Wales facing a rising climate tide

NRW urges people to check their flood risk this winter

A year of drought, extreme storms, and wildfires has underlined that Wales facing the rising tide of climate change. This is the warning from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as the environmental body urges people to be vigilant, not complacent about their flood risk this winter.  

Since the turn of the year the world has seen a cascade of unprecedented floods, heatwaves and wildfires across four continents. Closer to home, Wales has experienced the impacts of extreme weather at each end of the spectrum.

In February, the nation reeled from the heavy rain and strong winds caused by three named storms which hit the UK within the space of a week.  Soon after, the nation entered an extended period of prolonged dry weather and high temperatures over the spring and summer, sparking wildfires across the country and leading to the declaration of the first ‘official’ drought in Wales since 2005-2006.

Recent rainfall has seen some rivers across Wales return to normal flows for the time of year. However, it will take a significant amount of rain over an extended period to recharge our reservoirs. Although the nation remains at drought status, heavy rainfall could see rivers responding quickly as we enter the usually wetter autumn and winter period.

With 1 in 8 (around 245,000) properties in Wales at risk of flooding, and with the climate emergency bringing more extreme weather, it is more important than ever before that people understand their flood risk and how to prepare for and deal with flooding.

Jeremy Parr, Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management at Natural Resources Wales said:

“Extreme weather and its impacts are the heaviest footprints of the climate crisis. The variations in weather conditions we have seen this year illustrate the unpredictable climate challenge we face and has brought the importance of resilience into sharp focus.

“Right now, our teams are working with the Met Office and our partners to prepare for what the weeks and months ahead might bring. But we will never be able to stop all flooding. While Wales remains at drought status, it does not mean that we’re no longer at risk of flooding, which is why we are urging people to be vigilant, not complacent about their future flood risk.

“The impacts of flooding can be devastating, and it can happen so quickly. Just because it hasn’t flooded near you before doesn’t mean it won’t. Whilst we do invest heavily in flood defences, it’s just not possible to prevent all floods, all the time, everywhere. 

“That is why it’s so important for us all to understand our flood risk and the actions we can all take to help reduce the impacts on ourselves, our families and our properties this winter.  Being aware it could happen to you, and knowing what to do should the worst happen, is crucial.”

There are simple steps people can take:

  • Find out if you’re at risk of flooding – Check your postcode on NRW’s website to find out if your area is at risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water and small watercourses.
  • Sign up for free flood warnings - In many flood risk areas, people can sign up to NRW’s free flood warning serviceto receive an automated message when a flood alert, flood warning or severe flood warning has been issued for river or coastal flooding in their area.
  • Prepare for a flood – NRW’s website contains advice, resources and signposting to helpful information on how to prepare for flooding such as preparing a flood kit.  It also has downloadable templates that can help people to prepare for flooding, take actions to reduce the impact of flooding, as well as actions people will need to take during a flood
  • Prepare a flood kit which will include important items such as medication, pet or baby supplies, chargers, a torch and warm, waterproof clothing.
  • Find out who can help – Different sources of flooding are dealt with by different organisations. People can check who deals with what on our responsibilities page 
  • You can also obtain help and advice by calling Floodline 24/7 on 0345 988 1188 

Next month, the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Sharm El Sheik in Egypt, where international leaders will once again come together to set out how they should meet the climate challenge.

Looking ahead to the global event, Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales said:

“COP 26 in Glasgow last year, and the subsequent ‘code red’ signals that have been sounded from climate scientists around the world, has certainly shifted how key players think about climate and its impacts at home and overseas. We want COP27 to further fuel the impetus for governments to tackle this pressing issue.

“The central focus given to climate change in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government and managing future flood risk in Wales effectively is welcome.

“But while progress has certainly been made, the climate problem has also accelerated. Which is why our thinking and our actions to help mitigate and adapt to its impacts needs to go further and faster if we’re to secure the improved flood-risk outcomes we need for the people of Wales.”