Flood risk

Flooding occurs when a river bursts its banks and overflows onto the surrounding land. There are many factors which can cause a flood - often the natural landscape can influence flooding and also human interactions can increase the risk.

Causes of flooding

  • Prolonged rainfall - if it rains for a long time, the land around a river can become saturated (it's holding as much water or moisture as can be absorbed). If there is more rainfall it cannot be soaked up, so it runs along the surface - this is known as surface run-off.
  • Heavy rainfall - if there is heavy rainfall there is less chance of it being soaked up by the soil (infiltration) so it runs off into the river. The faster the water reaches the river, the more likely it will flood.
  • Relief - a steep valley is more likely to flood than a flatter valley because the rainfall will run off into the river more quickly.
  • Geology - permeable rocks allow water to pass through pores and cracks, whereas impermeable rocks do not. If a valley is made up of impermeable rocks, there is a higher chance of flooding as there is an increase in surface run-off.
  • Vegetation - trees and plants absorb water, this is known as interception. Lots of vegetation reduces flood risk. Sometimes people cut down trees (deforestation). This will increase the flood risk, as the water will not be intercepted and flow into the river.
  • Urban land use - when an area surrounding a river is built on, there is an increase in the amount of tarmac and concrete, which are impermeable surfaces. Drains and sewers take water directly to the river which increases flood risk.