Case Study - Environment Agency: Understanding and quantifying the value of flood risk management activities

Client: Environment Agency
Sector: central government
Services delivered: evaluation

The challenge

The Environment Agency, with local authorities and other partners, are responsible for managing the risk of flooding across England. In addition to capital investment in major flood defence work, they carry out a range of other activities, including for example raising flood awareness and helping build flood resilience in communities, and collating the data and building the models required to identify which communities are most at risk. As pressure on funding increases, they wanted to develop a decision support tool that would help them understand the contribution of different types of activity to outcomes, and to demonstrate the potential impact of different funding scenarios.

How we helped

We started with a research project, investigating the use of the dependency modelling technique, which was relatively new to the Environment Agency. We helped them to build and refine two qualitative dependency model diagrams through a series of facilitated workshops. One diagram showed the value of community engagement in building resilience to flooding, the second looking at the role of modelling, mapping and data management in reducing flood risk. We then helped them begin the process of turning the diagrams into quantitative models that characterise the strength of the various dependencies between flood risk management activities, outputs and outcomes. We showed how the models could be linked to a cost benefit analysis to demonstrate the value of each of the activities. Participants engaged with the process enthusiastically. This ensured a high-level of ‘buy-in’ to the final models.

Support to the spending review

Following completion of this project we provided support to the Environment Agency as they developed a single quantitative model covering all their flood risk management activities, the outputs that these produce, and the measureable benefits that result (such as reduced flood damage). This model was used to clearly demonstrate the impact of reducing funding in each area of activity.

Benefits

The process developed in the initial research project led to a much deeper, common understanding of how stakeholder engagement and data and modelling activities deliver improved flood risk management outcomes. Participants understood more clearly how the different activities depended on each other and how they could be improved both to make them more efficient and more effective. Dependency modelling was shown to be a useful technique, and the Environment Agency has gained the confidence and experience necessary to apply the process and methods themselves. We continued to provide support as they developed the model to embrace all their flood risk management activities. This has allowed them to structure difficult, but essential conversations, around different funding scenarios, and clearly demonstrate how ill-considered decisions could adversely affect people, homes and businesses in the future.

Looking forward

Looking forward we expect this approach to help communities, local authorities, Environment Agency, businesses and landowners, and others to shape discussions and decisions around flood risk management. As extreme weather events become more frequent, it is becoming clear that a mix of different approaches including natural flood management and property level protection will be required. The challenges of designing and funding these should not be underestimated. Dependency modelling provides one way of rising to that challenge.


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