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Assessing options for the development of surface water flood warning in England and Wales

Priest, S.J., Parker, D.J., Hurford, A.P., Walker, J., Evans, K.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.12 pp. 3038-3048
floods, professionals, rain, risk management, summer, surface water, England, Wales
This paper explores the technical options for warning of surface water flooding in England and Wales and presents the results of an Environment Agency funded project. Following the extensive surface water flooding experienced in summer 2007 a rainfall threshold-based Extreme Rainfall Alert (ERA) was piloted by the Met Office and Environment Agency providing initial steps towards the establishment of a warning for some types of surface water flooding. The findings of this paper are based primarily on feedback on technical options from a range of professionals involved in flood forecasting and warning and flood risk management, about the current alerts and about the potential options for developing a more targeted surface water flood warning service. Providing surface water flooding warnings presents a set of technical, forecasting and warning challenges related to the rapid onset of flooding, the localised nature of the flooding, and the linking of rainfall and flood forecasts to flood likelihood and impact on the ground. Some examples of rainfall alerting and surface water flood warning services from other countries are evaluated, as well as a small number of recently implemented local services in England and Wales. Various potential options for implementation of a service are then explored and assessed. The paper concludes that development of a surface water flood warning service for England and Wales is feasible and is likely to be useful to emergency responders and operational agencies, although developing such a service for the pluvial components of this type of flooding is likely to be feasible sooner than for other components of surface water flooding such as that caused by sewers. A targeted surface water flood warning service could be developed for professional emergency responders in the first instance rather than for the public for whom such a service without further operational testing and piloting would be premature.