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How do we live with flooding?

The UK has a rich network of rivers, lakes and lochs and an extensive coastline with beautiful beaches. Rain falls, water flows over and through our land, and the sea is constantly changing our coastline. Flooding and coastal erosion are part of a natural process.

But their impact can be devastating: loss of life and damage to property; disruption to essential infrastructure and services; and damage to the environment.

As climate change leads to a rise in sea levels and more extreme storms, these risks are growing.

seven-fold increase in extreme flooding
Babies born now could see a 7-fold rise in extreme flooding compared to their their grandparents.
UN Global Goal 13 focuses on climate action
UN Global Goal 13 focuses on climate action.
59 per cent more precipitation in winters by 2050
There could be up to 59%
more winter precipitation by 2050.

Source: National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England, Environment Agency, 2020 & Thiery, W et.al. (2021) Intergenerational inequities in exposure to climate extremes.

Engineering a net zero world

Civil engineers work in many different ways to manage water from the source to the sea, including mixing natural solutions with built infrastructure. These include blue elements, such as canals, ponds and wetlands; green elements, such as trees, forests, fields and parks; and grey elements, such as dams and seawalls.

To help reduce the risks and impacts of flooding and help communities adapt to our rapidly changing climate, civil engineers must consider green-grey infrastructure in particular.

They are pioneering innovative combinations, using natural buffers, such as seagrasses or reed beds, in combination with more conventional approaches, such flood defences. In the process, they are also helping to reverse the loss of biodiversity.

We can’t stop the rain but the work of civil engineers is helping to lessen the impact of flooding and enable our communities to become more resilient for the future.

Ask an engineer

“Civil engineers in the flooding and environment sector are working at the sharp end of climate change.

We’re helping communities by reducing flood risk, improving our response to flooding, championing adaptation to climate change, protecting and improving the environment, and increasing natural flood management.

We also raise awareness so people can prepare for flooding in order to reduce the impact on their homes and lives Together, we’re working to make the country resilient to flooding and coastal change by creating climate resilience places that protect lives, businesses and communities, all while actively leading on the transition to net zero.”

Ayo Sokale

Project case study

The Boston Barrier

The Boston Barrier in Lincolnshire is providing better protection from flooding to more than 14,000 homes and businesses.

Once complete, it will provide one of the best standards of tidal flood defence in the UK.