Floods Directive (2007/60/EC)

Protective measures on the Traisen
Photo: BML / Alexander Haiden

The objective of this Directive is to ensure effective flood prevention and mitigation of flood damage.

Directive No 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks (OJ L 288/27) requires Member States to identify those river basins and associated coastal areas for which a potential significant flood risk exists and to prepare flood hazard and flood risk maps as well as flood risk management plans for these areas.

This long-term procedure to reduce the risk of floods comprises three stages:

  • Preliminary flood risk assessment  by the end of 2011
  • If a potential significant flood risk exists: Preparation of  flood hazard maps and flood risk maps  by 2013

  •  Flood risk management plans  for those areas by the end of 2015

Preliminary flood risk assessment

Based on the results of a first, “preliminary risk assessment” those areas for which a potential significant flood risk exists have to be identified. It serves above all to provide an assessment of potential risks based on available or readily derivable information, such as records. The assessment shall include at least: maps of the river basin district at the appropriate scale showing the borders of the river basins and sub-basins as well as the topography and land use, and a description of the flood events which occurred in the past and which had significant adverse impacts on humans, economic activity and the environment, and for which the likelihood of similar future events is still relevant, including their flood extent and conveyance routes and an assessment of the adverse impacts they have entailed.

Flood hazard maps and flood risk maps

Member States shall prepare for those areas at river basin level flood hazard and flood risk maps as well as flood risk management plans at the appropriate scale.

Flood hazard maps shall cover the geographical areas which could be flooded according to the following scenarios:

  • Floods with a low probability with a likely return period of 300 years or extreme scenario events;
  • Floods with a medium probability with a likely return period of 100 years;
  • Floods with a high probability with a likely return period of 30 years.

For each of the scenarios described the flood extent (water depths or water level, as appropriate), and, where appropriate, the flow velocity have to be indicated.

Flood risk maps shall show the potential adverse consequences associated with the scenarios referred to above. Flood risk maps shall show the indicative number of inhabitants potentially affected and the type of economic activity of the area potentially affected.

Flood risk management plans

On the basis of the above-mentioned preparatory work, Member States shall establish “flood risk management plants” coordinated at the level of the river basin district and define appropriate objectives for the management of flood risks, focusing on the reduction of potential adverse consequences of flooding for human health, the environment, and economic activity, and, if considered appropriate, on non-structural flood prevention initiatives.

Flood risk management plans describe measures for achieving the defined objectives.

Flood risk management plans shall address all aspects of flood risk management focusing on prevention, protection, preparedness, including flood forecasts and early warning systems and taking into account the characteristics of the particular river basin or sub-basin. Flood risk management plans may also include controlled flooding of certain areas in the case of a flood event.

Flood risk management plans should take into account relevant aspects such as costs and benefits, flood extent and flood conveyance routes, and areas which have the potential to retain flood water, objectives of water protection according to the Water Rights Act 1959 (in qualitative and quantitative terms), soil and water management, spatial planning, land use, nature conservation, navigation and port infrastructure.

In the production and updating of the flood risk management plans the active involvement of the interested parties has to be ensured; preliminary risk assessment, maps and flood risk management plans are made accessible to the public. These three steps have to be repeated in a six-year cycle to ensure that account is taken of long-term developments.

Other cornerstones of the Floods Directive

  • Ban on shifting the flood risk to downstream areas, unless an agreed solution has been found among the states concerned.
  • Requirement concerning the orientation of planning activities according to the entire river basin district, for which one single management plans shall be prepared; in the case of international river basin districts the Member States concerned shall coordinate their plans accordingly in the same way as provided for by the Water Framework Directive, and shall equally endeavour to prepare a common management plan.
  • Synchronisation of the planning with that of the EU Water Framework Directive
  • Participation of the public in the entire planning process and the obligation to make the public familiar with the results.
  • Transitional regulations for the locations for which similar maps and management plans are already available, to avoid additional administrative efforts.

Implementation in Austria

The Floods Directive had to be transposed into national law by the end of 2009. The planning process was implemented by the Amendment to the Water Rights Act, Federal Law Gazette I No 14/2011. For the preparatory work, working groups were established on national level. In Austria, the Directive concerns a great many federal and provincial competencies (e.g. water legislation, navigation, torrent and avalanche control as federal competences, as well as spatial planning, disaster control and nature conservation as responsibilities of the Federal Provinces).