Protecting the river environment and managing flood risk is part of our job. We reduce the risk of flooding by undertaking maintenance work in our rivers and to our river and sea defences.
Our annual maintenance programme includes routine activities and a range of other activities which are carried out according to the timetable below. Our programme is agreed following consultation with Natural England and our own fisheries, recreation and biodiversity teams.
April 2013 - March 2014
Routine maintenance activities typically happen annually, subject to economic justification. A programme for our maintenance activities is available to view. By entering your postcode you can get a description of when and what maintenance activities we may undertake near you.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure our maintenance programme is kept up to date, the exact timing of any specific maintenance activity may be affected by adverse weather and flood incidents, available resource or national environmental incidents that may prevent the work being completed as planned.
Our flood and coastal erosion risk maintenance activities and new flood defence schemes can also be found by visiting ‘What’s in your back yard’.
We focus our effort on activities that help us manage flood risk and coastal erosion, and where there are economically and environmentally justified reasons for doing so. The work activities we undertake include:
- maintaining flood barriers and pumping stations
- clearing grills and removing obstructions from rivers
- controlling aquatic weed within rivers
- managing grass, trees and bushes on our flood embankments
- inspection and repair of flood defence structures
Each site is different so we choose the most suitable maintenance procedure for each stretch of river, coastline or defence.
We aim to provide a sustainable way of managing flood risk, whilst minimising the environmental impact of our maintenance operations.
The most common reason for carrying out work on rivers is to increase the amount of water they can carry. There are a number of ways that flood capacity can be increased, but the two commonest are channel maintenance and enlarging the channel cross section (typically by widening or deepening).
Each year our programme of works also includes work to repair and reinstate flood defence assets following a flood event, or to reinstate an asset that has deteriorated during normal operational activities.
We routinely consider other types of watercourse management, such as desilting and vegetation removal, to reduce flood risk. In 2012/13, we spent around £45 million on in-channel maintenance activities. This includes the de-silting of rivers at critical locations, including those locations where we are the navigation authority.
As with all our work, channel maintenance has to be prioritised and justified technically, environmentally and economically.
How we decide what work is needed
Our asset maintenance protocol sets out our approach to maintaining flood and coastal risk management assets in England. It describes how we decide which assets we maintain and how we work with those affected by our decisions.
We use the following four categories to decide the level of maintenance for each of our rivers or defences:
- We will continue to maintain defences where there is an economic case to reduce the risk from flooding to people and property.
- We will continue to maintain defences that are required to protect internationally designated environmental features from the damaging effect of flooding, for example Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
- We will consider maintaining defences that do not fit categories 1 and 2 above, but where work is justified due to legal commitments or where stopping maintenance would cause an unacceptable flood risk.
- We will, following consultation, consider stopping maintenance of defences that do not fit the above three categories. We will work supportively with interested parties to explore options in such circumstances.
What you need to do before you undertake your own watercourse maintenance
If you own or manage land which includes a watercourse there are some maintenance activities you can undertake without permission, and others where you first need to apply for 'flood defence consent' from the Environment Agency, County Council or other body such as Natural England.
You can check whether you need a consent and who you need to apply to by contacting us.
Your own maintenance work must not impact local wildlife and habitats or wash silt and debris further downstream.