In total, some 70,000 properties in Kent are in the floodplain. In addition, many more people work in, visit or travel through potentially vulnerable areas, and could be unfamiliar with the risk.
As a result of man made climate change, both the chance and consequence of flooding are increasing. Sea level rise, more frequent and higher storm surges, and increased winter rainfall and more intense summer rainfall will add to existing risk.
Floods are mostly natural events that result either from excessive rainfall that leads to rivers overflowing their banks, or from tidal storm surges on the coast or in estuaries. They cause death and damage only because human activity takes place in areas such as river valleys or estuaries, where floodwater spreads. In urban areas, man made drainage systems may have inadequate capacity, or become blocked leading to flooding also.
Kent is vulnerable to six types of flooding:
River flooding that occurs when a watercourse cannot cope with the water draining into it from the surrounding land. This can happen, for example, when heavy rain falls on an already waterlogged catchment.
Coastal flooding that results from a combination of high tides and stormy conditions. If low atmospheric pressure coincides with a high tide, a tidal surge may happen which can cause serious flooding.
Surface water flooding that occurs when heavy rainfall overwhelms the drainage capacity of the local area. It is difficult to predict and pinpoint, much more so than river or coastal flooding.
Sewer flooding that occurs when sewers are overwhelmed by heavy rainfall or when they become blocked. The likelihood of flooding depends on the capacity of the local sewage system. Land and property can be flooded with water contaminated with raw sewage as a result. Rivers can also become polluted by sewer overflows.
Groundwater flooding that occurs when water levels in the ground rise above surface levels. It is most likely to occur in areas underlain by permeable rocks, called aquifers. These can be extensive, regional aquifers, such as chalk or sandstone, or may be more local sand or river gravels in valley bottoms underlain by less permeable rocks. This is not a significant source of flooding in Wales.
Reservoir flooding as some reservoirs hold large volumes of water above ground level, contained by walls, or 'dams'. Although the safety record for reservoirs is excellent, it is still possible that a dam could fail. This would result in a large volume of water being released very quickly.
An assessment of the risk of flooding Kent can be found in the Community Risk Register .