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Sources of flooding – taking a closer look


A response we can often hear from those we meet who discover what we do, is that they have no need for our products - because they live on a hill.  The reality however is that flooding can happen at any time and in any location. Your risk of flooding may well be reduced if you live on a hill, but it will never be eliminated completely. 

To understand this in more detail we take a closer look at the different sources of flooding and why they occur. It is worthwhile considering when reading these that an area can suffer from more than one source of flooding at any one time.

Sources of flooding

Surface water flooding (pluvial) – this occurs when the local drainage system cannot cope with rainfall.

This source of flooding is hard to predict as it depends on:

  • Ground levels
  • Rainfall duration
  • Rainfall intensity
  • The local drainage network

River flooding (fluvial) – when there is too much water for the ground to absorb resulting in the surface run off overflowing the normal river channels. This is generally caused by prolonged, extensive rain and it can also be worsened by melting snow. If the free flow of a river is blocked by fallen trees, natural overgrowth or rubbish, this can also cause flooding.


Tidal – coastal flooding is the result of a combination of high tides and stormy conditions. If low atmospheric pressure coincides with a high tide, a tidal surge may occur resulting in serious flooding.

Groundwater– when water levels in the ground rise above surface levels, it can result in flooding in low lying areas.  This can be the most difficult source of flooding to mitigate against in built infrastructure.

Runoff water – surface runoff is the water flow that occurs when soil is infiltrated to full capacity and excess water from rain, melt water or other sources, flows over the land.


Sewer flooding – when sewers are overcome by heavy rainfall or become blocked. The likelihood of flooding depends on the capacity of the local sewerage system. Land and property can be flooded with water contaminated with raw sewage as a result and rivers can become polluted by sewer overflows.

For further info & visuals to help you understand more on the different sources of flooding,

click here to visit the Environment Agency website 

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