River catchment management to reduce flood risk

Parrett Catchment Project, Dorset


  • UK
  • Built environment
  • Flooding

Local communities and agencies formed the Parrett Catchment Project (PCP) in 2000 to address the issue of flooding now, rather than storing up problems for the future.

In detail


The summer floods of 1997 and the prolonged flooding of 1999/2000 proved that the Parrett catchment’s river and drainage system cannot cope in extreme weather events, and the likelihood of increased stormy conditions, combined with rising sea levels will make the problem of flooding much greater over the next few decades.


Adaptation measures included:

An 18-month consultation period, which resulted in the development of a 50-year vision for the Parrett catchment. This vision comprises 12 components that together will reduce the amount and speed of runoff down the river catchment and reduce the risk of damaging floods in the Levels and Moors. The components include:

  • Improving land and soil stewardship.
  • Planting woodlands on unstable soils in the upper catchment and along floodplain river corridors.
  • Raising riverbanks along key stretches.
  • Implementing sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) within existing and new developments.

Running an awareness-raising programme including:

  • The Big Sponge – a campaign to show how everyone can get involved in reducing flood risk;
  • An annual River Festival, bringing people together from the upper and lower catchment;
  • Rivers Resource – teachers on-line education pack using the River Parrett and the issue of flooding as a case study. Visit www.parrettcatchment.info to download the pack.
  • Reviewing the feasibility of building a tidal sluice on the River Parrett downstream of Bridgwater.
  • Reviewing the feasibility of spreading floodwater across the Somerset moors.
  • Upgrading pumping stations.

The Farming Water Programme is part of the PCP’s catchment vision. This programme, which has been supported by EU funding, has assisted farmers in:

  • Converting areas of arable land on high risk soils to grassland and woodland.
  • Converting farmland along river corridors in the floodplain to woodland to slow the speed of river flow.
  • Building demonstration flood retention schemes on farmland to trap flood water until the flood peak has passed.

These schemes are multi-purpose, being used also for irrigation in summer and enhancing biodiversity on the farm. The Farming Water Programme has also carried out studies into the best places in the catchment for new woodland to work to reduce flood risk. There has also been a number of soil monitoring projects to measure how different farm land uses affect the amount of runoff. The results are convincing.