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Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

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Land use, water management and future ood risk

Howard Wheater a, , Edward Evans b
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2BU, United Kingdom
Engineering Science, Oxford University, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Human activities have profoundly changed the land on which we live. In particular, land use and land
Received 24 August 2009 management change affect the hydrology that determines ood hazard, water resources (for human
Accepted 24 August 2009 and environmental needs) and the transport and dilution of pollutants. It is increasingly recognised that
the management of land and water are inextricably linked (e.g. Defra, 2004). Historical context, state
Keywords: of the science and current management issues section of this paper addresses the science underlying
Water resources
those linkages, for both rural and urban areas. In Historical context, state of the science and current
Flood risk
management issues section we discuss future drivers for change and their management implications.
Water quality
Detailed analyses are available for ood risk, from the Foresight Future Flooding project (Evans et al.,
2004a,b) and other recent studies, and so we use ooding as an exemplar, with a more limited treatment
of water resource and water quality aspects. Finally in Science needs and developments section we
discuss science needs and likely progress. This paper does not address the important topic of water
demand except for some reference to the Environment Agencys Water Resources Strategy for England
and Wales (Environment Agency, 2009).
2009 Queens Printer and Controller of HMSO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Historical context, state of the science and current greatest where natural runoff is low, in catchments with permeable
management issues soils and geology, and can include changes in ood seasonality.
Natural catchments in the UK mainly ood after prolonged rainfall
The urban environment in winter, when soils are already wet and storm runoff is readily
generated. Urban catchments are not so seriously affected by these
Urban development provides a useful illustration of some of the antecedent conditions and respond more rapidly to rainfall. This
most obvious effects of land use change on water management. means that intense summer rainfall may become a major cause of
Vegetated soils are replaced with impermeable surfaces, increasing ooding (Institute of Hydrology, 1999).
overland ow and reducing inltration, bypassing the natural stor- It is expected that the relative effects of urbanisation will reduce
age and attenuation of the subsurface. In addition, the conveyance in larger, rarer oods, but current design guidance to quantify this
of runoff to streams is modied. Overland runoff is conventionally is highly speculative.
collected by piped storm-water drainage systems and conveyed For larger catchments, the effects are more complex, as the loca-
rapidly to the nearest stream. The result is a greater volume of tion of development within the catchment will affect its response.
runoff, discharging in a shorter time, potentially leading to dra- For example, urban development located near to the outlet of a
matically increased ood peaks, but also reduced low ows and catchment may generate runoff before the main response of the
less groundwater recharge. natural catchment arrives. The overall effect of urbanisation on the
catchment ood peak will depend on the relative magnitude and
Urbanisation effects on uvial oods timing of the constituent responses.
The size of the effect of urban development on streamow will These effects have been well known for some 40 years (see e.g.
depend on the natural response of the catchment. The effects will be Hall, 1984), and to mitigate them, engineered solutions have rou-
tinely been adopted to reduce ood peaks through the provision
of storage. One common solution is the construction of a reser-
voir to provide detention storage. Crooks et al. (2000) report on
While the Government Ofce for Science commissioned this review, the views
the effects of 30 years of urbanisation on two sub-catchments of
are those of the author(s), are independent of Government, and do not constitute
the Thames, showing an apparent increase in ood frequency with
Government policy.
Corresponding author. urbanisation, followed by a reduction as storage solutions were
E-mail address: (H. Wheater). implemented.

0264-8377/$ see front matter 2009 Queens Printer and Controller of HMSO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
S252 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

There is much interest in Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems downstream. This remains an issue of concern for the major Euro-
(SUDS) to manage urban runoff and associated problems of water pean rivers such as the Rhine. Levels of ood protection for some
quality. Various design solutions can be implemented, for example German cities have signicantly decreased and active efforts have
restoring the inltration of rainfall into the soil by directing storm been made in recent years to recreate oodplain storage. The same
runoff to engineered soakaways, or seeking to retard ows within issues arise in the UK, although little work is available to quantify
the storm sewer system (Verworn, 2002). However, a lack of clear the effects of historic changes. There is now interest in the UK in
responsibilities for design and maintenance have limited uptake of the potential for the return of oodplain land to an active water
SUDS in England and Wales. The ofcial review of the UKs 2007 storage role, for example by reducing the level of ood protection
summer oods (Pitt, 2008) highlights the current problems of gov- of agricultural oodplain land (see below).
ernance of water in the urban environment. Pitt also comments Recent moves have been made by the UK Government to
on the increasing density of urbanisation. He proposes solutions strengthen the role of the Environment Agency in the planning pro-
such as planning controls on paved areas within areas of domestic cess in England and Wales (CLG, 2006), and also to raise awareness
housing. of planners of the risks of ooding. A particular problem, high-
While well-developed design guidelines are available for con- lighted by the 2007 oods, is the location of strategically important
ventional storage, based on a substantial body of research (Hall utility infrastructure in oodplains. It is also not uncommon for
et al., 1993), the research base to support SUDS applications is emergency services, hospitals and residential homes for the elderly
much more limited. There is no clear understanding of the effects to be located in oodplains.
of extreme rainfall on the performance of SUDS, and there is sub-
stantial anecdotal evidence that control of local-scale installations Water resource and water quality tissues
is ineffective, leading to errors in construction and defective oper- Towns and cities need water supplies, which are often imported
ation (Packman, pers. comm.). from other catchment areas. After use, this water is conventionally
routed through the sewer system, treated, and discharged to the
Urban stormwater ooding local river. Urbanisation reduces natural water inltration into soil,
Urbanisation effects on uvial oods section above addressed so that in urban rivers, efuent discharge may be a dominant com-
the effects of urban development on river ooding. There are also ponent of river ows, particularly under the low ow conditions of
major issues of ooding due to surface runoff within the urban envi- summer.
ronment. This type of ooding is a major cause of insurance claims The release of treated efuents to streams has long been a major
for ood damage. Storm runoff is normally channelled via gully source of pollution, and nutrients have been a particular concern.
pots, into storm sewers, which are usually designed to accommo- EU legislation, in the form of the Urban Wastewater Treatment
date relatively frequent events. Under more extreme conditions, Directive, has required major treatment works to introduce ter-
these sewers will start to surcharge (ow full under pressure), and tiary treatment to reduce nutrient loads, but this requirement does
as pressures build up, manhole covers can lift and the sewers dis- not extend to the large numbers of small treatment facilities. Jarvie
charge to the surface. Such ows combine with surface runoff to et al. (2007) report observations of phosphorus in the river Lam-
generate ooding of roads and properties. Urban ooding is often bourn in Berkshire. These measurements show the effect of sewage
complex. Sewer ooding can arise when pipes exceed their capac- efuent on phosphorus loads in the river, the reduction in phospho-
ity, become blocked, have their capacity limited by river ooding, rus when treatment was improved, and the subsequent release of
or a combination of these factors. Divided management responsi- phosphorus from river sediments as the system re-equilibriated.
bilities are a problem in this area. One of the recommendations of In addition to the discharge of treated efuents, there is poten-
the Pitt report (2008) is for clear overall responsibility for urban tial for pollution from urban storm runoff, which can include oils
ooding in England and Wales. and heavy metals. Urban storm drainage systems normally include
There are technical problems in urban ood design. The fre- simple devices, such as gully pots, to collect sediments and asso-
quency of surface ooding for storm sewers is not a design criterion, ciated pollutants, while one of the roles of SUDS, discussed above,
is often not known, and will vary greatly for different systems. is to reduce pollutant discharge. Particular problems arise where
There has been a lack of technical capability to address this prob- storm and foul sewers are combined. Under extreme ows, treat-
lem. But in the past few years, models have been developed to ment facilities are unable to accept the storm discharges, and
represent the surface routing of overland ows, and associated overows of sewage efuent to watercourses can occur. This is a
storm sewer interactions, supported by high resolution topo- concern for pollution of the Thames in London, and is one of the
graphic data, for example from LIDAR airborne remote sensing motivations for major investment in a new interceptor sewer.
systems (Djordjevic et al., 2004). This offers exciting potential for a There is also scope in urban areas for a wide range of pollutants
paradigm shift in the design of the urban environment to manage to be released to the water environment from accidents, spillages,
ood risk. broken pipes and illegal activities. In recent years, industrial pollu-
tion of surface water systems in the UK has been greatly reduced in
Floodplain development response to tighter regulatory controls. But in the subsurface, there
Finally in this discussion of urban ooding, we turn to issues of is a legacy of pollution of soils and groundwater, with long-term
development on oodplains. Many major towns and cities are adja- consequences. Groundwater in urban environments is commonly
cent to rivers, and there are continuing economic pressures to build polluted and is not suitable as a potable resource.
in river oodplains. However, oodplains have precisely the func- The management of water in the urban environment can signif-
tion that their name suggests; rivers can be expected naturally to icantly modify hydrological impacts. The harvesting of rainwater
ow beyond their banks every few years. The natural functioning of from roofs can reduce both storm runoff and the demand for other
a oodplain is to store and subsequently release ood waters, atten- water resources, while the re-use of so-called grey water at a
uating a ood as it travels downstream. Over the past century or domestic scale is technically feasible, although not currently eco-
more, oodplains have been increasingly used for urban and agri- nomic (Liu et al., 2007). Vegetation can be used to attenuate and
cultural development, and the need to protect that development reduce runoff and associated pollution, either at the scale of Green
has led to engineered disconnection of the river from its oodplain. Roofs or in larger scale implementation of SUDS. In water-limited
The result is a loss of ood attenuation, and increases in ood risk areas, the management of urban water has been intensied, and
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S253

associated investment has been made to reduce pollutant load- peak ow and an increase in the magnitude of peak ows has been
ing. In Singapore, for example, runoff is collected as a resource reported in relation to installation of eld drains in a 16 km2 clay
from approximately 50 per cent of urban areas, and wastewater catchment in North East England (Robinson et al., 1985).
is treated to create NewWater, mainly for industry, but in part for The drainage of soils rich in organic matter may have both
domestic supply. short and long-term effects. Lowering the water table in peatlands
Changes in water management can have important effects. In will increase the amount of available storage capacity in the short
London, a large lowering of groundwater levels occurred due to term but will also increase organic matter decomposition rates,
industrial water use after the industrial revolution. In recent years, resulting in a subsequent decrease in available storage as the
that use has reduced, and rising groundwater levels have posed organic matter content decreases (Holden et al., 2004) and hence
major problems for subsurface infrastructure, including basements potentially an increase in ood peaks in the long term, as well as
and the underground rail system. Pumping is a solution, but due to long-term soil damage.
historical pollution, the water that it produces is not suitable for
water supply. Agricultural intensication
The mismanagement of water can also have signicant impacts. The oods that have affected England and Wales since 2000 have
Leaking water distribution systems provide a source of water to the reinforced more general concerns that changing agricultural prac-
subsurface, and leaking sewer systems are a source of pollution. A tices in the UK may have increased the risk of ooding (Wheater,
striking example is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the leakage of 2006). This is not an issue solely conned to the UK and similar con-
imported water has created major problems of rising groundwater, cerns have been raised elsewhere across northern Europe (Evrard
and perennial ows in the once ephemeral Wadi Hanifah. et al., 2007; Pinter et al., 2006; Bronstert et al., 2002; Pster et
al., 2004; Savenije HHG, 1995). Prior to World War II, the UK agri-
The rural environment cultural landscape was characterised by small elds with dense
hedgerows and natural meandering rivers. The subsequent drive
for increased productivity in farming brought about major changes
While urbanisation is a dramatic change to the natural environ-
(OConnell et al., 2007). These include the loss of hedgerows and
ment, the effects of other land use changes are more subtle. The rst
an increase in eld size, the installation of land drains connecting
long-term experimental hydrological research programme in the
hilltop to river channel, and channelised rivers with no riparian
UK, based initially on the Plynlimon catchments in Wales (Hudson
zone. This landscape change has been accompanied by changing
and Gilman, 1993), was initiated some 40 years ago in response
patterns of agricultural land use and the intensication of pro-
to concerns for the effects of afforestation on water resources.
duction, although recent changes in agricultural policy have led
This research showed that high rates of evaporation of intercep-
to some de-intensication in the past few years.
tion storage (water wetting the surface of leaves) had important
Changes in arable production have been associated with
effects on the water balance. This nding was consistent with
changes in cropping and land cultivation practice and the increas-
a large body of international literature which shows that in the
ing use of heavy machinery. There have been pressures to work
long term, afforestation reduces ows due to increased evapora-
land when soil moisture conditions are unsuitable, and to work
tion (Bosch and Hewlett, 1982). However, there has been some
land unsuitable for purpose.
ambiguity about the effects of lowland broad leaf forests, with con-
In the uplands, the source areas for the UKs major rivers, land
trasting views put forward (Calder, 2007; Roberts and Rosier, 2005).
use is dominated by grassland production, mainly for sheep. In
Although long-term effects are relatively well dened, in the short
Wales, 72 per cent of agricultural land was estimated to be under
and medium term, effects on ows may be very different. Studies
grassland production in 2005, almost exclusively to support sheep
by Robinson (1986) show that the drainage practices widely used
farming. Sheep numbers in Great Britain doubled between 1950
at that time to establish forests in the UK uplands gave rise to an
and 1990 as a result of farm support payments based on stock num-
increase in storm runoff, an effect that may last for many years.
bers (Fuller and Gough, 1999). Associated with this change has been
Field drainage an increase in the amount of improved pasture in upland areas,
In the 1970s, attention in the UK turned to the effects of agricul- which has been created by draining, ploughing, and reseeding, also
tural drainage on ooding (Robinson and Rycroft, 1999; Robinson, nancially supported by government and EU incentives (James and
1990). Under-draining, the use of underground pipe systems to Alexander, 1998). These increased numbers also led to the use of
drain soils to improve production, is a common agricultural prac- less suitable land for grazing, supporting higher stock intensities
tice and the UK is one of the most extensively under-drained on marginal land.
countries in Europe. Much of this drainage occurred between the The degradation of soil structure, due to either arable or grazing
1940s and the 1980s, encouraged by government grants (Robinson intensication, can lead to reduction in soil inltration rates and
and Armstrong, 1988). In the UK, very low-permeability soils often available storage capacities, increasing rapid runoff in the form of
have a secondary treatment such as subsoiling or moling, to overland ow (e.g. Heathwaite et al., 1990; Bronstert et al., 2002;
improve the ow of water to the drains. Although the cessation of Carroll et al., 2004; OConnell et al., 2004). There are concerns in the
grants in 1984 has meant that there has been little new land being UK and elsewhere in Northern Europe that this may increase the
drained, existing drainage is still maintained to varying degrees risk of ooding (Holman et al., 2003; Stevens et al., 2002; Boardman
(Armstrong and Harris, 1996). et al., 1994; Burt, 2001). However, the role of land use management
The installation of eld drains will generally cause a reduction in enhancing or ameliorating UK ood risk has been identied as
in surface and near-surface runoff due to a lowering of the water an unanswered question in a major review commissioned by Defra
table and an increase in the available storage capacity of the soil. (OConnell et al., 2004). The research cited above mainly focuses on
However, runoff from drained land may be faster or slower than the role of land management intensication at the scale of individ-
from undrained land depending on the nature of the soil and its ual elds. The catchment-scale effects remain largely unresolved.
management (Armstrong and Harris, 1996), as well as the tim- Beven et al. (2008) attempted to identify the catchment-scale
ing and intensity of rainfall. Reid and Parkinson (1984) illustrated effects of land use and land management change by interrogation
how runoff response from drained elds varied seasonally, depend- of catchment-scale data, but failed to identify a clear relationship
ing on antecedent moisture conditions. A reduction in the time to between land use and land management and river ows. This does
S254 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

not mean that such a relationship does not exist, but rather that agricultural intensication in the mid-20th century, and a recent
errors in catchment-scale measurements and the multi-faceted possible signal of climate change. Henshaw and Thorne (2008)
nature of catchment change, combined with climate variability, report signicant increases in sediment bed-load when compar-
do not allow such effects to be detected, although they may be ing improved and unimproved pasture at Pontbren. Major stream
substantial. incision has taken place in areas of improved pasture. Field ditches,
A recent multi-scale experimental and modelling study has been gullies and over-steepened banks provide sources of coarse sedi-
established at Pontbren, in mid-Wales, to provide data and mod- ment. These authors also identify a recent reduction in bed-load
els to address this issue (Marshall et al., 2009; Jackson et al., 2008; yields, possibly associated with measures taken by the farmers to
Wheater et al., 2008a,b). The soils at Pontbren mainly comprise protect banks from cattle and reinstate hedgerows and woodland
heavy clay, with a history of land drainage, and are predominantly shelter belts.
grazed by sheep. Pontbrens land management background is also Land management is also strongly associated with chemical
noteworthy. From the 1970s to the 1990s, sheep numbers increased water quality. The major pollutants of concern for the UK are nutri-
by a factor of six, and animal weights doubled. Since that time, ents, particularly nitrate and phosphates. Defra (2008) estimates
farmers have reduced stocking densities, moved to smaller and that 60 per cent of nitrate pollution and 25 per cent of phosphates
hardier breeds, and started reinstating hedgerows and shelter belts. in English waters originates from agriculture. In response to the
Experimental studies have shown rapid improvement in soil struc- EU Nitrates Directive (1991), controls are placed on agriculture
ture and permeability associated with the establishment of tree through the designation of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs),
shelter belts, and modelling studies have been used to investigate which have recently been revised for England, increasing the area
both eld and small catchment-scale effects. While runoff volumes designated from 50 per cent to 70 per cent. This means that in
are not signicantly changed by the planting of shelter belts, impor- most of England and Wales, limits are imposed on the permissible
tant changes to runoff peaks are indicated. Simulations suggest loading of organic and inorganic nitrogen applications, and on
that for frequent events, the median effect of reverting to 1990s their timing, and no application is allowed on areas dened as
patterns of land use would be to increase ood peaks by 13 per being at high risk of runoff. There are important tensions between
cent. Conversely, introducing optimally placed tree shelter belts agriculture and water quality, and these raise associated policy
to the current land use would reduce peak ow by 29 per cent, issues. Lovett et al. (2006) demonstrate that nutrient standards in
and introducing full woodland cover would reduce ows by 50 the River Slea could only be met by taking substantial areas of land
per cent. Considering an extreme event, the corresponding median out of agricultural production.
effects are a 5 per cent increase and a 5 per cent and 36 per cent An overarching issue is where the responsibility for nitrate pol-
reduction, respectively. While some of these effects are not large, lution should lie. Lovett et al. (2006) also provide an economic
neither are they insignicant. It is worth noting that such inter- analysis that indicates that the cost of nitrate reduction in agricul-
vention measures also have benets for diffuse pollution and for tural production is four times that of nitrate removal by treatment
wildlife habitats, but there is currently no framework for integrated of the potable water supply. Similar issues apply to phosphorus.
assessment of these possible benets. In a modelling study of the potential impacts of phosphorus man-
The above discussion has related to the generation of runoff agement on the rivers of eastern England, Wheater and Daldorph
from elds and hillslopes, i.e. the amount and timing of water enter- (2003) conclude that while constraints on agricultural manage-
ing rivers. The routing of ows down rivers is affected by oodplain ment can reduce river concentrations signicantly, it would be
management. As we have seen in Floodplain development sec- hugely expensive to achieve the low levels of phosphorus concen-
tion, there has been a disconnection of rivers from their oodplains, tration associated with good ecological status.
itself associated with the provision of increased ood protection Relatively little attention has been paid to biological water qual-
for agricultural land. But it is possible to reduce ood risk down- ity, although faecal indicator uxes are of concern. Hunter et al.
stream by reducing the level of protection for agricultural land in (1999) show the effects of sheep grazing on faecal bacteria lev-
oodplains, and allowing the natural storage and attenuation of els in an upland environment in England, and Oliver et al. (2005)
water associated with oodplain inundation to be re-established. show signicant E. coli loads in runoff from land grazed by cattle
However, issues are not straightforward; agricultural areas with and treated with livestock wastes. Crowther et al. (2002) demon-
ood defences can act as washlands in high ows, storing water strate the effects of lowland pastoral agriculture on coliform, E.
above its natural level and reducing the peaks of ood hydrographs. coli and Streptococci concentrations on river waters and hence on
Hence removing the surrounding ood protection banks entirely marine bathing water quality. But Kay et al. (2005), in an analysis
may in some cases perversely increase ood risk to downstream of the 1600 km2 Ribble catchment in NW England, concluded that
areas. In addition, there are social and economic issues associated urban areas were the dominant source of faecal indicators for that
with their removal, for example with compensation payments paid catchment.
to landowners rather than tenants. Many other pollutants are relevant to the rural environment,
but space precludes their detailed treatment here. Some are of local
Water quality, sediments, geomorphology and habitats concern (e.g. pollution from sheep dips), others reect specic inci-
The ow regime of a catchment, in combination with its sources dents (e.g. disposal of carcasses in the Foot and Mouth epidemic)
of sediment supply, determines the geomorphological behaviour of and some are widespread and may reect long-range pollution (e.g.
a river. This means that land management practices have implica- acid deposition, which is dependent on land cover).
tions for suspended sediments, river geometry and bedform. This A principal driver for water resources management is the EU
has implications for habitats and infrastructure. Water Framework Directive. This focuses on ecological quality
Defra (2008) states that up to 75 per cent of sediment loading to and is a driver for the protection of water quality and of aquatic
rivers can be attributed to agriculture. Collins et al. (1997) analyse habitats. It involves a timetable for the achievement of environ-
sediments on the Upper Severn and note the signature of acceler- mental targets. However, particular issues arise with respect to
ated erosion of soils due to afforestation and deforestation and the groundwater and groundwater-dominated rivers, such as the chalk
erosion of pasture soils. Hateld et al. (2008) analysed sedimen- streams of South East England. Chalk groundwater is recharged
tation rates in NW England. Pulses of erosion and sediment ux by water travelling through an unsaturated zone that can be up
were associated with mining and deforestation in the 19th century, to 100 m deep. Recent research has addressed uncertainties in
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S255

Fig. 1. The ooding system. Upper image: the uvial/coastal ooding system. Lower image: the intra-urban ooding system (from Evans et al., 2004a,b).

the transport of nitrate in this unsaturated zone, conrming that Land use futures: a water management perspective
rates of movement are of the order of 1 m per year. This means
that a legacy of decades of nitrate history is moving slowly to The relationship between land use and ooding was explored in
groundwaterthe so-called nutrient time-bomb. (Jackson et al., the 2004 Foresight Future Flooding project (Evans et al., 2004a,b),
2007). which was recently revised as part of the Pitt Review of 2007 oods
S256 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

uing to spend the same amount of money and following the same
policies as in 2004. The results of this were striking, with ood risk
increasing in the 2080s under all four scenarios, as illustrated in
Tables 1 and 2.
The distribution of ood risk was shown by maps such as those
in Fig. 3, which compared the present and future distributions of
economic damage.
The concentration of ood risk around the coast and in the major
urban areas is obvious, as is the lesser severity of future ood
risk under the Global Sustainability scenario compared with the
high-growth, high climate change, low-regulation World Markets
It should of course be borne in mind that UK government expen-
diture on ood risk management has increased considerably since
the publication of the Future Flooding report in 2004, thereby
reducing the growth of future risk under the business as usual sce-
nario. Nevertheless the ood risk multipliers and the distributions
Fig. 2. Combined climate change and socio-economic futures used in the Foresight of future ood risk shown in Fig. 3 remain of interest in showing
2004 analysis. the potential for ood risk to increase in the future.

(Pitt, 2008; Evans et al., 2008). We rst summarise key issues from
these reviews, and then discuss the water resource and water qual-
ity perspectives. Drivers of future ood risk
What then were the drivers of these large increases in future
Future magnitude, distribution and drivers of ood risk in ood risk? Here we draw on the Pitt Review update of the orig-
England and Wales inal qualitative analysis, which grouped the drivers according to
a Source/Pathway/Receptor (SPR) classication as shown below in
The aim of the 2004 Foresight Future Flooding project was to Table 3:
use the best available science to provide a challenging vision for The top 12 drivers, graded by national ood risk multiplier in
ood and coastal defence in the UK between 2030 and 2100 and the 2080s, are shown in Table 4:
so inform long-term policy. It employed two forms of analysisa It can be seen that while climate change drivers feature highly,
quantitative, probabilistic, computer analysis using very large Geo- many drivers connected to land use are also prominent including
graphical Information System (GIS) databases based on the Risk infrastructure, buildings and contents, urbanisation and intra-
Assessment for System Planning (RASP) system developed by the urban runoff. In addition, the ood risk created by climate change is
Environment Agency, and a qualitative analysis. The latter used a dependent not only on the increased frequency of ooding, but also
structured method to draw out evidence-based expert knowledge on the distribution and number of receptor assets in the oodplain,
to estimate approximately how big an impact the various drivers a function of the degree of regulation under the different scenarios
and responses might have on ood risk under different future sce- in Table 5.
narios, and then ranked them in order of impact on ood risk. The Future Flooding analyses went on to show that with port-
The project saw the ooding system as being composed of two folios of structural and non-structural responses, implemented in
sub-systems, the catchment and coastal ooding system, and the a sustainable way, the future risks could be pulled back to a level
intra-urban system, where ooding arises from events within around that of the present day. The top 12 responses are shown
urban areas. This is in contrast to river and coastal ooding, where below.
water enters urban areas from outside (Fig. 1). It can be seen that responses related to land use rank alongside
The analysis used four combinations of climate and socio- engineering responses as the most powerful in controlling future
economic scenarios to create alternative pictures of possible ood risk.
futures (Fig. 2), drawing on UKCIP02 and the Foresight Futures
socio-economic scenarios (SPRU et al. (1999); OST 2002).
Land use and the drivers of future ood risk
Magnitude and distribution of potential future ood risk
The quantitative analysis was rst run under a business as usual We now examine more closely some of the ood risk drivers
assumption for ood risk management, with government contin- and responses in the context of land use.

Table 1
Flood risks expressed as Expected Annual Damage (EAD) and the baseline costs of ood defence for the business as usual optioncatchment and coastal, 2080s.

Present day World markets National enterprise Local stewardship Global sustainability

Baseline case, EAD million/year 1040 20,500 15,100 1500 4860

Baseline cost million/year 500 500 500 500 500

Table 2
Flood risks expressed as Expected Annual Damage (EAD) and the baseline costs of ood defence for the business as usual optionintra-urban, 2080s.

Present day World markets National enterprise Local stewardship Global sustainability

Baseline case, EAD million/year 270 7830 5060 740 1570

Baseline cost million/year 320 320 320 320 320
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S257

Fig. 3. Foresight futures: comparative risk Expected Annual Damage residential and commercial properties, 2080s.
S258 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

Table 3
Combined list of uvial/coastal and intra-urban drivers.

Driver group Driver SPR classication

Precipitation S
Temperature S
Climate change Relative sea-level rise S
Waves S
Surges S

Urbanisation P
Catchment runoff
Rural land management P

Groundwater systems and processes Groundwater ooding P

Environmental regulation P
River morphology and sediment supply P
Fluvial systems and processes
River vegetation and conveyance P
Urbanisation and Intra-urban Runoff P

Sewer conveyance. blockage and sedimentation P

Urban systems and processes Impact of external ooding on intra-urban drainage systems P
Intra-urban asset deterioration P

Coastal processes Coastal morphology and sediment supply P

Human behaviour Stakeholder behaviour P

Buildings and contents R

Urban impacts R
Socio-economics (now includes rural and intra-urban
Infrastructure impacts R
receptors and all types of ooding: river, coastal, pluvial
Agricultural impacts R
and coincident)
Social impacts R
Science and technology R

Climate change drivers Precipitation is a pervasive driver for non-coastal ood risk.
The high ranking of coastal drivers draws attention to their Although future precipitation is highly uncertain, increased fre-
importance and to the choices which must be made between pro- quency of extreme events is expected. This raises concerns for
viding high levels of funding to resist rising coastal threats, realign- consequential impacts including intra-urban, uvial and ground-
ing defences, or abandoning large tracts of land to the sea. The water ooding. Increased ood risk for urban and rural areas
connection between land use in coastal areas and future ood risk is will impact on lives, infrastructure, agricultural production and
obvious. ecosystems, while increased oodplain ows have implications

Table 4
National ranking of drivers, graded by national ood risk multiplier2080s.
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S259

Table 5
Response rankings for the 2080s.

for land use management. The possibility of having to nd the The effects of urbanisation on runoff are well known. With-
space through our riverside towns and cities to accommodate out mitigation, urbanisation increases ood risk. The key issue
ood ows up to 40 per cent greater than todays values presents is the extent to which mitigation measures are implemented,
great challenges not only in engineering terms but particularly to either at catchment or local scale (see below). So the effect
urban planning. It contrasts awkwardly with Government policy of this driver is heavily dependent on socio-economic scenar-
of reusing browneld sites. Many of these originated as waterside ios.
developments during the industrial revolution, using water as a Urban areas are also impacted by oods, a process exacerbated
source of power and transport. Increased ooding will also impact by population growth, household distribution and human attitudes
on the role of agricultural land management in ood mitigation, as and desires. Development on oodplains is of great concern. It puts
well as affecting agricultural land and productivity. property and infrastructure at risk of ooding, and affects the trans-
Managed realignment is often seen as a solution to coastal ood mission of oodplain ows. The Pitt Review (Pitt, 2008) shows
and erosion defence problems. However, the cost effectiveness of vividly that a number of recently constructed housing estates were
this measure may be less than was believed (Rupp-Armstrong, ooded in 2007. Decisions on where to build houses, factories and
2008) and it may not be as widely adopted as originally envis- other infrastructure are now recognised as a key tool in managing
aged. Two factors have a bearing here. The rst is the increasing future ood risks. The importance of protecting vital infrastructure
cost of managed realignment schemes. The second is the rising from ooding is also clear.
value of agricultural land in the UK and the greater awareness However, this issue is not a simple one. The 2004 Foresight
of food security as an issue due to climate change and changing ooding reports (Evans et al., 2004a,b) drew attention to the need to
world markets (Brown and Funk, 2008; IAASTD, 2008). Although balance ood management against other economic, social and envi-
less than 1 per cent of ood damage affects the agricultural sector ronmental needs, especially the demand for new housing. It would
(Evans et al., 2004a,b), a large proportion of the most agricultur- be controversial to ban redevelopment of browneld sites that lie in
ally productive land in England and Wales is dependent on ood the oodplain, but are behind well-managed ood defences afford-
protection and land drainage. All the scenarios in our 2004 report ing a high standard of protection. This applies to much of London.
reveal high exposure to ood risk in the Fens of East Anglia. The The need is perhaps for more sharply targeted policy instruments.
increased importance now being placed on future food security Future urban ood risk will be affected by changes in the way
may require response options to be re-evaluated to reduce ood in which urban areas are managed, their characteristics, and how
risk and to maintain standards of land drainage in areas of national planning and management change in the context of social and cli-
agricultural importance. mate change. Important effects here may include the renewal of
existing urban spaces, new urban forms, new densities of develop-
ment, more green space, and encroachment into green belts. While
changes in existing urban form are certain to occur, the fabric of
Urbanisation acts as a driver of ood risk by increasing runoff
urban areas changes relatively slowly in the UK. For example, the
which affects communities downstream, and by increasing the
current rate of replacement of the housing stock is 0.1 per cent per
assets at risk of ooding.
S260 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

annum and the rate of addition to that stock is 1 per cent. In addi- Changing polices towards agriculture and environment suggest
tion, 22 per cent of all land in England is already in some urban there could be benet in setting back some previous agricultural
usage and there is limited scope for further urban expansion. This ood defences to restore natural oodplains in ways which pro-
limitation is compounded under some scenarios used in the Fore- vide benets in terms of ood storage and enhanced biodiversity.
sight Future Flooding project which suggest that the UK could be Promoted by nancial rewards to land managers, these measures
short of agricultural land for food production. could support rural livelihoods.
A signicant percentage of insurance claims for ood damage With respect to the alternative futures explored in the Fore-
originate from outside of the oodplain. They arise from the pres- sight Future Flooding project, the constituents of the driver set
ence of groundwater, local ooding in the form of muddy oods (Table 4) are mainly ranked as having a medium impact on future
(runoff from nearby hills and elds), and from intra-urban ooding. ood risk, although the impact of urban and rural land use is
perceived to be particularly high for the utilitarian world market
Urban drainage systems and processes and national enterprise scenarios. Agriculture is shown to exert a
As we noted in Historical context, state of the science and cur- medium inuence as a receptor under most scenarios. The reason
rent management issues section, a number of drivers connected for this assessment varies between scenarios due to differences in
with the urban drainage system also are of relevance to urban land land use, damage costs, and the degree of exposure to ooding. For
use via their interaction with the form and function of the urban rural land use as a pathway and a receptor, ood risk is mainly a
area, and are likely to become a more important factor in limiting function of societal preferences evident in agricultural and environ-
ood risk in the future. mental policy drivers. Similarly, the contribution of urbanisation to
Building development, operation and form include opportuni- ood risk is inuenced by socio-economic factors which shape the
ties to manage local ood risk though actions taken at the building nature and rate of urban development.
level. Examples include the use of permeable surfacing in car
parks and rainwater harvesting. Responses from the various stake- Land use, water resources and water quality
holders are also included (i.e. individual behaviour) together with
responses that relate to actions when ooding does occur (miti- Future ooding in the UK has received considerable attention,
gation). However, even where there is control over urbanisation, with extensive scenario denition and analysis undertaken in two
creep adds hard surfaces in an uncontrolled and unpredictable Foresight studies. But other aspects of water management futures
manner. are less well developed.
Source controls comprise a range of possibilities. Classical
solutions to increased ood risk include construction of storage Water resources for the future
reservoirs to attenuate ows. More recent methods focus on SUDS, For England and Wales, an Environment Agency, 2001 report on
although lack of clear responsibilities has limited their uptake in Water Resources for the Future (Environment Agency, 2001) gave
England and Wales. The 2008 Pitt Review also highlights increasing projections of water demand under a number of scenarios similar
density of urbanisationproposing controls on paved areas within to those used by Foresight Future Flooding. This has recently been
domestic housing, for example. updated, with a 2009 report on the Water Resources Strategy for
England and Wales (Environment Agency, 2009).
Rural land management The problem of the provision of water is compounded by the
fact that precipitation is biased towards the North and West of
As was the case for urban water management, rural land has Britain whereas population and hence consumption are biased
a role both as a driver of ood risk, and a receptor. The role of towards the South and East. The current water resources status
rural land management in ood runoff generation has been dis- shows relatively large areas of the South East as either over-
cussed above. Although there has been some de-intensication of abstracted or over-licensed, and the scenario adopted for 2050s
agriculture in recent years, this followed dramatic intensication climate shows reductions in mean monthly Summer and Autumn
of UK agriculture over the previous 30 years, in response to agri- river ows of up to 80 per cent. Scenarios are used to support
cultural policy and economic and social pressures. It is thought projections of future demand on the basis of variables includ-
that this intensication has increased runoff generation at the local ing population growth. They suggest changes by 2050 ranging
and small catchment scales, and a signicant proportion of UK from a 35 per cent increase for uncontrolled demand to a 15 per
soils are classed as degraded. Clearly the opportunity exists for cent reduction for sustainable behaviour. One possible growth
land management to mitigate ood risk, both in the context of area is water use for irrigation. At the moment this accounts
runoff generation, and by the potential use of agricultural ood- for only 12 per cent of water use, although this demand is
plain land for ood storage and attenuation (Morris et al., 2005). naturally at its peak at times and in areas of water shortage.
Such intervention measures also have benets for diffuse pollu- Use of water for irrigation could rise by 25 per cent by 2020,
tion and for wildlife habitats, as we noted above, but there is and given the large changes in growing conditions projected for
currently no framework for the integrated assessment of these the 2050s (see Fig. 4), could be much higher by then. However,
benets. water resource futures are highly uncertain. The Environment
There is also a growing perception that changes in peri-urban Agency report (2009) points out that more than 60 per cent of
land use and land management may have a signicant impact water consumed in food and goods and services used is imported,
on ood risk. Agricultural intensication, together with addi- so the UK economy is particularly vulnerable to global water
tional urbanisation of the peri-urban area, has produced signicant scarcity.
changes in the volumes of runoff that enter the urban area from the Although the provision of extra water is a challenge, propos-
peri-urban area, including the effects of reduced inltration and als such as storing more water in mid-Wales and transferring it
increased overland ow. eastwards to the Thames basin and beyond are under active study
Farm land is more tolerant of ooding than urban land, and the (Thames Water, 2009). The problems of realising such transfers are
unit costs of damage are much lower there. While ooding and soil several. They include the current structure of the water industry
waterlogging in some intensively farmed areas can result in signif- in England and Wales, funding, the environmental impacts of dif-
icant losses of agricultural output, in others this is not the case. ferent water quality levels, and the possibility of invasive species.
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S261

Fig. 4. Potential changes in summer growing conditions (after EA, 2009).

It also raises local, rather than national, land use issues, because benets in terms of reduced ood runoff and reduced demand for
new reservoirs would be needed. But the report said that contribu- public water supply. Rural land management will depend heavily
tions to solving the water supply problem might come in part from on land use policy and socio-economic factors, and the future of
more efcient water use in the home, in industry and in agricul- agricultural land use appears particularly uncertain at the present
ture. time. Scarcity of food in world markets could lead to a re-emphasis
Looking to the 2050s, more radical futures for water resources on UK food production. In combination with change in the UK cli-
seem plausible, particularly in South East England. These would mate, this could lead to signicantly increased demand for water
have implications for urban and rural land use. In addition to the from the agricultural sector.
obvious target of leakage reduction, water management in the Apart from irrigation issues, water-related implications of cli-
urban environment could plausibly include rainwater harvesting, mate change for future land use remain relatively unexplored.
water re-use and the use of controls such as green roofs, which have The Environment Agency (2009) notes that If land use changes
S262 H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264

signicantly in some locations, our work has shown that it can At the local scale, new technology for detailed digital elevation
change the amount of water that makes its way to the water mapping of urban areas has provided support for new simulation
environment. This report notes the potential for the greening tools for urban ood management. Prototypes are available now to
of urban areas to limit the increases in temperature which are represent the interaction between sewer ows and surface ood-
implied by predicted climate change. This greening is identied ing, and hence to support new approaches to intra-urban ood risk
as another source of demand for water, but the report may under- assessment and the design and management of urban infrastruc-
estimate its scale. In current urban desert environments, domestic ture.
water use is extremely largesome 870 l per person per day in
Phoenix, Arizona (Gober, in press), mainly for outdoor use. This Land use and water quality
compares to the Environment Agency target for the UK of 150 l
per person per day. The same authors note that clearly on a A further set of fundamental research questions concerns the
larger scale, afforestation, or a change in land use to deep-rooted impacts of rural land management on water quality, and specif-
biomass crops could adversely affect water resources, or a move ically diffuse agricultural pollution. For example, the processes
to crops with lower water intensive requirements could have a governing the nitrogen cycle in soils are extremely complex.
benet. They can be represented in simplied process-based models (e.g.
Current EU legislation, as we have noted, emphasises the protec- INCA, Wade et al., 2002), but the data to support the selection
tion of ecological quality, and this aspect of land management will of appropriate parameter values is limited, as is the informa-
undoubtedly need reconsideration in the light of climate change. tion available to specify past inputs. This means that attempts to
There is little sense in protecting unsustainable ecosystems. Much synthesise catchment response are typically based on subjective
research will be required to develop appropriate strategies for judgement, and are subject to high uncertainty. The complexity
habitat protection and management, given the magnitude of the of the models is such that inverse modelling will lead to high
changes to climate and the water environment that are foreseen levels of parameter uncertainty (e.g. McIntyre et al., 2005). The
by the 2050s. approach adopted by the Environment Agency to determine NVZs
Interactions between land use and water quality can also be is based on a combination of modelling results and observed
foreseen, although as yet they remain relatively unexplored. Obvi- nutrient concentrations, but with the data being given greater
ous issues concern future policy for diffuse pollution, given changes weight where it is available. An alternative approach is to ignore
to the water ows available to transport and dilute nitrate fertil- process complexity and use simple data mining. Thus in the
izers, and changes to the intensity of storms that will change the case of phosphorus, export coefcients have been dened from
mobilisation of phosphorus. These depend on changes to soils and observed data to estimate annual catchment-scale phosphorus
vegetation which are as yet unquantied. Emerging issues include exports Johnes (1996). These can be used to constrain dynamic
the transport of organic carbon from organic upland soils. This is of models, as demonstrated by Wheater and Daldorph (2003). It is
concern to the water industry because it can introduce colour and likely that progress in all of the issues of rural land management
by-products to water. This raises the more general issue of catch- discussed thus far will depend on the maximum use of process
ment carbon budgets, and the integrated management of land and understanding and data, combined with catchment-scale observa-
water to maintain carbon stores as an ecosystem service. tions.
In the urban environment, water quality issues remain partic-
ularly challenging. A wide range of pollution is possible, including
Science needs and developments
for example, road runoff, accidental spills, leaking sewers, leak-
ing industrial facilities, and leaking petrol station storage tanks.
Rural land use and ooding
And there is often a long-term legacy of pollution in soils and
groundwater, for example from the history of town gas pro-
The prediction of the hydrological impacts of rural land use
duction in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is a need for
change remains a challenging research question (Wheater, 2002;
more extensive data to quantify these pollution problems, but
OConnell et al., 2007). Few land use manipulation studies include
specic issues are likely to need intensive forensic investiga-
the extensive monitoring necessary to dene the effects on runoff
processes at local scale adequately, and there is a multi-scale
Particular problems arise for groundwater-dominated catch-
modelling problem of upscaling to represent impacts at catch-
ments. For example, Jackson et al. (2006) developed a new
ment scale. While new methods have recently been developed to
model to represent the subsurface ow paths in chalk catch-
represent the effects of changing soil properties and vegetation
ments. While it was able to represent catchment-scale response,
for upland land management (Jackson et al., 2008; Wheater et
the simulations could not be reconciled with site-specic data
al., 2008a,b), they have been supported only by a single extensive
on loadings and observed borehole water quality data. More
experimental data set. Current research is intended to generalise
complex groundwater systems may have ow paths associated
these modelling tools for a wide range of land use issues, but the
with de-nitrication (Lovett et al., 2006). A much improved
results will be subject to high uncertainty without more extensive
understanding is needed of groundwater ow dynamics and
geochemistry for reductions to be made with reasonable con-
Urban ooding
Integrated decision support tools
The effects of urbanisation are well understood. The basic prob-
lem is that the runoff response is strongly inuenced by local In the context of ooding, DEFRAs policy document Making
management interventions. The multi-scale problem recurs of how Space for Water (2004) denes the need for a holistic approach
to represent local detail in catchment scale impact assessment. to land and water management. DEFRA-funded research (Wheater
Methods developed for rural land use could in principle be applied et al., 2007) has set out a medium term vision to achieve this.
to this problem. However, the authors are not aware of any signif- It emphasises both integrated modelling systems that can rep-
icant research to address this issue. resent effects on ow, sediments and habitats, and the interface
H. Wheater, E. Evans / Land Use Policy 26S (2009) S251S264 S263

with socio-economic effects on both drivers and receptors of risk. Carroll, Z.L., Bird, S.B., Emmett, B.A., Reynolds, B., Sinclair, F.L., 2004. Can tree shel-
Effective land management clearly needs integrated models for terbelts on agricultural land reduce ood risk? Soil Use and Management 20,
catchment planning and management. They must cover surface Collins, A.L., Walling, D.E., Leeks, G.J.L., 1997. Sediment sources in the Upper Severn
water and groundwater systems, ow, water quality, sediments, catchment: a ngerprinting approach. HESS 1 (3), 509521.
habitats, and socio-economic interactions, and have national appli- Crooks, S., Cheetham, R., Davies, H., Goodsell, G., 2000. EUROTAS (European River
Flood Occurrence and Total Risk Assessment System). In: Final Report Task T3:
cability. Implementation could be possible in 510 years, but only Thames Catchment Study, EU Contract ENV4-CT97-0535.
with a major investment in resources. Crowther, J., Kay, D., Wyer, M.D., 2002. Faecal-indicator concentrations in waters
draining lowland pastoral catchments in the UK: relationships with land use
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Finally we turn to climate change, and the improved science Response to the Autumn 2004 Making Space for Water Consultation Exercise.
Defra, 2008., downloaded
needed to support assessment of climate change impacts on land
on 18 November 2008.
use and water. These include: Djordjevic, S., Prodanovic, D., Maksimovic, Ivetic,
C., M., Savic, D., 2004.
SIPSONsimulation of interaction between pipe ow and surface overland ow
improved understanding of the climate system, recognising that in networks. Water Science and Technology 52 (5), 275283.
Environment Agency, 2001. Water Resources for the Future.
factors such as future precipitation are poorly understood, par- Environment Agency, 2009. Water for People and the EnvironmentWater
ticularly with respect to extremes, persistence, and the effects of Resources Strategy for England and Wales.
weather patterns, and that improved downscaling methods are Evans, E.P., Ashley, R., Hall, J.W., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Saul, A., Sayers, P.B., Thorne,
C.R., Watkinson, A.R., 2004a. Foresight Future Flooding, Scientic Summary: Vol-
needed, ume 1: Future Risks and their Drivers. Ofce of Science and Technology, London,
improved understanding of climate change impacts on soil struc-
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Watkinson, A.R., 2004b. Foresight Future Flooding. Scientic Summary: Volume
work is in its infancy, with a 10 year horizon for signicant 2: Managing Future Risks. Ofce of Science and Technology, London.
progress, Evans, E.P., Simm, J.D., Thorne, C.R., Arnell, N.W., Ashley, R.M., Hess, T.M., Lane,
improved understanding of climate change effects on ecosys- S.N., Morris, J., Nicholls, R.J., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Reynard, N.S., Saul, A.J.,
Tapsell, S.M., Watkinson, A.R., Wheater, H.S., 2008. An Update of the Fore-
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