Guiding principle 2: Ensuring resilience in water and flood management

Ensure that management of watercourses, including flood risk provides for increased resilience to change:

  • Recognise, protect and manage Devon’s natural green (and blue) infrastructure assets and processes that provide important water and flood risk management functions, and take opportunities to improve, extend or restore these where compatible with other land uses and functions.
  • Take into account strategic need expressed in relevant Catchment Flood Management Plans and the South West River Basin Management Plans when managing green infrastructure assets and planning new projects.
  • Integrate components of Sustainable Drainage Schemes (SUDs) into development as part of the green infrastructure network to assist flood management and provide multiple functions.
  • Design and manage green infrastructure assets in a way that reduces rates and volume of water runoff, erosion and sediment transport, and improves water quality where needed.

Why this is important for Devon and beyond?

Poor water quality in our rivers, and soil erosion are currently huge issues throughout Devon. The European Water Framework Directive requires all surface waters to be of good ecological and chemical status from 2015 onwards. DEFRA and the Environment Agency have prepared river basin management plans which identify the biggest threats to water quality in Devon, these identify several locations where water quality is not assessed as ‘good’, and where there is significant risk of not meeting this status. The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires seas to be of good environmental quality by 2020, and management of terrestrial green infrastructure can substantively assist this aim.

Flooding and storm events can cause major cost, disruption and sometimes a direct threat to life. The UK is predicted to experience an increase in winter flooding, storm events and summer droughts as the climate changes. Land covered in vegetation reduces the amount of rainwater reaching main rivers by allowing percolation into the ground and evaporation is reduced with foliage cover. Therefore, provision of (and better management of) green infrastructure can make existing and proposed areas more resilient to flooding and storm events. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), such as ponds and green roofs, can deliver multiple functions such as biodiversity and townscape enhancement.

Management of green infrastructure assets could potentially allow for the provision of coastal flood storage areas and increased space for recreation, thus reducing future pressures.

Strategic priorities and approaches for working together across Devon

2.1: Follow the principles and policies in the Devon Local Flood Risk Management Strategy

2.2: Utilise the south west river basin management plan and river quality assessments when considering to undertake different projects, and the impacts that the project will have on watercourses

2.3: Use guidance such as the Construction Industry Research and Information Association’s SUDS manual and Devon’s SUDS Guidance for standards and advice on sustainable drainage in developments

2.4: Use data sets such as the Environment Agency’s flood risk mapping to help planners and the public understand flood risks

2.5: Learn from case studies of effective changes to land management, successful SUDS schemes and Upstream Thinking

  • Your role

    Find out how you can get involved in the delivery of this guiding principle, whether you are an interested local community group or individual, a landowner or a public authority.

    Local Authorities

    Public Sector: Provide funding towards landscape scale flooding and biodiversity improvement schemes.

    Policy Planners: inclusion of policies in plans to remedy polluted water systems and improve water quality in general.

    All planners: Utilise and improve SuDS when designing new infrastructure.

    Require new development to provide reductions in surface water drainage rates using SuDS .

    Public sector landowners and land managers: management of land estates (such as farms) to improve the quality of surrounding water systems.

    Landowners, developers and design professionals

    All: Consider the requirements and implications of sustainable drainage systems and GI early in the process of design development, and take opportunities to restore natural systems where possible, including use of green roofs, walls and tree canopies in urban areas. Utilise vegetative planting to manage flood risk, improve biodiversity and create more attractive and valuable developments.

    Consider quality of surrounding surface waters and seas and how your project can help towards improving these.

    Farmers: use methods of farming which reduce surface runoff, managing watercourses on their own land to allow for natural flow and less risk of blockages occurring during flood conditions.

    Communities and individuals

    Neighbourhood planning bodies: inclusion of policies in neighbourhood plans to remedy polluted water systems and improve water quality in general.

    Prepare policy to promote use of natural systems to provide flood defence rather than typical culverts or concrete structures.

    Individuals: Use of permeable surfacing on driveways to reduce surface water runoff, use of grey water catchment and recycling facilities. Use of a water butt to collect rain and tend the garden with. Dispose of wastes such as oils and paints responsibly.

Tools and case studies to help you

The following tools and case studies will aid the delivery of this guiding principle.

Mapping and analysis of green infrastructure in Devon

We have undertaken an analysis of the green infrastructure in Devon.

Devon County Council flood risk webpages

Devon County Council is the lead local flood authority and therefore we are a statutory consultee for major developments that have surface water implications. We have published a flood risk management strategy and determine applications for changes to ordinary watercourses.

Devon County Council SUDS guidance

To help those designing new developments or improved drainage schemes for existing developments, we have developed SUDs guidance, which is available from this page.

Upstream Thinking

Upstream thinking is a series of projects which promote environmental enhancement of wetland areas, using these to reduce flood risk, improve water quality and help tackle climate change.

The Woodland Trust’s ‘Holding back the waters’

The woodland trust has provided guidance and case studies about how woodland planting can be used to improve water management and therefore reduce flood risk.

The Landscape Institute

The landscape institute has guidance and ideas for how new developments should be designed to manage water better – be this reducing flood risk or improving water quality. They advocate a green infrastructure approach, stressing that planting can reduce flood risk, increase property prices and provide for biodiversity enhancement.

Institute of Water and Environmental Management

The Institute of Water and Environmental Management are dedicated to improving the management of water and the environment. As part of this, they have set up knowledge networks, where useful information is shared between parties with similar interests.

Environment Agency – What’s in your backyard

The Environment Agency has published a number of free datasets, specifically including mapping of flood risk, water quality and shoreline management, amongst others.