Flood risk management annual report 2022 to 2023


This Annual Report summarises the range of activities undertaken by Natural Resources Wales in managing the risks from flooding in Wales, in 2022/23.

Those risks from flooding are increasing. The evidence about climate change and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is clear. The impacts of flooding can be truly devastating for people, for communities, for businesses, for infrastructure, for the environment and for the economy. We only need to look at weather records being broken and devastating extreme events being witnessed, and suffered, across the world with alarming regularity to understand the climate emergency is real.

It is clear too that there is a nature emergency upon us – biodiversity is in decline and habitats are diminishing, with some species being lost and many others severely threatened. 

We need to recognise that the climate and nature emergencies are intrinsically linked: for example, thriving nature is needed to help in the response to the climate emergency (and flood risks), but nature is itself adversely impacted by the changing climate. Interventions that tackle both the climate and nature emergencies are needed.

NRW has recently published a new Corporate Plan that majors on the links between the nature, climate and pollution emergencies that face Wales, and the world. This Corporate Plan recognises that we need to deliver on climate change mitigation and decarbonisation, but also we need to appreciate that change is happening now, and happening rapidly. We must increase the collective pace of delivery on adaptation measures to prevent harm and promote climate and nature resilience and sustainability.

It is within the context of these long-term challenges that this Annual Report is written. It is a snapshot of the work that NRW is doing on flood risk management over the course of one year, but it is in the context of long term plans and initiatives that are needed. There is a lot to be done – but there is also a lot being done, and it is important to stand back and recognise that. To that end, I really mean it when I write that I am proud of the flood risk management work delivered by my colleagues across NRW. This Annual Report describes some of that work. 


Jeremy Parr
Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management
Natural Resources Wales


Executive summary

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is the largest Welsh Government Sponsored Body, and we have as our core purpose the sustainable management of natural resources in Wales.

We have a range of roles and responsibilities, ranging from regulator to advisor, landowner and operator and emergency responder. We have a strategic oversight role for flood and coastal erosion risk management which involves the general supervision and communication of flood and coastal erosion risk management in Wales. We also have powers to manage flooding from main rivers, reservoirs, and the sea.

In Wales, there are estimated to be 245,118 properties at risk of flooding. This is approximately 1 in 8 properties in Wales. We take a risk-based approach to managing the risk of flooding through the activities we do. This report summarises the investment, key activities, and achievements in managing flood and coastal erosion risks across Wales by NRW for the financial year from April 2022 to March 2023. It is based on the best available information at the time of writing (Spring 2023). 

We intend to use this annual report to form part of the statutory report that we have a duty to undertake (under Section 18 of the Floods and Water Management Act) on progress of the implementation of Welsh Government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy. The Strategy was published in October 2020, and many of the activities described in this annual report will contribute toward the delivery of the objectives and measures included within that Strategy.

Some of key highlights from 2022/23 include:

  • Investment of £42m of Welsh Government funding by NRW on key flood risk management activities in Wales over the course of the year.
  • The progression of numerous flood schemes, including the completion of schemes at Llanfair Talhaiarn (Conwy), Llyn Tegid (Bala) and Cowbridge (Vale of Glamorgan) and Wydden Reservoir (Conwy). Significant projects at locations such as Ammanford and Stephenson Street (Newport) were also progressed. This is alongside many other schemes at various stages of development in locations all across Wales, a number of smaller scale projects, and a comprehensive maintenance programme.
  • 1,680 properties directly benefitting from either a reduction in flood risk or the ongoing sustained level of flood protection provided by our maintenance work. Over 3,000 more properties are planned to benefit from the project development work undertaken this year which will lead to project delivery and therefore reduced risk in future years.
  • The continued improvement to our data services including a data management project for managing, maintaining and updating key flood risk datasets in Flood Risk Assessment Wales and improvements to the National Asset Database with the addition of asset records from 20 of the 22 Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs).
  • The delivery of measures from the Welsh Government Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy including publishing our Coastal risk map on our website showing National Coastal Erosion Risk Management (NCERM) data and undertaking an assessment of the long term investment requirements (LTIR) for managing our flood risk management assets in the future.
  • Delivery of improvements to the flood forecasting service and the hydrometric network which lead to improvements to our flood warning service.
  • Continued development of key ICT projects to replace our Flood Warning System and Telemetry system.
  • Delivery of improvements to our asset management systems, including enhancement to our asset inventories and development of the new Risk Based Revenue Allocation Model
  • The progression of work to complete and implement recommended actions that were identified as part of our February 2020 Floods Review.

Further information on all of these highlights, plus other key achievements, is included in this report.



This annual report details our key achievements and deliverables for flood and coastal erosion risk management for the financial year 2022/23. It provides detail on the activities that contribute towards the management of flood risk in Wales and also highlights key metrics and statistics which demonstrate the level of effort that goes into managing flood risk and the scale of the challenge faced.

This report does not cover every activity or service area in detail and is intended as a summary of the 2022/23 financial year highlights. The information and data presented in this report is based on data available at the time of producing this summary (spring 2023). This report is a recurring annual publication and will complement the delivery of the next progress report on the Welsh Government Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (the ‘Section 18 report’, required under Section 18 of the Floods and Water Management Act).

Storms and flooding experienced over the past year (April 2022 – March 2023)

Each year, we plan the work we want to deliver to manage flood risk. On top of that, we must respond to flood events when they happen. Our response may be reactive to manage the flood event at the time, or it may generate additional work that we need to deliver. This section provides a summary of the more notable flooding and storm events during the year that we responded to – the ones that caused significant disruption or damage to communities.

We monitor and respond to floods whenever they happen - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This includes tracking forecasts, issuing warnings, ensuring flood and hydrometry assets are operating properly, fixing repairs, posting up-to-date information on our website, handling media interviews and queries and supporting other incident responder organisations. When an event occurs it clearly impacts our ability to deliver other planned work as we react to the challenges each severe weather event introduces, both during and in the period following these events, as we deal with the impacts and the aftermath.

There have been no UK named storms in this financial year. Despite this, there have still been periods of very unsettled and disrupted weather affecting Wales. After a very benign first half from April to October, November was a month of frequent periods of strong winds and heavy rain across Wales. Widespread flood alerts and flood warnings were issued on multiple occasions throughout the month with surface water flooding hitting Neath and Saundersfoot.

January was also a very unsettled month with multiple periods of unsettled weather. The period from 10th to 15th January was notably bad with river levels across Wales high following a prolonged period of wet weather with many areas experiencing rainfall that was well above the long term monthly average. Lake Vyrnwy was one such location which experienced 289.4mm of rain in the period from January 1st to 15th compared to the long-term monthly average for January of 193mm. Our operational response teams were working around the clock during this period and in total 50 flood warnings and 95 flood alerts were issued. Widespread infrastructure impacts were noted with road closures in Cardiff, Newport, Monmouth, Crickhowell and Abergavenny yet there were minimal reports of flooded properties due to the effectiveness of our defences. Only six properties were reported to have experienced flooding in the Taff and Ely catchments.

February 2020 flood review

February 2020 saw some of the most devastating floods Wales has seen in a generation. The record rainfall and river flows triggered by Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge in February 2020 arrived following an exceptionally wet winter and led to the most severe and widespread flooding incident seen in Wales since 1979. In total, there were reports of flooding to 3,130 properties across Wales. 

We undertook a significant review into our response to the storms, focussing specifically on our flood incident management operations and looking at how current practices we adopt in the management of the NRW land estate could be modified to reduce the risk of flooding. We published these reviews on our website in October 2020.

During 2022/23, we continued to deliver the 74 actions identified in the flood review to improve our flood incident management operations along with the remaining 20 actions from the Recovery review. All actions are managed through the Flood Recovery and Review Implementation Programme. We have now completed 59 of the 74 flood review actions and all 20 of the Recovery actions. The remaining 15 flood review actions are planned for completion over the next three years. These are all long term actions that take time to implement.

The key outputs from the review so far include:

  • Improvements to our website including improved information before, during and after a flood and improved resilience of the website.
  • Improvements to our incident rotas, increasing the pool of people who can be trained to undertake a rota incident role (training is ongoing)
  • Implementation of over 14 new guidance notes and policy statements, that improve our processes and activities.
  • Delivery of training courses for a wide range of incident rota staff including 4x4 training, hostile training and water safety training amongst others.
  • Improvements to our incident rooms, including delivery of uninterruptible power supply at Buckley Office with a back-up generator.

Further outcomes and benefits from projects delivered as a result of the flood review are discussed under the relevant topic chapters in this report.


Flood Risk Management improvement programme

Our FRM service seeks to reduce flood risk to the communities of Wales through a range of activities across the business covering operational and policy driven work. To support this work, a strategic Flood Risk Management Improvement Programme was established in January 2020. The improvement programme is structured to ensure all project work outside of construction projects or ‘business as usual’ activity is centralised in a single programme bringing transparency, consistency, and effectiveness in identifying and delivering improvements and efficiencies across the service. The aim of our programme is to continuously improve to ensure a more resilient service for the future.

At the end of March 2023 there were 60 projects within the programme. Many of these projects feature in the relevant topic chapters in this annual report.


Understanding and analysing flood risk

This work area includes all efforts to increase the understanding we have of flood risk in Wales, mainly through our hydrological analysis and flood risk modelling activities. It also includes how we communicate that flood risk to stakeholders through our flood mapping products and website services. Its purpose is to increase our understanding of flood risk, to inform and advise all our other activities, and to inform stakeholders of their relevant flood risk.

We have powers to manage flooding from main rivers, our reservoirs, and the sea. We also have a strategic oversight role with general supervision over all Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management matters. This is about having a Wales-wide understanding of all sources of flooding, coastal erosion and the risks associated with them, on a consistent basis to provide advice to the Welsh Government as well as helping inform risk management authorities and the public. As part of our oversight role, we undertake national flood and coastal erosion risk mapping for all sources of flood risk.

What’s at risk of flooding?

As of April 2022, the undefended sum of properties at risk of flooding in Wales is 291,070. Some properties may be at risk from more than one source and therefore removing any double or triple counting of properties at risk from multiple sources it’s currently estimated that 245,118 properties are at risk of flooding in Wales. Tables 1-3 below show the breakdown by flood source, type of property and flood risk band. These are the same as the figures in the 2021-22 report. Going forward, we have undertaken a data management project which enables us to produce the figures at risk of flooding annually. This process will start later in 2023/24 and so we can expect to see the numbers change in future annual reports.

The following tables show the split of properties by level of risk and source, correct as of April 2021.

Table 1: The numbers of residential properties, non-residential properties, and services at risk of flooding in Wales from rivers.

Flood risk description Residential properties at risk of flooding Non-Residential properties at risk of flooding Key Services at risk of flooding Total at risk of flooding
Rivers High 21,958 2,670 508 25,136
Rivers Medium 14,936 2,020 326 17,282
Rivers Low 40,984 5,814 954 47,752
Rivers Total 77,878 10,504 1,788 90,170


Table 2: The numbers of residential properties, non-residential properties, and services at risk of flooding in Wales from the sea.

Flood risk description Residential properties at risk of flooding Non-Residential properties at risk of flooding Key Services at risk of flooding Total at risk of flooding
Sea High 42,229 4,424 808 47,461
Sea Medium 11,764 1,835 318 13,917
Sea Low 8,288 1,154 222 9,664
Sea Total 62,281 7,413 1,348 71,042


Table 3: The numbers of residential properties, non-residential properties, and services at risk of flooding in Wales from surface water and small watercourses.

Surface water and small watercourses Residential properties at risk of flooding Non-Residential properties at risk of flooding Key Services at risk of flooding Total at risk of flooding
High 31,192 3,347 740 35,279
Medium 16,425 1,892 344 18,661
Low 68,113 6,428 1,377 75,918
Total 115,730 11,667 2,461 129,858


Flood risk assessment Wales (FRAW) data management project

The Flood Risk Assessment Wales (FRAW) project completed in 2019 and gave us the FRAW map and accompanying data sets. We have followed this up with a data management project which has created a series of tools to enable us to manage, maintain and update key flood risk datasets created by the original FRAW project.

The data management project was completed in April 2022, and we are now working on using these products for data updates and improvements. An example of output from this is the ability to run annual updated properties at risk of flooding figures, and these will be used for future annual reports.

Flood risk viewer project

We have republished the FRAW map with user interface improvements to help users access the information they need. Key improvements include the provision of Welsh language maps, a simplified user experience and improvements to coastal data.

Figure 1. Screen shot from our website showing the improved flood risk viewer with areas at risk of flooding in Cardiff.

National Coastal Erosion Risk Management (NCERM) map publication

We completed work to improve the visualisation of coastal erosion data in our map products by publishing our ‘Coastal risk’ map on our website. The map shows NCERM data as spatial bands which give a projection of anticipated erosion over the short, medium and long term scenarios with a percentage confidence range. This will enable homeowners and our partners to understand the level of risk to the coast from coastal erosion.

Figure 2. Screen shot from our website showing the rate of coastal erosion with no active intervention at Tywyn.

Local modelling improvements

We have progressed a number of local modelling improvements over the past year. These include projects to improve modelling at the following locations: Rhondda, Pensarn, Ynysybwl, Afon Adda (Bangor), Bala, Llandinam, Gele, Severn Vyrnwy Confluence and Bryncrug.


Management of flood risk assets

This work area includes all activities in relation to the management of our flood risk assets. This includes the construction of new flood alleviation schemes, maintenance of existing structures, understanding their condition, management of asset data and the planning for future work requirements. Its purpose is to ensure the effective and efficient management of our flood risk assets, seek opportunities to reduce flood risk through construction of new assets and ensure our assets are ready and able to perform as expected in times of flooding.

New assets

During 2022/23, we have sustained and reduced the level of flood risk to 1,680 properties through completing Capital schemes in:

  • Llanfair Talhaiarn (Conwy)
  • Llyn Tegid (Bala)
  • Cowbridge (Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Wydden Reservoir (Llandudno Junction, Conwy)
  • Along with several other capital maintenance projects.

Investing in our existing flood risk assets is vital in order to maintain the standard of protection they currently give to the communities which benefit from them. The investment is typically needed to extend or achieve the asset design life and typically involves significant repairs and refurbishment of existing structures.

Alongside the completion of these schemes, we have several major schemes that were at various stages of development during 2022/23. These schemes will form the majority of our future years capital expenditure and include locations across Wales such as:

  • Pwllheli and Porthmadog (Gwynedd)
  • Cardigan (Ceredigion)
  • River Ritec, Tenby (Pembrokeshire)
  • Ammanford (Carmarthenshire)
  • Stephenson Street, Liswerry (Newport)
  • Taff Catchment Strategic Flood Management Plan (Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Cardiff).

In the long term, these are expected to benefit over 3,000 properties when they are completed.

Case study - Llanfair Talhaiarn

We completed the final phase of a new flood defence scheme at the village of Llanfair Talhaiarn, reducing the flood risk to 29 residential properties and 4 businesses. The scheme was delivered in two phases. The first phase completed in January 2019, increasing the capacity of key culverts in the centre of the village, enabling them to carry more flows during storm events. The second phase involved improving the existing debris screen arrangement including improving access, simplifying clearance operations for our staff, and the installation of a new tree catcher upstream of the village.

Figure 3. Image showing the improved channel at Llanfair Talhaiarn (left image) and tree catcher (right image)

Image showing the improved channel at Llanfair Talhaiarn (left image) and tree catcher (right image)

Asset Management

We undertake a routine inspection and maintenance programme to ensure our flood risk assets are fit for purpose. We maintain over 4,030 assets (455km) throughout Wales and throughout 2022/23 undertook 13,571 inspections of these structures.

At the end of the financial year 2022/23, 90.6% of routine asset inspections were completed on time compared to inspections that were scheduled to be delivered. We are striving to improve and have recruited more asset inspectors to improve on this in 2022/23.

At year end, our inspections found that 98.3% of our flood assets in high flood risk systems were found to be at or above their required condition to effectively perform their function. This exceeds our corporate Key Performance Indicator target of 98%. This is a rolling target, reflecting that some assets will inevitably not be at target condition; assets not at target condition are scheduled for repair or improvement work.

Alongside our routine maintenance programme, we have a number of projects ongoing to help improve asset management within NRW and other Risk Management Authorities, and these are described below.

Risk Based Revenue Allocation Model (RBRAM) - readiness for allocation use

We have developed Risk Based Revenue Allocation Model (RBRAM) software which will enable us to prioritise routine asset maintenance and allocate funding according to flood risk. Work has been ongoing to test the system in preparation for use along with producing guidance documents and undertaking user training. During 2022/23, we ran the model as a dummy run test for the 2023/24 allocations process in order to be ready to use it as the primary tool for allocating revenue funding for 2024/25. 

Asset Management Database (AMX Flood) Improvements

AMX (Asset Management eXpert) is our flood asset management database. It is the repository for all flood asset information, including location, type, target condition, inspection dates, last inspected (current) condition and maintenance information.

We have continued our improvement work on the database this year by developing and installing an improved asset defect process and preparing to migrate the ‘Mechanical Electrical Installation Control and Automation’ (MEICA) information into the AMX asset management tool.

We are also progressing improvements to data quality and to implement user dashboards for management information such as reports on inspections and maintenance.

Asset Management review

We are undertaking a Flood Risk Asset Management System project to improve the policy and management of our flood risk assets. We have developed a draft Flood Risk Asset Management Policy and we will begin to develop an Asset Management Strategy for Flood Risk Management over the next financial year.

Asset maintenance and Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations

We have developed new guidance for managing Wellbeing, Health and Safety (WHS) risks. This enables our Integrated Engineering Workforce to comply with their legal obligations when constructing and maintaining assets. This has been done by reviewing the existing guidance, legislation and various practices used across NRW. New guidance that explains what staff should do and how has been developed and adopted that clarifies requirements for compliance with the CDM Regulations (2015) for asset maintenance.

National asset database update

The National Asset Database is a Wales-wide system for storing and displaying information about all significant flood risk assets in Wales, including identifying who is responsible for their maintenance. We made this publicly available on our website during 2021/22 with information on our assets. We have made further improvements to this dataset with the addition of asset records from 20 of the 22 lead local flood authorities (LLFAs) in Wales who have agreed to display their data under the Open Government Licence agreement.

This data is available to view on the Wales Flood Map, our Flood Risk Assessment Wales maps and the Flood Map for Planning. This enables the user to overlay asset data onto the risk maps to get a better understanding of flood risk assets. The data can also be used or downloaded from the Wales Environmental Information Portal or Data Map Wales alongside our other Open datasets.



We are the regulator for reservoirs in Wales, and are the authority for the registration, compliance, and enforcement of the 397 reservoirs (figure as for 2022/23) across Wales that are registered under the Reservoirs Act (1975) and associated regulations and amendments. As part of this regulatory role, we also are a member of the Reservoirs Committee of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which advises Governments of the attributes of engineers required by this sector in the UK. We are also a reservoir operator (or ‘undertaker’ in the language of the Reservoir Act). Key activities in these two roles are described in this section.

Reservoir regulatory role

We are the enforcement authority for the Reservoirs Act 1975. This law sets the minimum standards to ensure the safety of reservoirs, predominantly to ensure reservoir undertakers appoint and act on the advice of specialist qualified civil engineers.

On 31 March 2023, there were 397 registered large, raised reservoirs in Wales. This is an increase of 2 from the previous year. 

We have a duty to designate a reservoir as a high-risk reservoir if we think human life could be endangered in the event of a failure of the dam. The principal source of evidence for this is through the production of reservoir flood maps which show the consequences of flooding if a dam were to fail.

Table 4 below shows the designation status of reservoirs in Wales as of 31 March 2023. There is no such designation as ‘low risk’. A reservoir which is not designated as a high-risk reservoir remains a large, raised reservoir as defined by the Reservoirs Act 1975. The designation status determines the level of supervision and inspection by engineers.

Table 4: Status of reservoirs in Wales

Designation status Number of reservoirs
High-Risk Reservoirs 266
Not High-Risk Reservoirs 76
Designation undetermined 55

Orphan reservoirs

These are reservoirs where the undertaker (owner) cannot be determined. In such circumstances, NRW as the regulator can step in to undertake safety work, in the interests of public safety. We only will do this as a ‘last resort’ after extensive attempts to identify responsible parties, and the safety risks mean intervention is, in our opinion, needed. We are using the appropriate powers from the Reservoir Act 1975, to undertake works at two such reservoirs in Wales. Reservoir hazard mapping at these two reservoirs has provided the evidence to confirm their designation as high-risk reservoirs, where a failure could endanger life downstream. Work to maintain the safety of these reservoirs will continue through 2023/24.

Reservoir incidents

We recorded incidents at four reservoirs during 2022/23. Reservoir undertakers are responsible for responding to incidents under the guidance of their engineer, and to provide reports to us about the cause and lessons learned. These incidents were class 3 “precautionary action”. No incidents required us to intervene under emergency powers.

Developing regulation

We have been working with DEFRA, Welsh Government and the other UK regulators for reservoir safety in assessing the need for regulatory reform in the sector following the Independent Reservoir Safety Review Report (publishing.service.gov.uk).

Management of NRW’s reservoirs

We are the owner for 37 reservoirs registered under the Reservoirs Act 1975. This is an increase of two over last year caused by recognition of reservoirs where there is joint ownership between a private landowner and the Welsh Government Woodland Estate. Thirteen of our reservoirs are constructed primarily for flood risk management purposes and managed and funded through Flood budgets.

All our reservoirs are inspected and supervised by qualified civil engineers, and we maintain a programme of works to address the recommendations they make. We have also continued to train ‘reservoir keepers’ to fulfil our maintenance, monitoring and record keeping duties.

Reservoir improvements

Safety measures recommended at Llyn Tegid, Crafnant Loop, Cowbridge and Wydden (All FRM Structures) were certified complete, as well as other reservoirs such as New Pool and Llyn Llewelyn (Managed on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate).


Advising planners, consenting and enforcement

This work area relates to all discretionary and statutory advice in regard to flood risk and our role as a consultee within the planning process. The aim is to provide effective advice to influence and control development in flood risk areas, preventing more people and properties becoming exposed to increased flood risk. It also includes our permitting regimes. Combined, these roles seek to control development in flood risk areas and flood risk activities in or around main rivers. We also undertake enforcement where flood risk activities may cause or exacerbate flood risk.


Development planning advice

We are a statutory consultee on flood risk for all development proposals in Flood Zone C2 (areas at risk of 1 in 1000 flood event and without defences) and for highly vulnerable and emergency services development in Flood Zone C1 (areas at risk of 1 in 1000 flood event and with flood defences). Over the past year, our advice has helped to prevent inappropriate development being approved in locations where the risk of flooding would be difficult to manage. Where development has been permitted despite the flood risks, we have provided advice on flood resistance and resilience measures that could be incorporated to help reduce the risk both now and in the future. 

During 2022/23 we provided 2,414 substantive planning responses where flood risk is a constraint. Of these, 1,149 were located in zone C2.

Updating TAN15

In the Welsh Government’s National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management for the Welsh Government, there was a requirement for the Welsh Government to update TAN15 by 2021. Publication has been delayed due to factoring climate change considerations on strategic planning aims. We continue to work closely with the Welsh Government to support revisions to their planning policy (TAN15: Development, Flooding and Coastal Erosion). This includes replacing the Development Advice Map with NRW’s Flood Map for Planning, which takes account of climate change for a 100-year lifetime of development which was published in September 2021.

Regulating flood risk activities

We regulate activities carried out on or near a main river, on or near a flood defence structure, including a sea defence, or within a flood plain, under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. We do this by issuing a Flood Risk Activity Permit (FRAP) to ensure the activity does not cause any increase in flood risk, adversely impact land drainage in the area, or cause environmental damage to the local environment, fisheries, or wildlife. Some flood risk activities can be carried out without a permit but may need to register with us as ‘exempt’ from the need for a bespoke permit.

Over the 2022/23 financial year, we issued 241 Flood Risk Activity Permits across Wales and 22 exemptions were registered.

Enforcement activity

We undertake flood risk enforcement under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. This work is important to ensure the effective management of flood risk and to support protection of the environment. If our regulatory advice is not sought, or is ignored, when undertaking works on or near main rivers or flood defences the consequences could be serious. In addition to managing flood risk, our enforcement activity ensures we can maintain access to flood/sea defence infrastructure and allow us to undertake important maintenance and improvement works. We can also use enforcement action to rectify unlawful and damaging or potentially damaging work, which may have been carried out in contravention to conditions set out in a flood risk activity permit, or without a required flood risk activity permit. Examples include damage to flood defences and control structures, removing obstructions that impact flow within rivers, potentially increasing flood risks, and works that have caused harm to the environment.

During 2022/23 we investigated and took action on 41 cases of unpermitted activities on Main Rivers.


Case study – planning appeal, Flintshire

An appeal was made by the applicant against the decision of Flintshire County Council to refuse planning permission for the erection of six dwellings in Deeside, Flintshire. The main concern for refusal was the impact on flood risk elsewhere. The site is located in flood zone C1 (at risk of 1 in 1000 flood event) on the Development Advice Map. The Flood Consequence Assessment (FCA) prepared in support of the application proposed increasing site levels to mitigate flood risk at the site. However, the FCA showed that raising the level of the site would result in increased flood depths to properties elsewhere, and this was the basis for the refusal of planning permission.

The appeal was dismissed after the Planning Inspector noted NRW advice on the proposal and acknowledged the flood depth increases for properties across a large area should the development go ahead. The Inspector concluded that the proposal did not satisfy certain criteria in TAN15, and as such conflicted with the requirements of TAN15.


Flood forecasting and issuing warnings

This work area delivers our flood forecasting and flood warning services to the public and professional partners. Its purpose is to provide effective warnings and information to people at risk of flooding enabling them to take direct action to protect life and property in the build up to a flood event.

It includes the detection and forecasting of flooding in real time in the lead up to and during flood incidents, and the issuing of flood warnings to those directly at risk. It also includes the provision of information on the latest situation and warnings in force via our website, Floodline and our live data portal.

Our teams also ensure that data, systems, operational procedures, training of duty staff and management of duty rotas are all in place - and tested and improved – such that they are ready and fully effective in flood events. The services are delivered by a number of specialist duty officer rotas using staff from our teams. Our duty officers are on standby duty 24/7 365 days per year ready to respond to potential and actual flooding at any time of day or night.

Flood forecasting and warning over the 2022/23 financial year

Elevated flood risk is highlighted through the Flood Guidance Statement which provides a daily flood risk forecast for 5 days to Government and professional partners to assist with strategic, tactical, and operational planning decisions around developing flood risk. The information is also shared with the public through our website. From April 2022 to March 2023, there were 75 days of elevated flood risk (minor forecast impacts and above) and within those, 15 days of heightened flood risk (significant forecast impacts and above). Section 1 of this report describes the main flood events during the year that led to elevated flood risk and associated impacts.

In total, we issued 472 flood alerts, and 118 flood warnings during 2022/23 in response to the risk of flooding. There were 468 calls made to Floodline agents and 904,013 visits to our flood warnings and alerts webpage. November 2022 and January 2023 were the months with the biggest number of visits with 466,676 total visits received during these months.

Figure 4: Number of flood warnings and alerts issued during 2022/23

Graph showing the number of flood warnings and alerts issued during 2022/23

Flood Forecasting System upgrade project

We completed a major version upgrade to our Flood Forecasting System which will enable us to better utilise advances in forecasting capability. This work makes the system more robust and resilient which reduces the risk of system failure during a major flood event. Work is progressing to upgrade software versions further reduce risks around system failure and improving resilience.

Improvements to the Flood Forecasting service

We have worked this year to develop new and improve existing forecasting models for both river and the sea flood risk areas.

We have improved our forecasting capability and systems for seven locations across Wales for flooding from the sea, including Rhyl, Pembroke Dock and Ferryside South, which benefits between 400 and 500 properties.

We have launched two new operational forecasting models for the Clwyd and Glaslyn catchments for river flooding. These will increase our coverage to a further 3700 properties in catchment Flood Alert areas and 650 properties in more detailed community Flood Warning areas. This forecasting ability will inform the decision making process, improving the timeliness and accuracy of the messages which are sent. In addition we have made improvements to seven existing river forecasting models for catchments such as the Dyfi, Teme, Ogmore, and Taff. These will improve our forecasting capability in these catchments bringing improvements to multiple communities.


Delivering hydrometry, telemetry and hydrology services

This work area delivers our hydrometry, telemetry and hydrology services which collect, analyse and report data which underpins a range of flood and water management services across NRW. This includes flood risk modelling and mapping, flood risk scheme appraisal and design (standards of protection), reservoir safety, flood forecasting and warning, river regulation and post flood assessments (in terms of the amounts of rainfall, river levels recorded and their severity e.g. historic ranking or return period).

As well as gathering, processing, and archiving this data for NRW, this work area also reports and shares the data with internal and external customers through specific data requests, data transfers and provision of digital services on our website including our live River Levels, Rainfall and Sea Data service.

Hydrometric network

The hydrometric network across Wales comprises 255 rain gauge stations, 344 river level or flow monitoring stations and 140 groundwater level monitoring stations. Figure 5 is a map showing the locations of all monitoring stations across our Welsh Hydrometry and Telemetry (H&T) network.

Figure 5: Hydrometric sites across Wales

Hydrometric network review project

Our work on the Hydrometry & Telemetry (H&T) Network and Service review which commenced in 2021/22 has progressed to focus on assessing the ability of key monitoring stations to withstand extreme hydrological and meteorological conditions, such as those experienced during flood events. For any vulnerable stations in the H&T network, we will look to make recommendations for improvements that will reduce the risk of service outage at critical times.

This work will continue into 2023/24, with key outputs being made available for consultation and operational deployment as the project progresses.

H&T ratings programme and tracker tool

We have developed a tool which enables us to better manage our river flow data sites. We already carry out reviews annually of each of these sites, but we have now developed a system by which we can score each site according to how quickly a site review is needed to ensure that the flow information we receive is as accurate as possible. This helps to produce good quality flow data that is used for issuing flood warnings and helps our staff to prioritise workload and resource requirements efficiently.

UK Flood Hydrology Roadmap

We worked closely with our partners in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to begin implementation of the Flood Hydrology Roadmap published in March 2022. The road map covers England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all sources of inland flooding and all inland hydrology activities. The road map was developed by the UK flood hydrology community and sets out a 25-year vision for flood hydrology in the UK. Strong leadership, improved partnership working and collaboration across the whole flood hydrology community is required to deliver the new vision. In order to support the new vision, we have signed up to a MOU and collaborative agreement and have created a new post that will lead on our technical inputs to projects delivering the roadmap programme. 


Community Engagement and Resilience

This work area delivers our community engagement and resilience services to communities at risk of flooding across Wales. It includes provision of information and advice to those at risk of flooding on the practical steps they can take to be better prepared before, during and after flooding. We provide this advice digitally via our website and directly with communities, including providing flood plan templates for them to use and facilitating volunteer network events to share knowledge, experiences, and best practice.

Flood Volunteer Network Events

In October, we held 2 network events in Llandudno and Newport to enable the Community Flood Volunteer network to reconnect face to face following the pandemic. We included our Local Authority and Emergency Service Partners in the events for communities with questions about flooding to find help and advice in one place. 15 communities were represented, with 23 community members attending, along with 23 Partners from other organisations with a role to play in flooding.

The events aimed to increase understanding of flood resilience, increase understanding of roles and responsibilities of organisations that prepare for and respond to flooding and to increase networking opportunities for everyone attending.

Community Flood Plans

Community flood plans are volunteer and community led. We help maintain 74 community flood plans currently in place across Wales to ensure they are fit for purpose and service the communities that own and use them.

To help support our communities, we updated our Community flood plan webpage with a new plan template, supporting resources and advice for community flood groups.

Social sensing software

We now have a tool for collecting online media content from Twitter during and after a flood. This means we have access to a bigger range of flood related information which is no longer as timely to collate during or after a flood. The information collected by the tool contributes to our understanding of flood impacts and photo or video evidence can be used in communications to illustrate impacts of flooding. 

Social media assets

We have undertaken work to improve the messaging we use before, during and after a flood to ensure we target the right messages and actions for people to take in response to each level of flood risk, flood source and confidence in the forecast.

During Wales Climate Week (21 – 25 November), we took the opportunity to create a mini social media campaign focussed on our refreshed flood warning and informing messages. Over the duration of the campaign, our posts across all platforms reached over 20,000 people.

Figure 6: a tweet used during Wales Climate week to raise awareness of what to include within a flood kit

Flood knowledgebase

We launched a new database to enable NRW and Floodline to provide customers with the latest flood advice and information and improve the customer journey. This collates recently updated flood advice and information for teams across NRW and provides customers with timely and consistent advice from NRW and Floodline 24/7.


We have improved the information and guidance available to our staff to carry with them while on-site in flood impacted communities. Customers can now benefit from consistent advice and guidance from an increased number of NRW sources, including face to face. 

We have developed a new Z Card, which is small enough to be carried by our staff whilst they are working in communities. It contains helpful and practical advice on what to do if you've experienced flooding to ensure impacted communities can stay safe and well and know where to get help. We have also improved ways of sharing our advice and guidance leaflets with the public. It is now possible to request paper copies, multiple copies and alternative formats or languages.

Figure 7: Our Z card publication that is carried by staff when working in communities at risk or flooding


Sustainable flood risk management in the face of coastal change

Coastal communities in Wales face challenges from the existing risk of flooding from the sea, ongoing physical changes and the pressures that climate change is likely to place on them in the future. We play an important role in managing coastal flood risk assets and also working with partners to plan for future changes and the requirements for adaptation over the long term. Within this context, we continue to deliver our responsibilities in relation to Shoreline Management Plans.

Coastal adaptation planning

The National Habitat Creation Programme (NHCP), run by NRW on behalf of Welsh Government, was created to meet statutory requirements to provide compensatory environmental habitat for coastal plans and projects, where impact on habitats cannot be avoided. We continued to investigate and develop opportunities for delivery during 2022/23. 

The focus and approach to delivering the strategic requirements of the NHCP has evolved to be included as part of the wider Coastal Adaptation Programme (CAP) in response to changing flood risk management (FRM) priorities, UK legislation, and Welsh Government policy on compensatory measures. 

A number of vulnerable areas around Wales’s coastline are currently under review for their sustainable flood risk management, potential adaptation and creation of compensatory habitat. The projects typically involve prioritised sites that are evaluated and subjected to full public consultation to come up with the preferred option for sustainable flood risk management. The projects are delivered in a phased approach governed by available resources, the condition of failing FRM assets and through consultation with Welsh Government and key stakeholders.

We have projects underway in the Dyfi Estuary, Porthmadog and Pwllheli, with several other potential projects under consideration. 


Strategic planning

We lead on strategic flood policy matters, develop long term plans and ensure FRM delivers programmes of work in effective and efficient ways.

Skills and capacity

We recognised the need for more effort to be placed on skills and capacity building within FRM and created a new role dedicated to this in July 2020. The purpose of this role is to make sure that the FRM team is in the best place it can be for skills and development so we can tackle our future challenges.

During 2022/23, we progressed our Technical Development Framework following the successful pilot the previous year by appointing partner consultants to take this work forward. We have also continued to invest in the FRM technical training programme with many FRM staff undertaking a wide range of training courses including flood defence law and asset inspection accreditation.

Long Term Investment Requirements (LTIR)

The first phase of our assessment of the long-term investment requirements for managing the flood defence asset base in Wales was completed during 2022/23. The assessment and results focussed on capital work for assets that are contained in Flood Risk Assessment Wales (FRAW). The assessment used the latest understanding of flood risk in Wales on a national basis to model different scenarios. It used the newly available FRAW, and in particular the new Economic Tool that was developed as part of the FRAW project.  

A report summarising this assessment has been presented to Welsh Government colleagues as well as the Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee. We are currently in discussions with Welsh Government around how best to publish the results of the assessment. Following this, future phases will look at potential further work to develop a strong investment case around all aspects of Flood Risk Management.

Flood Risk management plans

We launched the consultation on our updated draft Flood Risk Management Plan at the beginning of March 2023. The updated plan covers all of Wales and provides information, priorities and actions for the management of flood risks from main rivers, reservoirs and the sea. In producing the updated draft Flood Risk Management Plan for Wales, we meet the requirements of the Flood Risk Regulations (2009). Following the 12 week consultation, the final plan will be published during the second half of 2023/24.

FRM research and development

We have a strategic Research and Development (R&D) programme aimed at delivering key evidence to inform and improve our operational and policy needs across FRM. To help meet our research and evidence needs, we work in collaboration with the Welsh Government, Environment Agency and Defra on the joint Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Research and Development programme. The programme aims to serve the needs of all flood and coastal operating authorities in Wales and England. Over the last year, the Joint Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management R&D Programme has published several key projects in which NRW has been involved and these can be found on the FCERM research and development projects site.

The wider programme consists of 63 projects split into 3 theme areas:

  1. Policy, Strategy and Investment
  2. Asset Management
  3. Incident Management and Modelling

Our staff are engaged directly with 25 of these projects either as a corresponding member or actively involved at a project board level.


Nature based solutions

Nature-based solutions refers to the use of natural features and processes to tackle socio-environmental issues. Natural flood management (NFM) is considered to be a nature based solution to help address flooding by using or restoring natural processes to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. NFM can also provide many wider benefits including biodiversity improvement, increasing ecosystem resilience, improving water quality and storing carbon.  

A key priority of the Welsh Government National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) in Wales is to deliver more natural interventions and catchment approaches to reduce flood risk. Flood risk management authorities in Wales are required to consider the use of NFM when developing options for new flood schemes and maintenance activities. We aim to integrate NFM within flood and coastal risk management activities where feasible and appropriate to reduce the risk and impacts of flooding, adapt to climate change, contribute towards the objective of ecosystem resilience and support the sustainable management of natural resources. We are developing our approach to the implementation of NFM, recognising the need to use all the tools available to manage future climate risks.

Developing our approach to NFM

As an organisation we want to lead by example, delivering our corporate objectives to protect and enhance nature, respond to the climate emergency, and minimise pollution. The implementation of NFM measures has the potential to deliver against these objectives and has an important role in supporting action to address the climate and nature emergency.

NFM is a complementary approach to our other flood risk management activities and will be most effective when delivered as part of a plan or in areas where it is possible to make a measurable difference. These areas are likely to be smaller catchments or in areas where there is more frequent and lower impact flooding. Successful delivery of NFM requires the buy in and involvement of a range of partners, stakeholders, communities, and land managers with actions co-ordinated across a catchment. We are exploring ways of doing this and also recognise that appropriate support needs to be in place. 

We are supporting and influencing the development of future land management policy and strategy in Wales. We are providing advice and support to the Welsh Government on the development of the future Sustainable Farming Scheme, promoting the inclusion of NFM with appropriate support. We have also supported the development of UK guidance for designing and managing forests and woodland to reduce flood risk. These will enable and facilitate future approaches to the implementation of NFM and we are supporting the Welsh Government in considering options for future delivery mechanisms within Wales. 

Natural Flood Management projects

We are working with range of partners across Wales to promote and support the use of NFM interventions where appropriate. We are continuing to work with the community of Dinas Powys by reviewing the River Cadoxton channel maintenance regime, developing a business case for river flow gauging and appraising the Natural Flood Management (NFM) options in the catchment. Together, these activities provide full coverage in the catchment to inform short, medium and long term flood risk management options.

Natural Flood Management Evidence and Research

We continue to engage and work with partners to understand the effectiveness of NFM. The ‘Working with Natural Processes Evidence Directory’ published in 2017 collated and synthesised the available evidence on the effectiveness of working with natural processes to reduce flood risk, together with the wider ecosystem service benefits. Work to review and update this Evidence Directory has begun and is being delivered through the Joint England and Wales Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Research and Development Programme. It is being managed by the Environment Agency and supported by NRW, Welsh Government, Defra, Natural England and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The project will capture learning from academic research together with findings from the NFM pilot programmes in England and Wales.


Where our money is spent

We are funded to deliver FRM work directly by Welsh Government in the form of Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA) funding. This takes the form of revenue funding which supports routine operational and “business as usual” activities and services as well as capital funding which is utilised to deliver project work.

In 2022/23 NRW received a total of £42m of Welsh Government FDGiA funding to undertake FRM work, this comprised of £22.5m of revenue funding and £19.5m of capital funding. This funding was fully utilised in this financial year to deliver the FRM outcomes, sustain the services NRW provides and many of the successes outlined in this report.

Capital Funding

For financial year 2022/23, our original capital budget was £22m. We monitor our capital programme closely as projects progress and we respond to changes in our financial forecasts to ensure effective use of our funding. As a result of some of the changes in our programme, we agreed with Welsh Government to release some funding during the course of the year, resulting in our final adjusted capital budget of £19.5m. This funding enabled the delivery of 147 projects within our Capital Programme, including many of the projects highlighted in this report and many examples of ongoing work which will complete in future years. A breakdown of capital spend by project type is included in figure 8 below.

Figure 8: Chart showing the breakdown of Capital spend by project type

Core Activities include capitalised salary costs (£2.2m), corporate overheads (£0.6m) and fleet, plant and equipment purchase (£850k). Capital ICT costs relate to FRM specific system development or contributions to system development which benefits FRM services. In 2022/23 this included enhancements to our flood warning systems, the flood maps on our website, our telemetry system and our asset inventory database (AMX).

Revenue funding

The 2022/23 revenue settlement of £22.5m supported the significant effort that goes into sustaining and providing the services, advice, tools, and activities NRW undertakes to help manage flood risk in Wales. This funding predominantly supports staff costs, routine maintenance works, various enabling services which support our work and other routine activities. A breakdown of revenue spend by activity is included in figure 9 below.

Figure 9: Chart showing the breakdown of revenue spend by activity

Each of these work areas interact and overlap with each other to deliver key services, therefore there are some areas where teams support wider activities which can misrepresent the scale of effort in some of the above activities as many areas are interdependent on each other to deliver outcomes. For example Hydrometry and Telemetry work heavily supports forecasting and issuing flood warnings.

Enabling Service and Corporate Overheads include FRM’s contribution to the operation of key business services which support the delivery of FRM activities. These include Communications, Procurement, Governance and Leadership, Corporate Planning, Legal Services, People Management, Facilities, Fleet Management and Finance. Service Provision costs are associated with operating and maintaining key systems, tools and services supported by others, for example the Environment Agency.

The revenue budget of £22.5m was fully utilised in 2021/22 and helped support many of the initiatives outlined in this report and ensured that our “business as usual” services continued to be delivered effectively.

Staff numbers

The effort that goes into delivering FRM work within NRW can broadly be grouped into the following work areas and structures:

  • National services and policy teams reporting to the Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management within the Evidence, Policy and Permitting Directorate.
  • Direct FRM technical services reporting to Flood and Water Management Managers within the Operations Directorate.
  • Integrated operational delivery teams reporting to Land and Asset Managers within the Operations Directorate.
  • Enabling Services providing central support to all NRW functions are also part funded proportionately by FRM funding to enable the delivery of the services they provide.

As of March 2023, we estimate the FTE staff numbers working directly within the FRM areas identified as per the following table, (this report does not contain data on the number staff working in enabling services as this is too complex to identify specific roles and contributions).

Table 5: Full time equivalent staff posts working directly in FRM as of March 2023 (all posts, including vacancies)

Full Time Equivalent Staff Numbers Organisational Work Area
67 National services and policy teams
120 Direct FRM technical services
200 Integrated operational delivery teams
387 Total estimate of FRM funded FTEs in NRW

Forward look

Whilst the purpose of this report is to focus on the outcomes and achievements of the 2022/23 financial year, a substantial amount of the work undertaken supports the delivery of projects and outcomes that will deliver in future years.

Listed below are some key highlights of the work we plan to complete or progress in the coming financial year (2023/24). 

Flood alleviation scheme at Liswerry, Newport

We are undertaking a major new flood alleviation scheme at Liswerry, Newport, that will reduce flood risk to over 800 properties (over 2,000 when climate change is factored in). Homes and businesses in Liswerry are vulnerable to flooding from the River Usk during periods of heavy rainfall and high tides. Leisure amenities and infrastructure such as the A48, Newport International Sports Village, Newport Stadium and Dragon Park are also at risk. The industrial estate is a key contributor to Newport’s employment and economy. A large-scale flood in this area could have a disastrous impact on the local economy and community. The cost of a significant flood affecting the area is estimated at £230m.

Flood alleviation scheme at Ammanford, Carmarthen

We are constructing a new scheme in Ammanford that will manage flood risk from the rivers Loughor, Marlas and Lash. Once complete, it will protect over 200 properties in the town that are currently at risk of flooding. A combination of measures are needed including the construction of a series of flood defence embankments and walls, as well as the installation of Property Flood Resistance measures to some houses. The scheme also incorporates work to improve fish passage as well as other wider environmental enhancements.

New maintenance allocation processes

We will prepare for the new Risk Based Revenue Allocation Model (RBRAM) tool to be used to prioritise routine asset maintenance and allocate funding according to flood risk for the 2024/25 financial year. This is a major new ICT related tool that draws on several key datasets to allocate available funding on a flood risk (costs versus benefits) basis and marks a major shift from roll-over of historical allocations.

Asset management review

Following gap analysis work to establish our performance against industry standards, we will develop a Strategic Asset Management Plan for FRM assets. This will be the first task to produce an Asset Management System in line with that described by the Institute of Asset Management and ISO 55001.

Assets facing coastal change

We are considering what changes are needed in managing our coastal assets, especially where there is a change in Shoreline Management Plan policies. We have completed phase one which considered the scale of management changes required to ensure compliance with the Shoreline Management Plans and the impending epoch change approaching in 2025. We will move on to phase two which involves analysing this information in more detail and determine our future management strategy approaches in these areas.

Development of the flood map for planning – further enhancements

As part of the revisions to TAN15, we are replacing the current development advice map with a new Flood Map for Planning. This was initially published in September 2021 and is the first map to indicate future flood risk from climate change, assuming no defences are in place. We are currently working closely with the Welsh Government and Local Authorities to further refine the flood map for planning with updated local flood models and evidence provided by local authorities on flood risk from ordinary watercourses and surface water. The map is updated every 6 months in May and November.

Climate Change Allowances

We are undertaking a project to assess changes in peak river flows and extreme rainfall events due to climate change. This work is based on the most up to date predictions of change and will help us to better understand the impacts of increased flows and rainfall on flood risk across Wales. On completion of the project, we will work with the Welsh Government to support revisions to their climate change guidance for flood and coastal erosion risk management and for development planning purposes. We will also consider how the changes can be incorporated into our Flood Map products.

Flood Warning System Renewal Project

The Flood Warning System Renewal Project will continue in 2023/24, with delivery of the new system expected in Summer 2024. Forecast spend is £5m making this a very significant ICT project which will improve the system through which we issue flood warnings to the public and professional partners. 

Telemetry replacement project

We will continue our £5m investment project to deliver a new Telemetry System. This system will provide near real time river, rainfall and operational plant information which is critical to our response to flooding incidents. We will deliver a new telemetry system, a new mobile and internet based communications solution, a new live data portal to share data more efficiently with customers and installing new Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) at over 250 telemetered monitoring sites across Wales.

Flood Risk Management Plan publication

We will be publishing our Flood Risk Management Plan in 2023, which sets out what flood risk management actions we plan to take over the next six years.

Skills and capacity initiatives

We will continue to develop our approaches to addressing the risks and challenges posed by supply and capacity limitations across the whole of the flood risk management sector. This includes developing strategic workforce planning initiatives, and activities to ‘grow our own’ staff.

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