Going with the Flow for Flood Management

14th July 2020

The Sussex Flow Initiative (SFI) is an innovative method of flood management which works with nature to reduce flooding. 

The project uses Nature’s own flood defences such as hedgerows, flood plains and leaky dams to slow and store the water before it reaches settlements downstream.

SFI was formed in 2014, as a partnership between the Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. It also receives funding from Lewes District Council.

The project works with landowners and local people to help communities find natural ways to mitigate and reduce the likelihood of flooding.

‘Our Natural Flood Management measures are cheap, collaborative and easy to implement,’ say Sussex Flow’s Fran Southgate. ‘They also deliver many other multiple benefits to society such as carbon storage, pollination, health and wellbeing, and water purification.’

In the year 2019-2020 the project planted 2,826 trees and shrubs, installed 142 natural leaky dams and opened up 0.35 hectares of natural floodplain. These measures have not only stored nearly 3 million litres of water, they have also provided habitat for wading birds, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.

A recent study showed that the project has had a lasting impact on the local people involved by increasing their connection with nature and improving their health and wellbeing. Local schools have also benefited through activities such as the project’s ‘Behave like a Beaver’ days.

Most people involved with SFI have stated that they would take further action for nature and the environment as a result of their participation.