Integrated Flood Management Concept


Traditional Flood management measures:



Focus only on reducing flooding and reducing the susceptibility to flood damage. 


Such measures often reduce the socio-economic development potential of floodplains.


Are problem driven and are carried out in isolation.


Specifying an issue in terms of a problem can lead to the implicit exclusion of other feasible options. The adverse impacts of a particular solution on downstream and upstream areas, on other elements of the hydrological cycle and on riverine ecosystems tend to be ignored. 


Express the risk of flooding simply as the "Exceedence probability of a flood of a given magnitude on a particular stretch of river" leading to the setting of design standards for protection.


Uncertainties related to the frequency and magnitude of extreme events, possibly caused by climate change, challenge the concept of a design standard for protection. 


 Need for a new approach to flood management:


  • A river basin is dynamic over time and space. There are a series of interactions between water, soil/sediment and pollutants/nutrients.

  • Population growth and economic activities exert pressure on the natural system.

  • Increased economic activities in floodplains increase vulnerability to flooding.

  • High level of investment in floodplains, and the lack of alternative land in many countries, means that abandoning flood-prone areas cannot be be a viable option for flood damage reduction.

  • Changes in land use across the basin affect runoff and the probability of a flood of a given magnitude.

  • Changes in the intensity and duration of precipitation patterns as a result of climate change could increase flash floods and seasonal floods.

  • The likelihood that existing flood protection measures could fail and how such situations should be managed need to be considered.

  • Riverine aquatic ecosystems provide many benefits such as: clean drinking water, food, flood mitigation and recreational opportunities.

  • A trade-off between competing interests in a river basin is required to determine the magnitude and variability of the flow regime needed within a basin to maximize the benefits to society and maintain a healthy riverine ecosystem.

There should be an approach to flood management that improves the functioning of the river basin as a whole, recognizing that floods have beneficial impacts and can never be fully controlled. Such an approach should seek to maximize the productivity of floodplains and minimize loss to life, subordinating flood loss reduction to the overall goal of maximizing the efficient use of the floodplain.



Integrated Flood Management: A new approach 


 Integrated Flood Management (IFM) is a process that promotes an integrated, rather than fragmented, approach to flood management. It integrates land and water resources development in a river basin, within the context of integrated water resources management (IWRM), and aims to maximize the net benefit from floodplains and to minimize loss to life from flooding.

Elements of Integrated Flood Management: 
 Ensure a Participatory Approach
  • IFM should be based on a participatory approach involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels and should be open, transparent, inclusive and communicative.
  • Decentralization of decision-making is necessary, with full public consultation and involvement of stakeholders in planning and implementation.
  • Gender, religious and cultural differences must be taken into consideration
  • An appropriate combination of both the "bottom-up" and "top-down" approaches needs to be adopted.
  • Coordination at the highest level to promote coordination and cooperation across functional and administrative boundaries needs to be ensured

 Integrate Land and Water Management 

  • Land use planning and water management must be combined in one synthesized plan, through coordination of land and water management authorities to achieve consistency in planning.
  • The three main elements of river basin management (water quantity, water quality, and the processes of erosion and deposition) should be linked in planning.
  • Effect of land use changes on the various elements of the hydrological cycle need to be taken into consideration.


 Manage the Water Cycle as a Whole
  • Flood management plans must be intertwined with drought management through the effective use of floodwater and/or by maximising the "positive" aspects of floods.
  • Need to manage all floods and not just some. For example, how to manage floods greater than the design standard needs to be addressed.
  • Seek multi-beneficial solutions that serve several different purposes simultaneously.

Adopt a Best-Mix of Strategies

  • Flood management strategies should involve a combination of complementary options
  • A layered strategy, appropriate to given socio-economic and geo-climatic conditions and adaptable to changing conditions, should be adopted
  • An appropriate combination of structural and non-structural measures must be evaluated, adopted and implemented, recognizing the merits and demerits of both types of measures.

Adopt Integrated Hazard Management Approaches

  • Flood management should be integrated into a wider risk management system of 'all hazard' emergency planning and management.
  • Experts from all sectors, involving different disciplines, should be involved in the implementation of disaster management plans.
  • Consistency in approaches to natural hazard management in all relevant national or local plans should be ensured.
  • Early warnings and forecasts, that are key inputs for the reduction of the social and economic impact of all natural hazards - including floods, should be strengthened. 


  What is needed to implement IFM?
  • Clear and objective policies supported with appropriate legislation, regulations and economic instruments.
  • Institutional structures with appropriate linkages
  • Community based institutions
  • Transparent information management and exchange among all stakeholders and the scientific communities
For details download the Integrated Flood Manameneget Concept Paper (PDF) :
English(0.9MB), French(0.9MB), Spanish(0.9MB),  Japanese (0.6MB, translated by JICE)


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