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Flooding 6: Managing river floods – exploring the role of the Environment Agency

Thames flood barrier

Suitable for GCSE

These resources examine the variety of ways that the Environment Agency (EA) manages flood risk. They will help to reinforce prior learning and widen locational knowledge of selected hard and soft flood management techniques. The three activities provided can be used as stand-alone activities or can be used in sequence, culminating in a full decision-making exercise. In the third activity, students can explore how different stakeholders (players) perceive a proposed flood alleviation scheme before offering their own opinion though a structured report.

Specification requirements

Key ideas relating to river flooding and river management feature in all GCSE specifications. The cause and effect of flooding are featured along with an evaluation of different management strategies.

Download the GCSE specification audit.

Learning objectives

These resources can be used to meet one or more of the following objectives:

  • consolidate prior learning about river management strategies
  • widen and deepen case study knowledge with reference to hard and soft flood alleviation schemes
  • develop the ability to think independently by applying geographical knowledge and understanding and utilising skills to make a reasoned judgement about the relative importance of the factors used to design flood alleviation schemes
  • develop a greater appreciation of the role and influence of a range of stakeholders (players) who have a vested interest in river management schemes.

Download the Assessment Objectives.


Before starting these activities it is recommended that students have some prior knowledge of the cause and effect of river floods, an appreciation of hard and soft management schemes and some understanding of why stakeholders may have different perspectives on proposed management schemes.

The decision-making exercise (for each of the three activities) requires students to explore background information using a range of Environment Agency and other, associated website links.

6.1 Investigating the proposed Environment Agency (EA) flood investment programme 2015-2021

The EA has thousands of proposed schemes to reduce the flood risk across the UK. Using the EA interactive map, students will record and compare details of five proposed schemes. A template for recording the information can be found here. Further comparisons can be made with similar schemes within the locality of the school.

Using the observed numerical data, students could be asked to suggest appropriate graphical techniques to represent the data. Group discussion will provide an opportunity for students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the range of techniques suggested.

Within the template, hyperlinks allow students to explore more detail about each flood prevention scheme. Building on this research, students should complete the diamond nine ranking exercise. It requires them to make justified decisions about the relative importance of nine factors that need to be considered when flood alleviation schemes are developed. Use the task sheet

6.2 Investigating how social media is used to inform stakeholders (players) about flooding.

Students will see how different forms of social media are currently being used by the EA and other agencies to inform stakeholders about river flooding issues. Use the web links document to identify and record how people are better informed using the media sources listed. Based on the findings, students should write a brief report recommending the most appropriate form of media to inform stakeholders about flood-related issues.

Download learning activity: The role of social media in flood management

6.3 Options to reduce the threat of flooding in Chelmsford. Is the proposed Margaretting scheme the right option? A decision-making exercise (DME).

Students should explore the web-based material to gain an understanding of the proposed flood alleviation scheme. The scheme, first proposed in 2008, has been delayed and is still pending. The delays stem from the need to explore three alternative schemes. All three options propose to use the flood plain south-west of Chelmsford as a flood storage area when floods threaten. Further delays occurred due to objections from a number of stakeholders.

A task sheet has been provided to guide students through the DME.

There is a wealth of material available on the internet to support this issue. For the sake of simplicity it is recommended that students use two key documents to enable them to reach their decision.

  • Resource 1 can be found here.

If time is limited, download this summary sheet showing six viewpoints expressed by stakeholders.

For students who want to further investigate floodplain management in the Chelmsford area, there is an EA case study of the Margaretting Scheme to show the work of the Agency in collaboration with the Essex Wildlife Trust.


Other lessons in this series:

Flood risk and flood management: Introduction
Flooding 1: Causes of river floods
Flooding 2: Investigating the effects of river floods
Flooding 3: Response to floods: Oxford Case Study
Flooding 4: Managing the upper drainage basin
Flooding 5: Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)
Flooding 7: Coastal flooding at Chiswell
Flooding 8: Managed realignment
Flooding 9: The role of the Environment Agency in coastal management and the development of shoreline management plans

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