Integrated Flood Management Concept

Integrated flood management calls for a paradigm shift from the traditional, fragmented and localized approach, and encourages the use of the resources of a river basin as a whole, employing strategies to maintain or augment the productivity of floodplains, while at the same time providing protective measures against losses due to flooding.


Traditional Flood management measures:

Notwithstanding positive impacts of traditional flood management measures in the past, deficiencies of traditional flood management approaches can be characterized as follows as they
  Address only negative aspects of flooding. 

Most of the time runoff constitutes an essential part of the available water resource and only poses a problem under extreme conditions.



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


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



Provide ad hoc reactions 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 "Exceedance 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. 


 Challenges of Flood Management:

Key challenges of flood management that need to be addressed in an integrated approach include:

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

  • Increased population and enhanced economic activities in floodplains further increase the risk of flooding.

  • Designing for large floods must account of the likelihood of failure in cases of floods of magnitude below the notional design standard.

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

  • The magnitude and variability of the flow regime needed within a basin to maximize the benefits to society and to maintain a healthy riverine ecosystem must strike a balance between competing interests in the river basin.

  • Intensity and duration of precipitation events are likely to increase due to climate change, resulting in an increase of the frequency of major floods in many regions.


Integrated Flood Management: A new approach 

There is a need for 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 seeks to maximize the net benefits from the use of floodplains and to minimize loss of  life, subordinating flood loss reduction to the overall goal of maximizing the efficient use of the floodplain. Therefore, 

 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), with a view to maximizing the efficient use of floodplains and to minimizing loss of life.

Elements of Integrated Flood Management: 
 Manage the Water Cycle as a Whole
  • Flood management plans should include drought management, and should take measures to maximize the positive aspects of floods such as by retaining part of flood flows for use in crop production.
  • IFM recognizes the need to manage all floods and not just those floods up to some design standard of protection. Flood plans must consider what will happen when a flood more extreme than the design standard flood occurs, and must foresee how such a flood will be managed.
  • Urban flood plans must manage both stormwater quantity and the effects of storm water on water quality.

Integrate Land and Water Management

  • Land-use planning and water management should be combined in one synthesized plan with a certain common field, such as the mapping of flood hazards and risks, to enable the sharing of information between land-use planning and water management authorities.
  • Flood management needs to recognize, understand and account for linkages between upstream and downstream in order to realize synergies in improving river basin performance.

Manage Risk and Uncertainty

  • Flood risks are related to hydrological uncertainties which are subordinate to social, economic and political uncertainties: the biggest and most unpredictable changes are expected to result from population growth and economic activity.
  • Flood risk management consists of systematic actions in a cycle of preparedness, response and recovery, and should form a part of IWRM.
  • Risk management calls for identification, assessment, and minimization of risk, or elimination of unacceptable risks through appropriate policies and practices.

Adopt a Best-Mix of Strategies

  • Flood management plans should adopt strategies that are flexible, resilient and adaptable to changing conditions.
  • Successful IFM looks at the situation as a whole, compares the available options and selects a strategy or a combination of strategies that is most appropriate to a particular situation.
  • Flood management plans need to include both long-term and short-term interventions.

Ensure a Participatory Approach

  • IFM should encourage the participation of users, planners and policy-makers at all levels and should be open, transparent, inclusive and communicative; this requires the decentralization of decision-making, and includes public consultation and the involvement of stakeholders in planning and implementation.
  • IFM has to keep gender, religious and culture differences in perspective.
  • It is important to make use of strengths of both "bottom-up" approach and "top-down" approach in determining the appropriate mix.
  • River basin committees or organizations, at basin or sub-basin levels, can provide appropriate forums for such coordination and cooperation across functional and administrative boundaries.

Adopt Integrated Hazard Management Approaches

  • A holistic approach to emergency planning and management is preferable to a hazard-specific approach, and IFM should be part of a wider risk management system.
  • Integrated Hazard Management Approach consequently ensures consistency in approaches to natural hazard management in all relevant national or local plans.
  • Early warnings and forecasts are key links to the series of steps required to reduce the social and economic impact of all natural hazards, including floods.



For details download the Integrated Flood Manameneget Concept Paper (PDF) :
English(0.9MB, 3rd edition), French(0.9MB, 3rd edition), Spanish(0.9MB, 3rd edition),  Russian (0.5MB, translated by Moscow State University of Environmental Engineering, 2nd edition) and Japanese (0.6MB, translated by JICE, 2nd edition)



© ,     Copyright | Privacy policy | Disclaimer | Guidelines    


Global Water Partnership Global Water Partnership