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Humber flood risk management strategy, UK

The Humber estuary drains around one fifth of England and contains the country’s largest port complex. The importance of the estuary’s wildlife and habitats means it is legally protected. We were engaged to help the Environment Agency make sure the requirements of the Water Framework Directive are met for the estuary.

The Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy was the first in England and Wales to require full compliance with the Water Framework Directive.

Our appointment as technical advisor to the Environment Agency covered responsibilities for water quality assessment, ecological assessment, geomorphological assessment and flood risk management.

The Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy provides a long term plan to manage flood risk in the estuary. The cost of implementing the strategy over the next 25 years is anticipated to be £320 million.

Challenges and solutions

The updated strategy was the first in England and Wales to require full compliance with the Water Framework Directive.

We undertook an extensive literature and data review to develop the conceptual understanding of the biological, chemical and geomorphological processes operating in the estuary. We then identified potential mitigation measures such as managed realignment, removal of hard defences or enhancement of existing habitats. Opportunities and constraints were identified and the list refined to remove those measures which were technically unfeasible, disproportionately costly or achieved limited environmental gain. We then recommended which measures were viable to offset the strategy and contribute towards the estuary achieving good ecological potential.

Value and benefits

We brought valuable expertise to the client that enabled us to objectively consider the issues and constraints for the Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy. We offered timely solutions to ensure that an integrated plan for managing flood risk was developed. This also delivered multiple benefits through helping avoid deterioration under the Water Framework Directive, and by providing a delivery mechanism to allow the water environment to be improved for future generations.

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