Flood Damage Appraisal Research
Submitting InstitutionMiddlesex University
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Earth Sciences: Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience
Economics: Applied Economics
Summary of the impact
Throughout the REF period our research - driven by risk assessment theory
- has provided a continuously updated set of unique models, data and
techniques for assessing the benefits of UK flood alleviation investment.
These have been used to justify all flood alleviation investment for the
whole of the UK for the whole of the REF period (c. £3bn), as well as for
the previous 30 years. Our work has been central to all assessments by
Defra and the Environment Agency (EA) of national flood risk (Foresight;
NaFRA (England, Wales, and Scotland); LTIS) and all the Catchment Flood
Management Plans for England and Wales. The research is also used in
Scotland (by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, SEPA), by
international and national insurers (e.g. through Risk Management
Solutions Ltd), and in many other countries.
Since the creation of the Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC) in the
early 1970s, underpinning research in the area of flood damage appraisal
at Middlesex University has been characterised by a number of
interconnected streams, which have continued across the current REF
Risk assessment theory-driven econometric methods. We have
pioneered work in this area to derive a unique suite of nationally
applicable theory-informed empirical relationships between flood
characteristics and economic damages that scale the extent of damage
potential faced by those at risk of flooding. These characteristics
include flood depth, duration and flood velocities. Behind this flood
damage modelling lie more than 1 million data items (Penning-Rowsell and
Green 2000; Penning-Rowsell and Pardoe 2012; Penning-Rowsell et al.,
2013). This research was central to the UK Foresight's Future Flooding
Project and its Supplement to the Pitt Report in 2008, for which we
received a commendation from Sir David King (dated letter 2005). Research
completed for the EA (2012-13) has explored important but poorly
understood secondary indirect (off-floodplain) flood effects (op.cit. 2013) to gauge previously unquantified hazard impacts in economies
and communities peripheral to flooding and floodplains.
Modelling of flood deaths/injuries. For both the UK and
Europe, models have been developed through: (1) an algorithm that relates
flood deaths to the characteristics of floods and floodplains (op.cit.
2013); and (2) innovative assessments of the health effects of
flooding, used in this REF period in the EA's nationally applied Multi
Decision Support Framework (MDSF2), outlined in Tapsell et al.
Non-structural flood risk management measures. Our studies
here have focused upon flood warning systems; incident management;
insurance and their benefits, counteracting previous over-emphasis on
engineering `solutions' for flood risk management (op.cit. 2012).
Policy evaluations. Insights from our research have led to
UK policy evaluations that examine the secondary effects of floods (op.cit.
2013) and hitherto ignored social justice considerations (Johnson et
al. 2007) and counter-intuitive distributional
consequences (op.cit. 2012).
International research has built on our UK expertise, in
both the risk assessment and policy evaluation areas. This has included
more than two decades of research in Bangladesh on livelihoods and
flooding, fisheries governance in flood risk areas, adaptation to climate
change, stakeholder engagement and policy evolution (Sultana et al.
2008). We have contributed, with this, to the Foresight
project on Migration and Global Environmental Change, and have
been commended for this research by Sir John Beddington.
In exploiting and applying our research findings we have worked closely
with world-class consulting engineering companies (e.g. Ch2m Hill
(Halcrows); Atkins; Jacobs; Black and Veatch; ARUP) to undertake
real-world UK investment appraisals for the EA and its predecessors. These
appraisals cover, in total, over 150 flood schemes including, within the
REF period, the £200m Lower Thames appraisal, the £4bn Thames Estuary
(TE2100) project on replacing the Thames Barrier, and the innovative
Exeter scheme (2013) founded on local contributions. Our results have been
used by numerous insurance-related companies (e.g. RMS; Willis; Aviva).
Our research has been continually supported by the University throughout
its 35-year lifetime, including in this REF period, via the provision of
both capital and revenue resources. We have also enhanced our research
since 2008 within a number of major EU projects: FLOODsite (2004-2009,
€493,078); ENSURE (2008-2011, €138,980); THESEUS (2009-2013, €376,000;
CONHAZ (2010- 2012, €112,417); FLOOD-CBA (2013-2014, € 95,000); STARFLOOD
(2012-2016, €869,345); RISC-KIT (2013-2-16, €605,650) and WeSenseIt
(2012-2016, €376,630). Contributions by FHRC to the RCUK-Flood Risk
Management Research Consortium (2004-2012) brought in over £500K
supporting research into flood risk communication (N.B. figures
represent total award to this UoA but award period straddles the REF
period in some cases as indicated).
This underpinning research has been recognized by wholesale support by
official statements and awards, in the current REF period and before.
- The Royal Geographical Society 2011 `Back Award' for `An outstanding
contribution to the development of national or international public
- Commending MAFF/Defra/EA Forewords to our flood damage appraisal
Manuals (2005; 2010; 2013: see section 5, below);
- Commendations on our research on risk assessment and its impact, from
successive Government Chief Scientific Advisers: Sir David King (2005)
and Sir John Beddington (letter of 25.10.2011: `There is ..
substantial interest in the report .. in no small part due to the
quality of the input ..The work that your people put in was
invaluable, for which again my thanks');
- An RCUK EUREKA report (2006) which cited our research on the long-term
psychological impacts of floods as one of 100 discoveries and
developments in `UK universities that have changed the world';
- A Queen's Anniversary Prize (2000);
- An OBE to Professor Penning-Rowsell for `Services to flood risk
management' in 2006.
Staff team involved: Penning-Rowsell (Professor); Parker
(Professor),Tapsell (Principal Lecturer); Sultana (SRF),Tunstall (SRF
retired in 2011), Viavattene (RF/SRF); Johnson (SRF, left in 2011);
Handmer (Professor now at RMIT, Australia); Green (Professor); Priest
(SRF) and others.
References to the research
Johnson, C., Penning-Rowsell, E.C. and Parker, D.J. (2007) Natural and
imposed injustices: the challenges in implementing `fair' flood risk
management policy in England. Geographical Journal, 173(4),
374-390. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2007.00256.x
Penning-Rowsell, E.C. and Green, C.H. (2000) New insights into the
appraisal of flood alleviation benefits: flood damage and flood loss
information. J. Institution of Water and Environmental Management.
14(5), 347-353. DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-6593.2000.tb00272.x.
Penning-Rowsell, E.C. and Pardoe, J. (2012) Who benefits and who loses
from flood risk reduction? Environment and Planning C: Government and
Policy, 39, 448-66. DOI: 10.1068/c10208.
Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Priest, S., Parker, D., Morris, J., Tunstall, S.
Viavattene, C., Chatterton, J.B., and Owen, D. (2013) Flood and
Coastal Erosion Risk Management: A Manual for Economic Appraisal.
Sultana, P, Johnson, C. and Thompson, P.M. (2008) The impact of major
floods on flood risk policy evolution: Insights from Bangladesh. International
Journal of River Basin Management 6, (4) 339- 348. DOI:
Tapsell, S. M., Penning-Rowsell, E. C., Tunstall, S. M. and Wilson, T. L.
(2002) Vulnerability to flooding: health and social dimensions, Flood risk
in a changing climate, Philosophical Transactions of The Royal
Society, Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Vol 360,
1511-1525. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2002.1013.
Research was funded by competitively won resources, usually benefiting
from high calibre Advisory Committees (including HM Treasury; Defra; CLG;
EA) and was rigorously peer reviewed.
Details of the impact
The unique nature and rigour of the underpinning research led
directly to its widespread use and hence its impact. Without the research,
since 1973 and continuing through this REF period, there would not have
been the models, data, techniques or policy impact that we have achieved.
Our 2005 `Multi-Coloured Manual", current throughout the 2008-13 REF
period, has attracted over 38,000 UK Google citations. Our heavily used
Manuals (Penning-Rowsell et al. 2013) have been central
to the process through which our research has led to this impact. They
have been supported by peer-reviewed papers, and endorsed by successive
government departments, with commendations by MAFF/Defra Chief Engineers
and the Environment Agency (EA):
- 2013 (Jonathan Day, EA) `This Manual represents the results of
intensive high-quality research ....representing the continuing close
collaboration between us'.
- 2010 (Aidan Kerr, EA) `The Handbook provides users with techniques
that fully support (our) sustainable development principles'.
- 2005 (Reg Purnell, Defra): `The Manual is seen by Defra as ...
(providing) a single appraisal compendium ... that supports (our
policy) of sustainable development'.
- 1992: (Reg Purnell, MAFF): `This Manual fills a significant vacuum
and ... will be an important guide to engineers and others...'
- 1987 (Brian Trafford, MAFF) `... the FHRC ... has been at the
forefront in developing methods (of obtaining value for money for)
flood protection projects ... I commend this work'.
- 1977 (Gordon Cole, MAFF): `It is a unique contribution to our
These Manuals have been in constant and routine professional use
throughout the REF period by the Environment Agency, consultancy firms and
local authorities. Furthermore, the material within these Manuals has been
communicated to professional practitioners in this field via repeated CPD
courses run by the FHRC from 1978 to today. In the 2008 to 2013 period
alone we have run 32 such courses for Environment Agency staff and others,
training a total of 906 professionals.
The nature and extent of the impact
The reach of this research has been profound within the UK, with
complementary international extensions (e.g. through the EU Floodsite
and FLOOD-CBA projects, and the `E-Learning Platform for Integrated Flood
Management (IFM)'). As a result of our research, the flood risks
experienced or faced by at-risk communities, businesses and farmers have
been fully recognised, quantified, and all investment has then been
prioritised on this basis. Hitherto, investment had generally followed
those who `shouted loudest', rather than rigorous research-driven
Our research has been used to implement all UK flood risk
management/defence schemes implemented in the REF period (total spending
amounts to over £3bn). The precursor research supported all comparable
expenditure from 1977 to 2008 (a further £10-£12 billions at 2013 prices).
See p. 30 in:
Our research on human fatalities and health effects during floods has
been instrumental in influencing Defra policy and EA practice through the
quantitative incorporation of these variables into project appraisal
techniques (e.g. see the EA's FCERM-AG, p. 205: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/116705.aspx
). Our data and techniques have been used in the National Assessment of
Flood Risk (NAFRA), in the appraisal of flood options for London (TE2100),
and in the influential 2004 Foresight report on Future Flooding, and it's
2008 Supplement to the Pitt Report:
Our unique sets of models, data and techniques, and the Manuals/papers
which explain their research origins, are `industry standard' sources in
flood risk management implementation in the UK. Our results are also
central to the long-term investment strategy (LTIS) of the Environment
Agency, which sets the policy direction for investment in flood risk
management for the future in this country. Corroborations and
corroborators to all these impacts are listed in section 5.
The significance of this research is attested to by the number of
those directly or indirectly affected. The direct beneficiaries in 2008-13
have been hundreds of communities across the UK who have gained from
having investment in flood defence and flood risk management schemes to
protect them from the floods from which they otherwise would have
The 2012/13 investment programme alone included 323 different schemes.
These communities include 100,000s of people and the several millions in
London protected by the FHRC research guided `TE 2100' plan. Further
beneficiaries include the owners of thousands of hectares of agricultural
land and hundreds of thousands of businesses protected from flooding,
including those in the cities of Lincoln, Manchester, Newcastle, Bradford,
Leeds, Exeter, Glasgow, Belfast, as well as many other metropolitan areas.
Our work is always cited in MAFF/Defra/EA policy papers and by SEPA in
Scotland (see source 3 below). Defra/MAFF officials have consistently
confirmed, following their experience of successive Spending Reviews, that
Treasury allocations to flood defence budgets would not have been as high
as they have been, nor the value to the taxpayer as great, without the
rigour of our research supporting the key investment decisions. Indeed the
FHRC research guided Foresight Future Flooding work led to a £200m
p.a. increase in capital spend within the 2008-13 REF period.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- The Environment Agency's `Flood and coastal erosion risk
management appraisal guidance (FCERM-AG)' (2010), pp. 5, 53,
205, 207, 218: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/116705.aspx.
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (2009) Appraisal
of flood and coastal erosion risk management: a Defra policy statement,
p. 31: http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/flooding/documents/policy/guidance/erosion-manage.pdf.
Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 (FRM Act) National Flood
Risk Assessment - Methodology, p. 11 ff. and Guidance
for local authorities. Chapter 5. p. 9, paragraph 5.9.
Foresight Future Flooding http://www.bis.gov.uk/foresight/our-work/projects/published-projects/flood-and-coastal-defence/project-outputs/volume-1,
E-Learning Platform for Integrated Flood Management (IFM)
sponsored by the World Meteorological Organisation, the WWF, and the
Geneva Zoï Environment Network http://daad.wb.tu-harburg.de/?id=1372
Contact details of end users (government; government agency; and private
- Head of Water and Floods Analysis, Department for Environment Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra).
- Head of Flood Risk Management, Environment Agency.
- Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, Public Health England.
- Head, Regulatory Policy Committee Secretariat, Department of Business,
Innovation and Skills.
- Regional Director (Europe) for Flood Risk Management and Water, and
member, Institution of Civil Engineers' Expert Water Panel, Halcrow
Group Limited, a Ch2m Hill Company.