The changing face of floodplains 2017

The reality of flooding

Currently in the UK, over five million people are at risk of flooding. The UK’s most recent severe flood occurred in the winter of 2015. More than 6,000 UK homes and hundreds of communities were hit by Storm Desmond.

Floodplains work to store the water from over-flown rivers however, in the case of Storm Desmond, where a flood plain does not have the ability to store this water, flood-water flows into urban areas reaching homes, business and communities more quickly. 

Recognising the vital role that floodplains play in flood management, we have partnered with the University of Salford to conduct an in-depth scientific study of England’s floodplains.

The findings

Conducted over a 12 month period, the study revealed that 90% of floodplains across the country have changed to such a degree, that they no longer work properly.

The detailed analysis showed that semi-natural woodland and rough grassland together now only occupy 6% of floodplain area, whilst wetland communities (fen, marsh and swamp) have been reduced to less than 0.5% of the total floodplain area.***

As a result, the velocity at which water flows across floodplains has increased significantly, resulting in towns and villages flooding more quickly. This type of vegetation is important as it acts as a buffer to help slow the flow of water across land.

The evidence

Birds eye images of the River Eden in Cumbria show the significant lengthening of the river due to the floodplain’s inability to cope with such pressures. In 1890 the total river length was 2270.3km, yet in 2016 the river measured 3439.71 km, an increase of 1169.41km.

However this has resulted in floodwater moving downstream more rapidly, resulting in water reaching towns and villages more quickly.

  • Before-River length increase
    After-River length increase
    1890: Total river length 2270.3kmRiver length increase2017: Total river length 3439.71km

What impact this has

One of our customers, Mr Dyer-Smith explained what happened when his house was flooded and shares his tips on what can be done to minimise the impact of floods.

“In 2005 we had a near miss with floods, and so my wife and I prepared a flood plan. Due to this we were well prepared for when Storm Desmond hit in 2015. You hear horror stories about people losing personal, sentimental and irreplaceable items such as photographs, wedding dresses and childhood keepsakes but we were lucky. Some old chairs, furniture and a pair of glasses were the worst of our personal losses.

“What we couldn’t possible have been prepared for however, was the impact that the floods of Storm Desmond had on the structure of our home. We immediately had to move out of the house and it was 326 days before we were back. Our entire claim, I believe came to over £100,000 but I dread to think what the claim would have been if we didn’t have our plan in place.”

  1. Sign up to flood-line alerts at
  2. Ensure you have a supply of batteries, candles, torches and matches
  3. Put all your mobile phones on charge immediately as power could be lost
  4. Split the tasks with the household to get ahead
  5. Move all sentimental and irreplaceable items upstairs at the earliest possibility
  6. Put any furniture drawers upstairs or on work surfaces
  7. Fill the bath, sinks, bottles and jugs with water as clean water may not be available
  8. Undo electric plugs and remove all electrical items to safety
  9. Drive cars to higher ground
  10. Bring boots and waders (if you have them) indoors
  11. Stock up on rope for hanging things high up
  12. Move furniture away from walls
  13. Tie curtains away from the ground
  14. Shut off electric power

Co-op takes action

Having witnessed first-hand the financial and emotional impact of flooding on UK homes and communities, Co-op Insurance is taking action.

In response to the academic findings Co-op Insurance has developed three key responses:

Download the Flood-watch Toolkit here

1: Community flood-watch toolkit

Co-op has launched a community flood-watch tool kit to help place prevention at the heart of every community in flood risk areas. The toolkit outlines three simple measures which, members of the community can put in place to help to prevent flooding. Co-op hopes that the toolkit will bring communities together to combat flooding in a tangible way.

2: Co-op’s membership scheme

Local flood aid charities in Carlisle, one of the areas most recently impacted by floods will now benefit from the Co-op’s membership scheme. This means that Co-op’s members in Carlisle will be able to nominate flood related charities as their chosen cause, which in turn will receive 1% back on every £1 spent on Co-op’s own bought products. Furthermore, the business will look to roll this out to high flood risk areas across the UK.

3: Fundraising for floods pledge

Thirdly, Co-op Insurance will invite its members in Cumbria to vote for a flood related charity which the business will commit to fundraising for, a period of six months.

What else do you think could be done to reduce the chances of flooding? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.