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Academics from Oxford and Durham Universities will work with Otley Town Council, community residents and other environmental experts to demonstrate the potential of a community flood modelling approach.

Image credit: No Football Today! by Tom Blackwell via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

In December 2015, much of the north of England was heavily flooded.  But one Yorkshire town, Pickering, remained dry. 

In 2007/2008, academics from Oxford, Durham and Newcastle Universities had worked with local residents in Pickering to look at flood management options. They then implemented a scheme called ‘upstream storage’, which is largely credited with keeping the town dry in the flooding of 2015.

Much of the media attention on the upstream storage scheme focussed on it as a successful demonstration of so-called Natural Flood Management (NFM). But what really made the project unique was the collaboration between university researchers and local residents through a new methodology called Environmental Competency Groups (ECG)

ECGs enable community residents, academics and environmental experts to combine their knowledge and skills to better understand and manage local flood risk. In the case of Pickering, the ECG methodology was key to the development and implementation of the upstream storage system.

In this new ESRC IAA-funded project, Professor Sarah Whatmore, Dr Catharina Landstrom and other academics from Oxford and Durham Universities will partner with Otley Town Council. Together they will advance the ECG methodology in two ways. 

They will develop an effective knowledge exchange programme to increase public understanding of the policy options for managing flood risk in Otley for the benefit of the town.  They will also use Otley as a test case to demonstrate the potential of the community flood modelling approach.  Using the Otley flood case alongside others, funding partners will be sought to support the technical development and launch of an online community modelling ‘toolkit’ that would be available to flood affected communities across the UK.

In this way they hope to provide UK communities in areas at risk of flooding with the tools they need to develop schemes suited to their localities to protect their homes and livelihoods from the dangers and costs of flooding. 

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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