The Role of Runoff Attenuation Features (RAFs) in Natural Flood Management

dc.contributor.authorQuinn, Paul Francis
dc.contributor.authorHewett, Caspar J.M.
dc.contributor.authorWilkinson, Mark E.
dc.contributor.authorAdams, Russell
dc.descriptionPublication history: Accepted - 18 November 2022; Published online - 23 November 2022en_US
dc.description.abstractNatural Flood Management (NFM) and catchment-based solutions for flood risk management and environmental problems are wide-ranging and complex. Management of fluvial flood risk in the UK is undergoing a fundamental shift, with a change in emphasis from solely working with structural defences to considering catchment-based measures which attenuate flood runoff. At the heart of this change are NFM and nature-based solutions. One key type of intervention is the Runoff Attenuation Feature (RAF): a class of features that targets runoff flow pathways and creates new temporary flow storage (such as ponds and leaky barriers). However, there is currently a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of NFM and RAFs at larger catchment scales and for managing extreme flood events. Nevertheless, there is a strong evidence base to suggest that well-designed RAFs deliver a range of ecosystem services if installed in the correct location. This paper reviews and critiques the role of RAFs and NFM as an interventionist and holistic approach to lowering runoff rates. The link between RAF design types and their relationship to land use and scale is made. Recent novel innovations and attempts to scale up RAFs are discussed. The role of antecedent conditions, groundwater and the change in residence time of processes is highlighted. The uncertainty and complexity of proving NFM effectiveness underpin a view that new thinking in catchment flood management is needed. New research is required, and many questions are raised about RAFs and NFM. The direction of travel is that a positive and proactive NFM community can now embrace the problem. Proof that RAFs and NFM can address flood management is not likely to be resolved without a great deal of further research but confidence that RAFs do beneficial work is growing and an argument for greater amounts of runoff attenuation is made.en_US
dc.description.sponsorshipThe Environment Agency Local Flood Levy and the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee for commissioning and funding the Belford Proactive Flood Solutions project. PQ (lead author) would also like to acknowledge funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland) research grant (2018-W-LS-20) and the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Sciences Analytical Services Division (JHI-D2-2). RA would like to acknowledge funding from DAERA Evidence and Innovation Grant (number 19-4-03) which contributed to this article’s preparation.en_US
dc.identifier.citationQuinn, P.F., Hewett, C.J.M., Wilkinson, M.E. and Adams, R. (2022) ‘The Role of Runoff Attenuation Features (RAFs) in Natural Flood Management’, Water. MDPI AG. Available at:
dc.rights© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).en_US
dc.subjectnatural flood managementen_US
dc.subjectcatchment managementen_US
dc.titleThe Role of Runoff Attenuation Features (RAFs) in Natural Flood Managementen_US
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