A new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) provides an overview of significant floods in Europe and looks at the role of floodplains in flood protection, water management, nature protection or agriculture and the impact of hydromorphological alterations on the ecosystem services that floodplains provide. The aim is to support the implementation of the EU Floods Directive (EU, 2007), in particular with regard to environmental impacts and how these can be linked to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. It looks at synergies between water management, nature conservation and economic developments both in the field and on policy level.
- The restoration of healthy ecosystems, for example through the Natura 2000 networks, is often a very effective way of preventing and mitigating floods.
- By 'greening the grey' and making a network of green infrastructures, the necessary protection levels can be combined with a minimum loss of habitats and a good preservation of ecosystem services.
- Between 1980 and 2010, 37 European countries registered 3, 563 floods in total. The highest number of floods was reported for 2010 (321 floods), when 27 countries were affected. This number is associated with the 'Central European floods', which occurred across several Central European countries during May and June 2010.
- Based on reporting from nine countries, the report maps the share of population living in floodplain areas. Among those countries, Italy has the largest population living in flood-prone areas (6.7 million people, 11% of the population) whereas Hungary has the highest relative share of people living in such areas (1.8 million, 18% of the population).
- Annual flood losses can be expected to increase fivefold by 2050 and up to 17-fold by 2080. The major share of this increase (70–90%) is estimated to be attributable to socio-economic development as the economic value of the assets in floodplains increases, and the remainder (10–30%) to climate change.
- Future extreme floods are likely to be the cost drivers for the adaptation of infrastructure. Ecosystem-based adaptation, nature-based solutions and green infrastructure are, in many cases, key in ensuring a cost-effective approach to an uncertain scenario by delaying or avoiding lock-ins to classic infrastructure-building water management.
Source: European Environment Agency (EEA) (2016). Report No 1/2016: ‘Flood risks and environmental vulnerability - Exploring the synergies between floodplain restoration, water policies and thematic policies’. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.