1 in 6 properties in England are at risk of flooding from rivers, sea and surface water, with many others susceptible to various sources of flooding. This number is only set to increase due to climate change, making the need for you as a property owner to check your own risk ever more important. A variety of information is available to help you learn about your flood risk, from online data maps to risk responsibility information, giving you a head start to prepare your property for potential flooding.
Maps are a useful way of visually representing the risk of different types of flooding where you live and in the surrounding area.
The following maps have been produced by the Environment Agency:
There may be extra information available for your local area, usually available from your Local Authority or County Council.
If there are schemes ongoing in your area that aim to reduce the risk of flooding to your property, there will still be a level of residual risk present towards your property so you should not rely on the schemes for full protection.
You can access information on current river and sea levels across England via Environment Agency monitoring stations. These river levels are publicly available data, and are available on other sites such as Gauge Map and River Levels.
They can be used to assess the risk of flooding to your property, and are usually updated every 15 minutes in times of flooding. For each river monitoring station there is a graph available that shows the threshold level which, if exceeded, means flooding may be possible at that location.
The National Tidal and Sea Level Facility website also includes a variety of data on tidal predictions and current levels. You can visit their website here.
Flood alerts and warnings are a great way to keep up to date with the flood risk and the river and sea conditions in your area, allowing you to be pre-warned of any risks towards your property.
The Environment Agency offers a free flood warning service that enables people in flood risk areas to receive flood alerts and warnings by telephone, text and email, even if you are not at home when they are sent. You can easily sign up to receive these warnings on the website or via telephone on 0345 988 1188 to give yourself more time to prepare for a flood. Understanding what each warning stage means is important in avoiding unnecessary panic and stress. These warnings cover the risk of flooding from main rivers and the sea, and not from surface water flooding.
It is important to note that not all areas at risk of flooding are covered by the Environment Agency’s flood warning service.
For more information on the actions to take at the different flood alert and warning stages, see our flood planning section.
There are a range of ways to receive flood and weather warnings and keep up to date with your local flood risk, allowing you to act upon triggers to put your flood plan into place.
As well as the Environment Agency’s flood warning service, here are some alternatives:
The Met Office provides a weather warning service on their website that uses a colour coded system of warnings. The three warning levels are:
Yellow: Possible severe weather, plan ahead for potential disruption.
Amber: Increased risk of bad weather and danger to life, prepare to take action.
* It is usually recommended to trigger your flood plan at this level. *
Red: Extreme weather expected and risk to life; follow advice of emergency services.
Gauge Map is an interactive tool that you can use to monitor your flood risk, by viewing information from local river monitoring stations. Data from the stations is usually updated every 15 minutes in times of flooding, and you can access this information by visiting their website or following specific gauges on their twitter accounts.
River webcams can be accessed for various locations across the UK, such as on Farson Digital Watercams – you can enter your postcode to check live local river conditions, as well as having access to an archive of photos consisting of hourly shots from each webcam.
The Emergency App from the British Red Cross provides information and alerts for flooding and other emergencies. You can tailor the app to notify you about weather conditions in certain places, and can add chosen contacts for those areas. There are other similar apps available that you may find useful.
By keeping up to date with your local news and radio you will be more informed and prepared to act when severe weather occurs. You can do this by tuning in to local radio stations whilst driving, and downloading news apps to receive newsflashes.
Gauge boards show the current height of water on various rivers and watercourses. They are physical boards installed at specific locations on a watercourse and can usually be viewed from a river bank or crossing. In the absence of a gauge board you can familiarise yourself with the normal level of the watercourse so you can detect abnormally high water levels in times of flooding. These methods are useful when flooding is common in an area, as you can use certain water levels as a trigger for your flood plan.
These alarm systems are designed to give you a more localised trigger and provide ample time to implement temporary defence measures. They are most suitable for properties with a watercourse nearby or on private land. They usually include an indoor alarm unit, and a water sensor installed at a location where rising floodwater will be detected early, well before flooding commences.
They are responsible for the strategic overview of all flooding and coastal erosion management. They are also responsible for the flood risk from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea. To report any blockages, flooding or pollution incidents, visit the Environment Agency website or call their incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Responsible for the risk of flooding from public sewers and utility pipes. To report sewer flooding call 03456 723 723, to report a leak or a burst water main call 0800 33 00 33, or head to United Utilities’ website for more information.
These are responsible for the risk of flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses. They are responsible for producing local flood risk management strategies as well as investigating and producing a Section 19 report for flooding incidents when deemed necessary. The LLFA will either be the District Council, provided it is a Unitary Authority, or the County Council.
Responsible for ensuring that there is no increased flood risk from any roads and road projects. For gullies and drains on main roads and smaller roads, the highway authority is usually the County Council or Unitary Authority. Highways England is the responsible Highway Authority for flooding on major roads and motorways.
The authorities above are all flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities (RMAs) which should help communities understand their flood risk, prepare for flooding, and encourage community involvement in risk management decision-making and actions.
Responsible for flood risk from:
Responsible for maintaining watercourses that run through, beneath, or adjacent to their land, including culverts, ditches, brooks, dykes and streams. Flooding of these watercourses due to a lack of maintenance could lead to legal action. Find out more about watercourse ownership and responsibilities here.
River flooding is also known as fluvial flooding and occurs as a result of intense or sustained rainfall across a catchment that exceeds the capacity of a rivers channel. This type of flooding affects main rivers and ordinary watercourses.
Surface water flooding happens when a large volume of heavy rainfall is unable to drain away through drainage systems or soak into the land, and instead flows over the land. The intensity of this flooding can be increased by blocked road grids/gullies, drains and sewers, saturated and waterlogged land, and an increase in hard surfaces.
Flash flooding usually results from intense and heavy rainfall and can occur with little or no warning. Land experiencing prolonged dry spells, and areas with large amounts of hard surfaces such as urban spaces have an increased risk of flash flooding as the land is unable to cope with heavy rainfall. Areas surrounded by steep valleys are also more susceptible to this type of flooding.
Groundwater flooding occurs when the water table rises up above the surface, usually during a prolonged wet period. Low lying areas, areas near aquifers, and properties with cellars or basements are more likely to experience groundwater flooding.
Reservoir flooding is very unlikely to happen, but in the rare chance that it does it may happen with little or no warning and can cause major damage. Most large reservoirs are operated by water companies (United Utilities in the North West) or the Environment Agency, and are regularly monitored and inspected to ensure they are safe. Reservoir maps were created to help authorities and emergency services plan for the risk of reservoir flooding, by showing how far flood water would spread in a worst case scenario.
Sewer flooding incidents usually happen as a result of blockages caused by the misuse of the sewerage system, for example by flushing unsuitable items down the toilet. Heavy rainfall can also contribute to overloading the sewerage system, especially when there are blockages. It can be dangerous as contaminated sewage may end up in properties or in rivers.
Coastal flooding has a variety of causes but most commonly occurs from storm surges, where high storm winds and low pressure push sea water towards the coast creating large waves that are likely to overtop coastal defences.
Climate change is causing rising sea levels of around 4mm per year, and this may contribute to flooding as not only does it make low lying land more vulnerable but it gives storm surges a higher starting point.
Flooding may be more likely on developed land that has been reclaimed from the sea via coastal management. Even a small rise in sea levels may be enough to cause flooding in these areas.
Coastal erosion causes the coastline to retreat inland, thereby increasing the risk of coastal flooding and the potential loss of land.