SC090007 - Flood Embankment Management Manual - Scoping Study

Theme:Sustainable Asset Management
Project status:Completed
Start date:14/05/2009
End date:14/07/2011
  • engineering and construction,
  • Flood Defence,
  • environmental management


The Environment Agency contributed to a CIRIA led project to decide the content for an International Levee Handbook. The design, construction, assessment and maintenance of levees (also known as flood defence embankments) is a critical part of many nations flood risk management work.

The project involved working with partners from the United States, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. A team of UK practitioners comprising design consultants, construction contractors and operators such as the Environment Agency and the Rivers Agency of Northern Ireland identified the issues of greatest relevance for the UK. The outcome from the project has been agreement amongst the international partners about the content for an International Levee Handbook and this is presented in the Scoping Study report (available from the CIRIA website -

Background - The Defra/ Environment Agency R&D project Reducing the Risk of Embankment Failure under Extreme Conditions (FD2411) made a number of recommendations about future flood embankment work and one of these was the development of a flood embankment management manual that would 'provide a definitive manual for the whole life design, maintenance and management of flood embankments (including guidance on site investigation). Subsequently to provide a mechanism for the rapid integration and dissemination of new knowledge and practice relating to embankments.'

In 2009 partners from the UK, the United States, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany began working together to scope out how to make this vision a reality. The first step has been a scoping study to agree the content for a single, comprehensive handbook collating international practices and knowledge.
The rationale for an International Levee Handbook - Although there is considerable experience worldwide, guidance on the assessment, design, construction, and maintenance of levees varies in detail within different countries motivated by different engineering disciplines. We will need new solutions and approaches as the impact of climate change and ageing flood risk assets worldwide present even greater challenges.
The International levee handbook will offer a ‘decision support’ framework for competent engineers, rather than a prescriptive ‘decision making’ code of practice looking at specific challenges during the life cycle of levees.

Proposed content for an International Levee Handbook
Over the course of two international workshops, the partners agreed a detailed specification for a international Levee Handbook. An outline of the proposed chapters for the handbook is presented below:
• Conceptual frameworks for levee design, construction and maintenance.
• Form and function of levees.
• Operation and maintenance.
• Condition assessment of levees.
• Emergency preparedness and management.
• Site characterisation & data requirements.
• Physical processes and tools for levee design.
• Design.
• Construction.

Looking ahead - The scoping report has demonstrated that an International Levee Handbook is achievable. The international partners have now agreed to work together to address the recommendations from the scoping study and produce an International Levee Handbook. This is planned to be complete by 2014.