Flood risk is the damage that may be expected to occur at a given location arising from flooding. It is a combination of the likelihood, or probability, of flood occurrence, the degree of flooding and the impacts or damage that the flooding would cause.
The National Flood Risk Policy, approved in 2004, involves the development of a planned programme of feasible works, with a greater emphasis for non-structural measures. Ireland's approach to flood risk management has been independently reviewed by the Dutch Risk Reduction Team of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands.
The government is delivering a multi-annual programme of capital investment in flood relief measures
including major and minor works schemes and is planning for future measures for areas at significant risk of flooding through the CFRAM Programme.
In 2004, the government, following a wide-ranging inter-departmental review of national flood risk management policy, approved the Report of the Flood Policy Review Group.
The recommendations of the Report included appointment of the OPW as lead agency for delivery of flood risk management policy. This includes close liaison with a range of local authorities, organisations and stakeholders that also have responsibilities for managing flood risk.
Implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report has included:
the "Planning System and Flood Risk Management” guidelines published in 2009. "Plan, prepare, protect" was published in 2006 (www.flooding.ie) to provide practical advice to the public on how to prepare for potential flooding (revision issued in 2014)
guidelines and templates for flood event emergency response plans were prepared in 2008 by the OPW and Department of the Housing, Community and Local Government under the Framework for Major Emergency Management (revision issued in 2013)
the national past flood event database (www.floodmaps.ie) was launched in 2006 to promote awareness of flooding
the national Tide and Storm Surge Forecasting Service was initiated in 2009 by the OPW, which now provides Local Authorities with two to three days’ advance warning of impending coastal surge events
real time water level information on all main river catchments was launched in 2013 through OPW’s portal www.waterlevel.ie
Ireland, via the OPW, joined the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) partner network in 2010, and receive flood notifications issued where a high probability for flooding is forecast
completed in 2011 a strategic review of options for flood forecasting and flood warning in Ireland. The government agreed to the establishment of this service on 26 January 2016
The Arterial Drainage Acts of 1945 and 1995 provide the OPW with powers for drainage and improvement of agricultural land and the undertaking of localised flood defence schemes to reduce flood risk in urban areas. The Arterial Drainage Acts and SI 122 of 2010 Regulations also introduced OPW consent requirements for the creation and modification of watercourses, embankments, weirs and bridges.
EU 'Floods' Directive
The OPW is also the national authority for the implementation of the EU Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks [2007/60/EC] which was transposed into Irish law by the EU (Assessment and Management of Flood Risks) Regulations SI 122 of 2010. An objective of the Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme is to achieve the requirements of the EU Floods Directive.
It is likely that climate change will have significant impacts on flooding and flood risk in Ireland due to rising sea levels, increased rainfall in winter, more heavy rain days and more intense storms.
The OPW has undertaken assessments of the potential impacts of climate change through the National Catchment-based Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme to identify potential future risks, and is taking account of the need for adaptation in the design and implementation of the flood relief schemes.
The Sectoral Adaptation Plan includes a range of actions to meet the objectives of:
enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the potential impacts of climate change for flooding and flood risk management through ongoing research and assessment
adapting our flood risk management practice to effectively manage the potential impacts of climate change on future flood risk
aligning adaptation with regards to flood risk across sectors and wider government policy
The functions and responsibilities in relation to coastal protection and coastal flooding transferred from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the OPW on 1 January 2009.
The main roles for the OPW in this area are presently:
undertaking risk assessments associated with coastal flooding and coastal erosion at selected coastal sites making use of innovative technologies and methodologies
provision of an advisory service in relation to coastal flooding and coastal erosion to support the preparation of annual coastal protection funding programmes, the CFRAM programme, and to inform broader policy development
maintenance of coastal protection schemes constructed under the Coast Protection Act, 1963