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Understanding Watercourses

Understanding Watercourses

The intention of these web pages is to make people aware of the risks of living with watercourses and the need to keep drainage in general in good order. The maintenance issue with formal drainage is fairly easily understood. However, how do you know if you are at risk of flooding from a watercourse?

Well, in practice, if you adjoin a watercourse you are generally living in its floodplain. It is best to assume that you are at risk. The extent of the floodplain can vary greatly from a fairly narrow corridor with minor streams and brooks to large wash land areas with larger watercourses. The Environment Agency have published indicative floodplain maps and these can be viewed on their website www.environment-agency.gov.uk These give an indication of the extent of floodplain areas but only for certain rivers. To estimate the extent of a floodplain more accurately requires extensive calculations and computer modelling and this would not be economically practical for domestic purposes.


Lack of understanding of risk or appropriate preparation

As stated above it is sensible to assume that if the property in question is close to a watercourse it is liable to flooding. It then follows that a plan should be made of the actions to be taken if severe weather results in flows flooding out of banks and threatening properties. The plan will need to include: -

  • Making sure that there are no blockages to prevent the flow of water in watercourses, drainage etc.
  • Put sandbags/flood defences into place.
  • Move children, pets, valuables, vehicles and other items to a safe place.
  • Un-plug all electrical items and raise them up or move them upstairs if possible, and be prepared to turn off gas and electricity.
  • Move children's essentials upstairs, such as milk, baby food, steriliser and bottles, spoons, nappies and wipes, nappy bags, spare clothing, comforter, favourite toy. Also any medication, food, drinking water and spare clothing for everyone.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater as it may be contaminated.


There is further information on what to do before and after a flood on the other pages in this section.
In order to determine whether you are at risk in the first place, and even before purchasing a new property, it is wise to make enquiries about flood risk. Check on the Environment Agency website, speak to long time residents and think about the lie of the land. Before purchasing ensure that your solicitor ask questions about flooding history.


6. Financial help after severe flood damage