Insurers, lenders and local authorities join forces to boost flood resilience for SMEs

Pictured: Dr Paola Sakai

A project to promote a better understanding of the impact of flooding on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and help them to become more resilient has been carried out in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

The findings of –  ‘Bridging the knowledge gap to boost SME resilience’ – are being presented at a virtual event on Wednesday 21 April, 9.30am – 11.30am.

Book your place at the free event.

The aim of the project, which started in November 2019, was to work with a range of different sectors including insurers, lenders and local authorities across the region to provide better and more tailored support for SMEs resulting in a more resilient sector.

SMEs make up 99% of Yorkshire’s private sector and they are most likely to be vulnerable to flooding. The knock–on effects to the regional economy of a flood event are significant and far-reaching, however there is a lack of knowledge about the economic impacts of flooding on SMEs.

How the findings will help SMEs and local authorities

Dr Paola Sakai, UKRI Research and Innovation fellow, who has been leading this partnership from the University of Leeds, said: “We are really excited to be sharing the findings of this project about the innovative ways of increasing flood resilience which will benefit both local authorities and SMEs.

“The results of this project are helping to fill the gap in knowledge identified in my previous study in terms of the economic costs of flooding on SMEs and the effectiveness of property flood protection.

“This lack of information is causing significant challenges for SMEs, insurers and lenders, surveyors and brokers, as well as local and regional authorities and the central government.

“My recommendations were submitted to Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and I’m happy that after over a year of work we have made progress on some of the recommendations and are having an impact.

“A key part of this project has been to develop a robust methodology to help local authorities assess the direct and indirect costs of flooding in a more consistent and timely way.

“Our data will also provide evidence to help local authorities to prepare more robust business plans and lobby for additional funding to ensure they can be better prepared to respond to flooding in the future.”

“Another part of the project has been the close collaboration we have had with lenders, insurers, surveyors and brokers. The tool we co-developed allows them to better assess the risk facing SMEs in areas at risk of flooding, as well as allowing SMEs to increase their own awareness of flood risk. If we want to have a more resilient SMEs sector, we all need to play a part.”

Innovative tools developed through the project

Two innovative tools that will contribute to flood resilience for SMEs have been developed with partners including University of Leeds, University of York, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), West Yorkshire Combined Authorities, the Environment Agency, the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, flood risk managers from across the Yorkshire and Humber region, Sedgwick, Brodgen Consultants, DEFRA Flood Resilience Roundtable, Upper Calder Valley Renaissance, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.

The first is a Tool to Assess the Economic Costs of flooding on SMEs (TAEC), which aims to increase the capacity of local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber, to carry out assessments of the indirect and direct impact of flooding on SMEs in a consistent and timely way in the future.

The second tool is to Assess the Effectiveness of Resilience Measures (TAER) developed by working with lenders, insurers, surveyors, and brokers. This will allow them to offer better and more tailored products for SMEs as they will be based on a better understanding of the sector’s risk. Flood insurance is an essential flood risk management strategy for SMEs. The tool will help to ensure risk is accurately priced and flood risk is properly management by SMEs.

Read more about the project

Dr Sakai is also working on another iCASP project being run as part of the Yorkshire Future Flood Resilience Pathfinder. The Pathfinder focuses on encouraging people to put in place measures that protect their own property to avoid losses.

A hacking good time: iCASP participated in the Met Office’s climate data hackathon


In light of the upcoming COP26 hosted by the city of Glasgow this November, the Met Office held a virtual hackathon to explore opportunities for boosting societal resilience to climate change. The two-day event on the 16th and 17th of March was aimed at finding new ways to use data to deal with challenges and exploit the opportunities of our changing climate. Over 170 people joined the event and 21 teams worked on three key themes:

Table 1: The three key themes and their teams

Phoebe (team 1) and Hebin (team 2) from iCASP attended the event, joining two teams focused on challenges around nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS, which work with and enhance nature to tackle societal challenges are increasingly advocated for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Team 1: NBS – Risk & Opportunity Mapping

Aware of the multi-benefits of NBS, the team explored areas at risk to climate change across greater Manchester using available datasets to assess the opportunities for implementing NBS. The team used Mapping GM, the home of Greater Manchester mapped data, to identify open access datasets regarding air quality, flooding and socio-economic data to help outline areas that are vulnerable to climate change within greater Manchester. This hackathon challenge has relevance to the iCASP project, Environmental science to promote public health and well-being, which aims to integrate environmental data into the Strategic Health Asset Planning and Evaluation (SHAPE) GIS tool to promote climate-resilient decision-making. 

Once the raw data was extracted, it was fed into a geographic information software (GIS) and aggregated to produce a climate vulnerability ‘hotspot’ map. Using GIS to visualize the data allowed the team to analyze areas of high vulnerability by assessing where multiple risks intersect. For example, people living in areas of high flood risk, poor air quality and high levels of deprivation are likely to be particularly vulnerable to climate change and therefore, areas for NBS opportunities can be prioritized (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Combined outputs of team 1 demonstrating environmental and socio-economic factors contributing to climate change vulnerability within Greater Manchester and NBS opportunity mapping (see individual output descriptions in the table below). 
Figure created from datasets available at Mapping GM –

Figure 1 displays combined outputs generated over the course of the hackathon. It demonstrates that despite central Manchester being vulnerable to multiple socio-environmental risks, it is also an area for NBS opportunities. Data available from the IGNITION project funded by EU Urban Innovation Actions provides a dataset for different NBS interventions, including green-walls, green-roofs, green space and sustainable drainage systems. The IGNITION database acts as a central evidence repository of existing and emerging NBS evidence, covering their suitability for reducing environmental issues, including flooding and poor air quality.For example, using information from 1C which identifies the source of high NO(2) levels, combined with the IGNITION database for understanding suitable NBS to reduce these issues could help city planners implement measures such as green-walls which face the direction of high pollutant sources.

This information would contribute to decision-making processes for strategies including the Great Outdoors – A Green & Blue Infrastructure Strategy for Manchester (2015 – 2025) and the Manchester Climate Change Framework Strategy (2020 – 2025).

Team 2: NBS – 30 By 30 Policy Initiative

In the global climate negotiations, many countries are pledging to meet the 30 by 30 policy goal of protecting 30% of terrestrial and 30% of marine territory by 2030, including the UK. The UK Prime Minister, in September 2020, has committed to protecting 30% of the UK’s land by 2030, along with the Devolved Administrations. Our team was comprised of 7 members working in the governments, universities and consulting companies located in Scotland, Leeds, London, Bristol and Wales. We asked the key question:

What should be the level of protection and management for both biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation?

We took a holistic approach to consider the full range of marine and terrestrial protected areas across the UK by visiting publicly available guidelines and datasets. We noticed that the UK already is close to this target in both the terrestrial and marine (Figure 2) having a diverse range of designations. However, designation does not necessarily mean protection; effective conservation management and adaptation require long-term management considering climate change impacts (Figure 3).

Figure 2: Protected areas in the United Kingdom: categories
Figure developed by the team based on datasets from
Figure 3: Sea surface temperature around the United Kingdom
Figure developed by the team based on datasets from

How well protected are these areas? We noticed that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification system with 6 levels of protection range from total protection to landscape and seascape designations but do not map directly to UK designations (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Protected areas in the United Kingdom: geographical distribution
Figure developed by the team based on datasets from

We recognized that designation of protected areas needs to be an on-going process of active management with clear biodiversity and climate change goals, along with proactive local community engagement. It is important that the 30 by 30 initiative is implemented to deliver nature-based solutions that benefit humans and biodiversity rather than just climate mitigation that can potentially have negative side effects if poorly implemented. Our messages are:

Delivery of 30 by 30 needs to have long-term perspective which takes into account species and ecosystem needs under future climate scenarios; right designation or protection in the right place!

Our Experience and Future Hackathon Events

Hebin commented that “it was so amazing to work with a team of professionals from various backgrounds with a shared and sincere concern for protecting the natural environment; everyone went above and beyond within the short timeframe, developed a true team spirit in building consensus around vaguely defined concepts, and together produced a joint output that contributes to the climate policy debate”. Phoebe also enjoyed herself stating, “It was the first hackathon that I’ve attended but it certainly won’t be the last! The opportunity to meet people with a wide range of skillsets was really interesting and rewarding. I am proud of the outputs our team generated over the course of the hackathon and hope our work inspires NBS opportunity mapping beyond Greater Manchester.”

Check out future hackathon events – You won’t regret it!

Press Release

New tools to help communicate about flooding to at risk communities

Dusty Miller pub in Calderdale

Role play exercises are to be used to help overcome challenges of communicating about flooding to communities at greatest risk.

This is one of the tools that will be developed as part of a new project run by the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP), in partnership with City of Leeds Council, City of York Council, the Environment Agency and the Living with Water Partnership. The project has just been approved by iCASP’s Governance Group, to help authorities that manage flood risk.

The exercises will be used to simulate scenarios during a flood incident and the development of flood defence schemes to illustrate the communication needs of communities.  Other tools will include ‘How to guides’ to help communicate complicated flood processes, a series of webinars to enable learning from leading academics and practitioners in the field and buddy systems to enable organisations and flood wardens in different geographical locations to learn from each other and develop best practice.

At the end of 2019, the key partners in the project approached iCASP to ask for help improving their communications to people at risk to enable them to become more resilient to flooding.

Through working with iCASP they have teamed up with academics from Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and Hull to find ways to overcome their communications challenges.

One in six homes in England are at risk of flooding and yet research commissioned for the Environment Agency’s latest Flood Action Campaign showed one in eight (12%) people have no idea whether they live in a flood risk area. This means that millions of people could be at risk of being caught out by a flood.

Dr Jenny Armstrong, impact translation fellow with iCASP, said: “It is crucial that we support those responsible for managing flood risk so that they can help residents and businesses to understand their own flood risk and what they can do to increase their resilience to flooding.

“Climate change is likely to result in an increase in extreme weather events so effective relationships between organisations and communities are extremely important for ensuring that everyone can work together to tackle flood risk.”

Dr Jacqui Cotton, Environment Agency Flood Risk Manager, said: “To reduce the terrible damage and impact of floods we need effective discussions about the causes, consequences and management of flooding. The tools being developed by iCASP will encourage these conversations and help authorities and those at risk to work together to reduce the impact of floods.”

Jonathan Moxon, flood risk manager with Leeds City Council, said: “We know flooding has a devastating effect on peoples’ lives, it can lead to mental health problems two years after the event.

“This project is really important because we give people the information they need to be as prepared for flood events as possible. It will help them to take the action they need to keep safe and mitigate the impacts of flooding.”

Dr Sam Ramsden, Research Associate – Community Flood Resilience at the University of Hull, said: “It has been essential to discuss the challenges of flood resilience with community representatives, flood wardens and flood groups across Yorkshire, and it is great the project is now developing useful tools to meet those challenges.

“We feel a role play exercise could be a really good way of helping communities and agencies work together and increase everyone’s understanding of what people need to do in an emergency. We will continue to work with communities in developing these tools.”

Steve Wragg, flood risk manager for City of York Council, said: “We are pleased to be part of the iCASP Communicating Flood Risk project. Our experiences of managing floods over many years in the city has given us an insight into how we can all work together to better inform people of the risks and consequences of flooding and ways in which we can adapt our messaging to speak to all communities effectively.”

Katie Kimber, flood warden in Luddenfoot, Calderdale, said: “I’m really looking forward to working with iCASP on developing this important tool in the future which will be useful for those working in a flood resilience role with communities.

“As flood wardens, we are keen for people to take action to protect themselves – particularly here in the Calder valley as flooding happens so quickly and with such ferocity, we have very little time and preparation is the key. 

“The public need simple and concise communication in order to prepare themselves, jargon free key information so it becomes second nature to allow people to easily understand their risk and prepare accordingly. The flood wardens can then use this resource to communicate to the communities.”

Eve Pierrepoint, Portfolio Manager for Education in the Living with Water team, said: “Over the past two years we have delivered over 500 hours of both public and digital education events and have a strong base in schools with our education officers who have developed a Living with Water lesson for key stage 2 & 3.

“Our focus is to use the successful foundations of this to broaden our reach to other communities across Hull and Haltemprice, to build both awareness of flood risk and resilience for the future.”

Some of the challenges to be tackled are:-

  • Communicating technical terminology and concepts to the public to clarify the complexities around the likelihood and magnitude of flooding. These include the level of protection offered by flood schemes, timescales for the development of a flood scheme, sources of flooding and the ways in which floods function
  • Using digital media effectively to communicate about flood risk especially whilst COVID restrictions limit face-to-face communications  
  • Getting the messages across to groups of people who are difficult to reach
  • Providing clarity around the roles and responsibilities of different organisations involved in managing flood risk, ensuring good coordination between them and signposting members of the public efficiently.

Interviews have been conducted by the iCASP project team with representatives from RMAs across the region, flood wardens and flood groups and members of the public to find out exactly what challenges they face.

The next steps will be to design and deliver these tools, which will take a community focused approach to communications, and they will be launched in Autumn. 

Find out more about the project and its progress on the iCASP website and also by following @YorkshireiCASP on Twitter.

For further details, contact Cath Seal communications officer for iCASP email: or tel: 07862 254281.

Bulletin Spring 2021
Welcome to the Spring edition of our quarterly newsletter. The past months have been a challenging time for  many of us during lockdown but we have continued to make progress with many of our projects and would like to update you on developments. 

We hope you enjoy reading our bulletin, if you have any suggestions for future content or comments please get in touch. 

If you would like to join our mailing list and receive it directly, please email: 

Communicating about flood risk

Last Monday, 15th March, was a great day as our Governance Group approved the ‘Communication Flood Risk Project’. This means we can now get on with designing and delivering tools which will help Risk Management Authorities (RMAs) overcome challenges they face when communicating about flood risk to members of the public.

In late 2019, RMAs from across Yorkshire approached iCASP to ask for help communicating with  communities at risk of flooding  to help them become more resilient. Leeds City Council, the City of York Council, the Environment Agency and the Living With Water Partnership became our main project partners teaming up with academics from Leeds, Sheffield and Hull Universities to find ways to overcome these challenges.

We have been interviewing representatives from RMAs across the region to find out exactly what challenges they face and how the existing literature could help us to find solutions. To check that these challenges ring true with members of the public, we have also been speaking to community representatives involved in flood risk such as flood wardens and members of flood groups.

Our five communications challenges

These are the challenges they have identified which we will be tackling:

  1. Communicating technical terminology and concepts to the public to clarify the complexities around the likelihood and magnitude of flooding, the level of protection offered by flood schemes, sources and functioning of flooding and the key components and timescales of the development of a flood scheme
  2. Using digital media to communicate about flood risk – especially as COVID may limit face-to-face communications indefinitely  
  3. Identifying meaningful ways to establish relationships with those at risk and develop resilience amongst communities
  4. Engaging those who are difficult to reach or not engaged
  5. Coordinating and signposting members of the public between RMAs efficiently providing clarity on the roles and responsibilities of different organisations.

One in six homes in England are at risk of flooding and yet research commissioned for the Environment Agency’s latest Flood Action Campaign showed one in eight (12%) people have no idea whether they live in a flood risk area. This means that millions of people could be at risk of being caught out by a flood.

Therefore, it is crucial that we support those responsible for managing flood risk so that they can help those residents and businesses who are at risk to understand their exposure and what they can do to increase their resilience to flooding.

During this project we will be drawing on knowledge which advocates that to improve flood resilience, communication needs to centre around public involvement, community empowerment, community development and be peer to peer.

Our next steps

Our next steps will be to design and deliver tools which will help RMAs to take this community focused approach to flood risk communications. These will start to be used in the Autumn and include:

  • Role play exercise – to simulate key flood risk communication scenarios between RMAs and the public during an incident and to explain the stages in the development of flood alleviation schemes
  • How to guides – will help RMAs communicate complicated flood processes to the public
  • Webinar series – will enable RMAs and engaged members of the public to learn key from leading academics and practitioners in the field
  • Buddy systems – will enable RMAs and engaged members of the public, in different geographical locations, to learn from each other and develop best practice to flood communications.

We will also be acting as an advisor to RMAs on current projects that involve engagement with the public.

As a result of climate change there is likely to be an increase in extreme weather events so effective relationships between organisations and communities are extremely important for ensuring that everyone can work together to tackle flood risk.

Meet Dr Janet Richardson – proud winner of Water Woman Award 2021 (Societal Impact)

Dr Janet Richardson

A prestigious award has been won by Dr Janet Richardson, an Impact Translation Fellow with iCASP, for both her achievement in the world of research and power to inspire other women.

On International day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February) she was amongst those honoured with the Water Woman Award 2021. 

Dr Janet Richardson, who was winner of the award category for Societal Impact, said: “I am delighted to receive this award. I hope my career pathway and different ways of working across disciplines, departments and with stakeholders can be inspirational to women at different stages of their career.

“The impact of research is high on the agenda for most universities. I think others can learn from my work translating research into practical solutions, how effective relationships are key to success and that knowledge comes from an exchange of ideas.”

Which iCASP research projects has Janet got involved in? 

Janet is about to help launch a project that uses modelling to determine the flood related impact of different natural flood management (NFM) interventions in the Don and Rother catchment to understand which interventions are likely to be most effective. This new work builds on the Hidden Heritage Streams project which mapped NFM opportunities to help slow the flow, decrease diffuse pollution and increase ecological connectivity at the landscape-scale. It helped secure funding for the first NFM officer dedicated to the area.

Other iCASP projects Janet has led relate to data collation, mapping and monitoring on the River Derwent, a tributary of the River Ouse Invasive Non-Native Species , Payment for Outcomes and smaller projects such as Skell and Ryevitalise.

What is Janet’s background?

Janet has a background in Earth Sciences, especially in fluvial geomorphology (looking at how water can mould landscapes), hydrology (the study of the movement, distribution, and management of water on Earth) and sedimentology (how sediments such as sand, silt, and clay are formed and move through different systems). Janet uses a range of methods for her work including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), laboratory work (for example, dating sediment, grain size analysis) and fieldwork.

Her PhD on the evolution of ancient river systems in South Africa involved investigating erosion rates and source-to-sink analysis and answered questions on how much erosion has occurred in south Africa, how the river systems have changed over thousands of years, and where the sediment is now – a novel way of investigating the entire sedimentary system from its ultimate upstream source to the ultimate sediment sink (deposition of sediment) most commonly on deep basin plains and analysis of drainage basins. She has also worked on characterising mixed bedrock alluvial rivers in Wales.

Janet completed a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded fellowship to work closely with Yorkshire Water to use high resolution satellite imagery and GIS to map sediment sources and pathways within the River Derwent. She has also spent a year in industry as an environmental consultant where she gained experience of assessing water company drought plans and completing environmental and habitat regulation assessments.

How did you become interested in earth sciences – and at what age?

I became interested in rivers at secondary school – I was very lucky to have fantastic teachers that always pushed me to do my best. One of my favourite school trips was to look at rivers in Ireland, with the classic ‘through a tangerine in the river’ exercise to see where the thalweg was (a line joining the lowest points along the entire length of the river bed defining its deepest channel and its natural direction).

I didn’t actually know anything about earth sciences when I applied to university but managed to change my UCAS application to physical geography and geology. From then on I knew that geomorphology would be my career pathway and I developed the love for sedimentology during undergraduate degree and my PhD. During my career I have got to travel the world (in fact my first time outside of Europe was for my PhD research in South Africa!) and to be outdoors, which I love.

What advice would you give to other women starting their career in scientific research?

I think the biggest thing I have learnt is to not to be afraid to ask questions and to try and push yourself to learn new skills or new disciplines – so be inquisitive and be disciplined. There are multiple routes through academia and industry, speak to as many people as you can to understand these different pathways to see what will suit you best. My role as an Impact Translation Fellow is relatively new within academia – new pathways pop up all the time. 

Why is research translation important?

Impact and research translation are important to ensure that research is actually used to have societal and economic benefits in the world. Without this, important information can be hidden behind a paywall and never actually benefit the world we live in. The role of iCASP is to make research and tools useable, for example, applying the research to a new area, or making a tool have an interface so more people can use it.  It is important to note that knowledge exchange is a two-way process, and that it’s not only universities that hold information. There is a wealth of information within organisations that can help others with similar problems, processes and best practice – iCASP helps join these networks up to ensure we have the best solutions to environmental problems in Yorkshire.

What have you learnt from working with partners?

I have learnt a lot from working with partners; the great thing about iCASP projects is that we often work across disciplines. I have access to a wide range of information that has helped me become a more rounded scientist. It’s also interesting to learn how different organisations work and how geomorphology is used across different sectors and departments. Without working so closely with partners, we wouldn’t know the current challenges and opportunities to aim for.

Which project are you most proud of and why?

I am proud of my work with Yorkshire Water on the River Derwent as it was the first time I was awarded research funding as a principle investigator. Through this project I got to develop a network which has helped shaped my career, publish an open access paper on the research and it has formed the foundation of future fellowship applications. I am also proud of the iCASP projects related to natural flood management, through our payment for outcomes project we are directly feeding into current issues and government policy, whilst the work on the Skell helped secure some Heritage Lottery funding to tackle the sediment and flooding issues in the catchment.

What motivates you to get up in a morning?

Knowing that my work is making a difference. Through iCASP we get to work with a wide range of stakeholders and can actively see how the translated research is being used.

This is the second year for the award scheme launched by water@leeds, in partnership with Athena Swan teams at University of Leeds which shines a light on women who help secure competitive research funds and produce world-class research in an academic world in which the hurdles are still greater for females.

The scheme recognises the value of female researchers across all disciplines, including those in supporting roles, whose work contributes to the mission of water@leeds

My Favourite Book – for World Book Day

One of my all time favourite books has to be ‘Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish’ by Michael Foreman.

This delightful children’s story was hugely influential on me when I was growing up – shaping an early environmental awareness and also nurturing a personal fascinating with cryptozoology.  It is a story of how mankind has built a rocket to the stars and in doing so has destroyed his own planet. Whilst the character travels into space, planet earth smoulders and is covered in all the rubbish he left behind. All the rubbish reawakens the dinosaurs who are appalled at the state of planet earth and set about cleaning it up.

It’s a story of our time that’s even more relevant today than it was when it was first published.  The images we see on the BBC Blue Planet series and in the media of seas and rivers chocked with plastic and sea creatures wrapped in plastic are quite chilling.

One of the ways iCASP has been able to play their own small part in helping to address this very real challenge has been through the River Aire Plastic capture mini project.

As environmental professionals I believe it is our duty to spread the message and lead by example:  the 3 R’s are important now more than ever: Reduce, Re-use, recycle.

Duncan Fyfe, Programme Manager, iCASP

New iCASP project – Creating an evidence directory of natural flood management: The Upper Rother Catchment

The use of natural flood management (NFM) has been championed in recent years due to its multiple benefits and resilience to climate change. NFM incorporates such interventions as leaky dams, tree planting, and offline storage ponds, but can also include different soil management techniques such as changes in tillage practices to reduce compaction. There is an increasing need to quantify the impacts of NFM including flood risk and their multiple benefits in order to establish, for example, payment bands in ‘Payment for Outcomes’ schemes.  

This project aims to quantify the flood risk benefits for different intervention scenarios in the Upper Rother Catchment, South Yorkshire & North East Derbyshire. It will provide an evidence directory for the Upper Rother, which will enable on the ground interventions to be placed with a quantified impact on flood risk.   

E:\iCASP\Upper Rother Catchment\6. Figures\Outputs\NFM_images_v1.png

Figure showing common NFM interventions: leaky dam, hedge laying, offline pond and soil management. Thanks to the Don Catchment Rivers Trust and Les Firbank for the images.  

Our new Upper Rother Catchment iCASP project team consists of Dr Janet Richardson and Dr Thomas Willis, iCASP impact translation fellows; Dr Debbie Coldwell and Dr Edward Shaw, Don Catchment Rivers Trust (DCRT); lead academic Dr Megan Klaar, University of Leeds and Prof. Colin Brown, University of York.  

Dr Debbie Coldwell, NFM officer for the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, said: “We are very excited to be able to continue our work with iCASP which will allow us to take a more strategic approach to our NFM work, targeting areas that will have the greatest impact on reducing flood risk in and around Chesterfield. Having a better understanding of the scale of the works required to have a meaningful impact on reducing flood risk and what we need to do to achieve that will be incredibly valuable to the project and is not something we would have had the resources to do on our own”.   

The project aims to quantify the flood risk benefits (in terms of flood peak and time to peak) for different intervention types in the Upper Rother and River Hipper sub-catchments. In order to do this, SD-TOPMODEL will be used which is a hydrological model capable of modelling flow through a catchment and can be modified to represent different interventions. The biggest advantage of using SD-TOPMODEL for the modelling is the ability to integrate soil management techniques, as the flow of water within the model can interpret different types of flow including overland and sub-surface. 

Soil management is a vital aspect of NFM and offers many benefits, including flood management, as well as more efficient crop growth, water quality improvements and carbon storage. It is also likely to benefit the landowner’s business and therefore may have a higher uptake. Working with key partners in the region (including the Don Catchment Rivers Trust NFM steering board – Environment Agency, Derbyshire County Council, North East Derbyshire District Council, Chesterfield Borough Council); different scenarios will be prioritised and tested, for example, tree planting and soil management (including soil drainage improvement through introduction of organic material, reduced grazing stock in fields, reducing compaction from vehicles and reducing access for livestock to the riparian zone). This will allow the different intervention impacts to be quantified, which will allow for prioritisation of interventions whilst developing a strategic vision for the catchment (for example, how many interventions are needed to produce a 5% reduction in flood risk? Where are the interventions best placed for the biggest impacts?).  The applicability of SD-TOPMODEL to these problems has been investigated in another iCASP project that investigated the impact of land use management on flooding in the Upper Calder valley.  

E:\iCASP\DON_HHSS\1.Deliverables\Figures\Output\Report\Fig 2.1 - location_v1.png

Figure showing the study location of the project – the River Hipper and Upper Rother catchments.  

This project is a follow on project to the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams iCASP project, which was based in the Upper Rother Catchment, and brought together open access data to map the best sites for interventions by creating hotspot (risk) and opportunity maps. In that project, interventions were chosen which would help slow the flow, decrease diffuse pollution and increase landscape connectivity. Mapping in the initial project primarily used GIS and the rainfall-runoff models SCIMAP. The full method can be downloaded here. The initial project highlighted areas of the catchment where opportunities could be placed to help reduce risk, for example, flood risk, however, the benefits were not quantified. The Environment Agency’s flood storage calculator was used to assess what sub-catchments would have the biggest impacts on downstream flood risk. Delaying flood peaks in the Upper Rother and the River Hipper, were shown to have a 10% and 8% reduction in flood risk respectively, significantly reducing flooding in Chesterfield. This information from the Don project highlights the main sub-catchments to focus NFM works on to have the biggest impacts on flood risk. 

We will be kicking off our new Upper Rother Catchment project in April 2021. Please let us know if you would like to be kept up to date with this project as it develops by emailing the iCASP team at  

Climate impacts on health and wellbeing: How is iCASP translating environmental science for resilient decision making?

During the COVID pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact climate change is already having on the health and wellbeing of people in the UK. Around 2,500 people lost their lives as a result of heatwaves in 2020. We saw the wettest month and individual day last year leading to widespread flooding across the country – costly, disruptive and stressful for all those affected.

Dr Ben Rabb and Dr Jenny Armstrong are Impact Translation Fellows (ITF) with iCASP – they recently worked with Bianca van Bavel from The Priestley Centre to contribute to a Climate Coalition report on the impact of climate change on health in the UK. Below is an extract from iCASP’s contribution to the Climate Coalition report.

2020 – another year of extreme weather

It was the joint hottest year on record globally and the 3rd warmest year on record in the UK. Winter 2019 – 2020 was particularly warm and wet, with three named storms causing widespread flooding damage and disruption. Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge contributed to the wettest February on record.

England had its driest May on record and the sunniest spring with water shortages becoming a concern. Summer was more unsettled – some areas received well above average rainfall replenishing river levels and reservoirs. Three heatwaves occurred in June and August notable for particularly warm temperatures at night. These conditions used to be rare in the UK and are particularly harmful to health.  Autumn saw the wettest day on record on Saturday, October 3rd – with widespread heavy rain following Storm Alex.

Soaring temperatures 

2,556 deaths occurred as a result of the heatwaves in 2020 – nearly three times as many as from events in 2019 and 2018. These deadly events are made more likely due to climate change – heatwaves in the UK in 2018 were made 30 times more likely due to man‐made greenhouse gas emissions. 

City dwellers are more exposed to extreme heat due to the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) – caused by buildings, narrow roads, reduced vegetation, air pollution, traffic, domestic energy use and industrial processes. Temperatures can be up to 5°C warmer than surrounding areas which is most pronounced at night when the impact of heat on health and wellbeing is greatest. 

Average and extreme temperatures in the UK are rising. If global emissions continue temperatures in cities could increase by up to 0.45 to 0.81°C per decade between now and 2080. Risks to health include heat stroke, stress and exhaustion; dehydration; acute kidney injury; deteriorating heart disease and death. People over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases or health conditions are particularly vulnerable – and this is growing due to an ageing population and poor health. In the UK, heat-related mortality in persons older than 65 years increased by 21 per cent between 2004 and 2018.

Increasing flood risk 

An increase in the impact of flooding is the number one climate risk in the UK. Around 1.8 million people are living in areas at significant risk of flooding – this could rise by over 40 percent to 2.6 million by the 2050s. More frequent and extreme flood events in the UK are having an impact on our physical health –  deaths from drowning, injuries, vector-borne and water-borne diseases, as well as mental health associated with experiences of trauma, disruption, and displacement. 

How iCASP is responding

Managing risks posed by extreme temperatures will require holistic responses and new plans from sectors beyond health such as transport, energy, water, food, agriculture, building and infrastructure. Dr Rabb is also an ITF for the iCASP project – Environmental Science for Health & Wellbeing in the Climate Emergency (E.SHAWE)

which is merging climate hazard information with local public health, transport, flood risk and other data to aid cross-sector decision making at local authorities in partnership with Public Health England and Leeds City Council.