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Natural flood management

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Natural flood management (NFM) has been advocated as a sustainable alternative to traditional flood management. NFM is based upon the well‐established principle that instead of locally defending floodplains from inundation, it is possible to manipulate river flow at the catchment‐scale (catchment‐based flood management, CBFM) to reduce flood inundation downstream. NFM is a subset of CBFM because the focus is on more ‘natural’ approaches to doing this, even if the associated measures may not be strictly natural. The options for doing this are classified and explained in terms of: (1) reducing the rate of rapid runoff generation on hillslopes; (2) storage of water during high river flows; and (3) slowing flow by reducing the ease of connection between runoff sources and zones of potential flood inundation. NFM is argued to have potential at certain sizes of river catchment but it is argued that there are fundamental arguments and scientific uncertainties in concluding that its potential will also apply at larger spatial scales. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1211. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1211

The relationship between attenuation and tributary delivery of river flow shown in discharge‐time plots with an example river basin network shown.
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Percentage reduction in peak flow (a) for a river basin in the south‐east of England using the model reported in Dixon et al. Data are based upon model runs by Ed Byers, assisted by Dr Nick Odoni of Durham University who set up and calibrated the model for the catchment. (b) The kinds of interventions that might be used to achieve these reductions, here in the River Seven catchment, North Yorkshire during a flood (© Mike Potter). Flow is from right to left.
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The interactions between the scale of the intervention and the scale of the impact in relation to attenuation.
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Examples of engineered catchment‐based flood management. (a) An example of an in‐line flow structure designed to let a certain discharge pass but to retain flows above this until the point at which it is field (© Mike Potter). (b) An example of off‐line flood storage where a floodplain has been engineered to create washlands that fill at a certain critical flow level.
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