NFM Working Group

UBOCP is in the process of establishing an NFM Working Group, to build upon the work already undertaken by a number of partner organisations.  If you would like to join this working group, please email



Leaky dam demonstration as an NFM measure at the Allerton project.

Natural Flood Management

NFM – Natural Flood Management – is the use of natural features and processes to reduce the incidents and effects of flooding.

Using green infrastructure features as soft engineering can help to reduce flooding by emulating natural features and processes of catchments, floodplains and watercourses.

Traditional, hard-engineered schemes are costly and rarely environmentally friendly or sustainable.  NFM can supplement and in places replace traditional flood measures.

NFM can also bring a range of additional benefits including reduced runoff, erosion and pollution; and habitat creation and increased biodiversity.

NFM seeks to protect existing beneficial features and restore natural processes - and where restoration is not possible, to mimic natural processes and features.

The principle mechanisms by which NFM reduces flooding are the storage of slowing of excess water:

Storage of excess water

Through reconnecting watercourses to flood plains or constructing storage ponds.  Heavy rainfall, runoff and high channel flows can be directed to these areas which will hold water and reduce the peak flow to downstream locations.

As watercourse and groundwater levels drop, water that would otherwise have caused flooding is slowly released, with less or no flooding. Water retention within the ground can also be maximised through improved soil structure and management.

Slowing the flow

Through reducing the speed water flows across and within watercourses. Slowing and reducing runoff across the land can be achieved by increasing the surface roughness, often by planting – either trees and hedges or cover crops, all of which will intercept and slow rainfall.

Slowing the flow within channels can be achieved by restoring meanders, constructing leaky dams or simply reducing the management and ‘tidying up’ of ditches, streams and rivers.  Slowing the flow both on-field and in-channel increases infiltration to groundwater and aquifers, delivering wider water resource management benefits in addition to reducing flooding.

The Natural Flood Management Manual (by CIRIA) The natural flood management manual (C802F) ( provides details of 12 NFM measures.

The Environment Agency’s WWNP Evidence Base provides a series of one-page high-level summaries about different NFM techniques.

Measures which are likely to be of most relevance to the majority of locations within the Upper & Bedford Ouse catchment are:

  • Floodplain reconnection
  • River restoration
  • Runoff management & storage
  • Woodland planting
  • Soil & land management
  • Leaky dams.

Natural flood management is not the complete solution to flooding but is one of many tools needed to manage flood events.

Used in conjunction with other flood management solutions, like hard engineering and community resilience measures, natural flood management can have a beneficial impact on reducing flood risk downstream.

Natural Flood Risk Management is a key part of a catchment-based approach, reducing the impact of floods and droughts as well as improving water quality and biodiversity.

Properly designed and implemented, these benefits will make catchments better for people and wildlife and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

NFM within the Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment

In addition to a number of small scale NFM features which have been installed at various locations over the last 5-6 years, there are currently 3 active and significant NFM projects within the catchment.

Alconbury Brook NFM project

Pix Brook ResilienTogether project

Upper Ouse NFM project

Alconbury Brook NFM project

The Alconbury Brook NFM project is being led by the Environment Agency and is designed to reduce flooding in the villages of Alconbury and Alconbury Weston. A case study on this project will soon be available.

Pix Brook ResilienTogether project

One of 25 projects across the nation funded to manage flood risk using innovative technologies the ResilienTogether project aims to better monitor, respond and adapt to flooding and its impacts in Stotfold and Arlesey.

NFM will be one area of focus for the project which is being hosted by Central Bedfordshire Council.

More information on this project can be found at Flooding and flood risk management | Central Bedfordshire Council with a dedicated project website to be launched shortly.

Upper Ouse NFM project

The River Thame Conservation Trust is leading on the planning and implementation of an NFM project in the headwaters of the catchment, with the specific aim of reducing flooding within the town of Buckingham.

A case study on this project will soon be available.

Exploratory NFM meeting

A number of UBOCP partners held an exploratory NFM meeting in 2022 and identified provisional objectives for an NFM Working Group.

  • Develop an understanding of existing NFM within the catchment
  • Develop an NFM strategy, building on existing projects, opportunities (development leading to BNG, RMAs keen on undertaking NFM – link in with NFM sub-group of RFCC, GOSIS EA project, A428 upgrade) and engagement
  • Identify funding streams
  • Hold workshops for farmers alongside CSF and AW to build knowledge and encourage better practice in terms of land and soil management to reduce run-off, improve water quality. Introduce NFM to farmers and gauge interest, including building a list of farmers interested in hosting NFM, or developing farmer clusters to develop landscape-scale projects
  • Link in with the Agri group to develop some objectives and ensure we are not duplicating work
  • Develop more knowledge within the partnership on NFM, to enable partners to effectively deliver on the ground
  • Increase SUDS knowledge amongst group, and work with RMAs to develop this as a viable option in urban areas
  • Develop community engagement strategies to ensure communities are aware of NFM benefits where we wish to undertake projects, and bring them into projects where possible eg citizen science monitoring, helping with tree planting and other interventions. This will help ensure long-term project viability and may encourage community groups to develop projects further themselves


Join this working group

Increased interest in NFM as a result of the Partnership’s ‘Water Water Everywhere?’ conference held in July 2023 has led to the re-establishment of this Working Group.  If you would like to join this working group, please email