With sea-levels rising because of climate change, and the weather becoming more extreme and erratic, the threat of flooding in the UK is ever-increasing. Met Office records show that since 1910 there have been 17 record-breaking rainfall months or seasons – 9 of which have occurred within the last 20 years.
The following flooding statistics and facts have been compiled to shed light on the ever-increasing threat of flooding in the UK, the impact of flooding, and what’s being done to protect homes and businesses in flood-prone areas.
Quick flood statistics
- One in six properties in England (around 5.2 million properties) are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea, one million of which are also at risk of surface water flooding
- A further 2.8 million properties are susceptible to surface water flooding alone
- Statistically, your home is more likely to be flooded than burgled
- 25% of flooding occurs outside of areas formally recognised as being flood-prone
- The UK government currently spends £2.6 billion on flood defences in England
- 36 people have died as a result of flooding in England and Wales in the past 10 years
- 22.6 million homes in the UK do not have any form of home insurance
Carry on reading for a more in-depth exploration of flooding in the UK.
Which areas in the UK are most at risk of flooding?
Different parts of the UK are more susceptible to different types of flooding than others.
Areas affected by coastal flooding
Coastal locations such as Cornwall, Peterborough, Hull, Great Yarmouth, as well as coastal parts of Kent and East Sussex, are particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding caused by the rising sea levels and the gradual deterioration of sea defences.
Areas affected by riverside flooding
Towns and villages located next to rivers are at constant risk from tidal surges from the sea and rivers bursting their banks following spells of heavy rainfall. Areas of the UK most at risk from river flooding include, but are not limited to, Somerset, Yorkshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
Areas affected by surface water flooding
Flash flooding caused by damage to drainage infrastructure often impacts urban areas, because of the amount of strain put on drainage systems. Ares often impacted by surface flooding include but are not limited to Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Merseyside, Yorkshire, Cumbria, and parts of Lincolnshire.
How much does the UK spend on flood defences?
The UK government currently spends £2.6 billion on flood defences in England.
In the 2020 Budget, the government announced that this investment will double to £5.2 billion over the next six years.
The government claims this will ensure 336,000 properties across England are better protected from flooding, in addition to the 300,000 homes that are currently protected through more than 1,000 active flood defence schemes.
Flood insurance statistics
In 2020, the average household flood claim is likely to be around £31,000, and £70,000 for a flooded business. This compares to the average claim across all insured risks of £2,200 under a home insurance policy and an average claim of £11,500 on a commercial policy.
Figures released by the ABI in 2016, following the floods caused by storms Desmond, Eva and Frank, suggest the average payout for each domestic flood claim is £50,000. The total payout by ABI members following these floods was predicted to be around £1.3 billion.
Despite the increasing risk of flooding, it is estimated that 6 million of the 22.6 million homes in the UK do not have any form of home insurance.
Further, research suggests that 40% of UK businesses are underinsured, and 25% of commercial properties are underinsured.
Read more: Flood insurance claims examples.
What is the impact of flooding on people and society?
The impacts of flooding on society and people include:
- Property damage: Rising water levels and fast-flowing water can cause major and often irreparable damage to properties.
- Insurance cover: People who live or work close to rivers can find it difficult to get insurance whilst others cannot afford the insurance premiums at all. The cost of repairing and rebuilding damaged buildings can significantly inflate insurance premiums.
- Mental health: Research from Public Health England has shown flooding can have profound and long-lasting effects on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Injury and loss of life: Floods can and do often lead to injury and death.
How many people die from floods in the UK?
In the past 10 years, 36 people have died as a result of flooding in England and Wales.
In January 1953, more than 2,000 people drowned, when the greatest surge on record happened in the North Sea.
What is the environmental impact of flooding?
Flooding doesn’t just affect people and properties, it can have a major impact on the environment too. The main impacts of flooding on the environment include:
- Pollution: Floods wash sewage and chemicals into the water, causing contamination.
- Destruction of wildlife habitats: Floods can destroy breeding grounds and homes for wildlife. Changes to water temperature and water patterns can disrupt natural ecosystems.
- Riverbank erosion and sedimentation: High and fast-moving water that exceeds riverbanks can cause erosion. Flood water can carry sediment and leave deposits behind once waters recede, which can clog rivers, streams, and reservoirs.
What are the most common types of flooding in the UK
There are different types of flooding and several sources that could cause a flood in the UK, and they don’t only affect properties located near rivers or the coast.
The most common types of flooding in the UK are:
- Coastal flooding
- River flooding
- Groundwater flooding
- Surface water flooding
- Sewer flooding
Read more: Different types of flooding in the UK
How much flooding will the UK get in the future?
According to a study by PNAS, warming of 3.5 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the 2080s – which is what some experts expect if emissions stay high – would expose an additional 250,000 to 400,000 people in Europe to river flooding, and potentially up to 5.5 million per year to coastal flooding. The UK is likely to be one of the worst affected locations, the report suggests.
And in the coming years, North England and Southern Scotland are set to suffer an 11% increase in river flood levels per decade, whereas coastal areas are expected to experience an increase in compound flooding (brought on by simultaneous storm surges and heavy rainfall).