Flooding

Aerial views of flooding at Christ Church Meadow, Oxford, July 2007.
How can the impacts of flooding on society, the economy and the environment be better understood?
How can communication of flood potential to decision makers be improved?

Environmental change is likely to result in greater flood risk, both from surface flooding and from groundwater flooding. Rising groundwater was a significant causative factor for the summer 2007 floods in Oxford. Adopting an integrated catchment approach to flooding could lead to more accurate flood predictions and better-informed policy on flood-risk management within the Thames Basin.

Geological and hydrogeological factors

To fully understand the potential impacts of flooding on society, the economy and the environment, the role played by geological and hydrogeological factors needs to be recognised. Equally, the function of human activity must be considered, including land use, human interaction with the subsurface and wider policies on surface water management.

In addition to the immediate impact of flooding, broader issues should be taken into account, including the potential for flood events to remobilise contaminants, induce geological hazards and for flood potential to sterilise natural resources. To ensure that the results of flood modelling provide an effective resource for decision making and planning in the region, appropriate methodologies for the communication of uncertainty must be employed.

More specific questions that may need to be answered:

  • How can climate change models (temperature and precipitation) be used to inform and model the fundamental processes and impacts of climate change and flooding on the urban earth system, especially in coastal towns and cities?
  • How would flooding affect the availability of mineral resources in the future and how can we incorporate this research into making more effective and sustainable planning decisions?
  • How can the environment best be managed to alleviate flood risk while maintaining both ecological sustainability and security of supply?
  • How will land subsidence and sea level rise interact with the groundwater quality and groundwater levels of the Thames basin? How will these changes impact on existing geological hazards and groundwater flooding?

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