn more about how flood guidance statements are used to help manage the risks of flooding.

Read the Annual Report 2017-2018 to find out about the service's achievements, learning and aspirations for improved flood forecasting in Scotland.

Flood warning development framework

As flood warning authority under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, and in undertaking our Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Category 1 duties, we aim to develop and improve our flood forecasting and warning service to reduce the impact of flooding on our most vulnerable communities. SEPA has developed a Flood Warning Development Framework,  which covers the period 2017 to 2021 and explains how we intend to deliver and develop our service over the next five years.

Types of flooding

There are different types, or sources of flooding, that can affect our communities. We are increasing our understanding of the sources and impacts of flooding all the time and can now provide a national picture of flood risk for river, coastal and surface water flooding. Find out if the area where you live, work or travel through is likely to be affected by flooding by viewing our flood maps. More information about how different sources of flooding can affect your local area is available from section 3 of the Flood Risk Management Strategies.

Type of floodingDescription
River Occurs when a river cannot cope with the amount of water entering it. The level of the river rises until it eventually overflows onto surrounding land.
Coastal Occurs as weather and tidal conditions increase sea levels. Current predictions for climate change anticipate an increase in sea levels, storm surges and waves all around Scotland’s coastline and it is predicted that the frequency and severity of this type of flooding will increase.
Surface water Happens when there is rainfall on ground that is already saturated, or on paved areas where drainage is poor. The water has nowhere to go and so pools on the surface.
Groundwater Groundwater flooding is a type of flooding that is more complex to assess and therefore show on a map as groundwater flooding alone does not usually cause flooding but instead is a contributing factor. Groundwater flooding can happen when rainfall causes the water that is naturally stored underground to rise to the surface. It can flood, or contribute to flooding, of low-lying area in particular. Our flood maps show areas where groundwater may be a contributing factor.
Drain, sewer and broken water mains

Drain, sewer and broken water mains flooding is not a natural type of flooding and is managed and assessed by Scottish Water, roads authorities or local authorities.


Being prepared for flooding, no matter where it comes from, can help you protect your family, and property. Visit Floodline to find out how you can be prepared.