The impact of Natural Flood Management on the performance of surface drainage systems: A case study in the Calder Valley
The evaluation of Natural Flood Management (NFM) has traditionally focused on the ability of interventions to mitigate downstream fluvial flooding by attenuating catchment response. However, the justification for the implementation of NFM projects at a local level is often supported by other benefits provided by such interventions (e.g. improvements to water quality or biodiversity). This study investigates the potential for a further, largely unrecognised, benefit. It is suggested that, by moderating water levels in downstream watercourses, upstream interventions could also help sustain free discharge from drainage outfalls, thereby improving the performance of urban surface drainage systems.
A coupled modelling methodology is applied to the upper Calder Valley and the surface drainage in an area of the downstream town of Todmorden. The rural response and subsequent NFM interventions are characterised using hydrological (Dynamic TOPMODEL) and hydraulic (HEC-RAS) models. Several downstream surface drainage systems are then incorporated using an Infoworks ICM model to examine their response to changes in outfall inundation.
The results suggest that catchment-scale tree planting and in-channel woody debris create modest benefits for downstream surface drainage systems. Under frequent storm events (e.g. a 1 in 10 year storm), the inundation of low-lying outfalls is completely removed. As storm severity increases (and surface flooding becomes an issue), impact from upstream NFM attenuation on outfall inundation durations diminishes significantly. However, the slight delay in rural response allows more water to escape surface systems, increasing the effective capacity of networks and reducing surface flooding. For instance, outfall inundation during an estimated 20 year event is delayed by 0.5 h, which results in up to 25% reduction in surface flood volumes.
While the benefits are limited in extent, this modelling indicates that NFM can help improve downstream surface drainage performance.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P004431/1)