Climate change adaptation, flood risks and policy coherence in integrated water resources management in England

David Benson, Irene Lorenzoni

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30 Citations (Scopus)
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Integrated water resources management (IWRM) assumes coherence between cognate aspects of water governance at the river basin scale, for example water quality, energy production and agriculture objectives. But critics argue that IWRM is often less ‘integrated’ in practice, raising concerns over inter-sectoral coherence between implementing institutions. One increasingly significant aspect of IWRM is adaptation to climate change-related risks, including threats from flooding, which are particularly salient in England. Although multiple institutional mechanisms exist for flood risk management (FRM), their coherence remains a critical question for national adaptation. This paper therefore (1) maps the multi-level institutional frameworks determining both IWRM and FRM in England; (2) examines their interaction via various inter-institutional coordinating mechanisms; and (3) assesses the degree of coherence. The analysis suggests that cognate EU strategic objectives for flood risk assessment demonstrate relatively high vertical and horizontal coherence with river basin planning. However, there is less coherence with flood risk requirements for land-use planning and national flood protection objectives. Overall, this complex governance arrangement actually demonstrates de-coherence over time due to ongoing institutional fragmentation. Recommendations for increasing IWRM coherence in England or re-coherence based on greater spatial planning and coordination of water-use and land-use strategies are proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1921–1932
Number of pages12
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number7
Early online date22 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Integrated water resources management (IWRM)
  • flood risk
  • institutional fragmentation
  • climate change
  • adaptation
  • river basin management planning

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