Soft engineering strategies

Soft engineering does not involve building artificial structures, but takes a more sustainable and natural approach to managing the potential for river flooding. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

Flood warnings and preparation

The environmental agency monitors rivers and issues warnings via newspapers, TV, radio and the internet when they are likely to flood so people can prepare.

The severe flood warning icon is a red house flooded by 3 layers of water.


  • People have time to protect their properties, eg with sandbags.
  • Many possessions can be saved, resulting in fewer insurance claims.


  • Some people may not be able to access the warnings.
  • Flash floods may happen too quickly for a warning to be effective.
  • They do not stop land from flooding - they just warn people that a flood is likely.

Floodplain zoning

Allowing only certain land uses on the floodplain reduces the risk of flooding to houses and important buildings.

Land next to a river is unsuitable for building. Further away is land good for grazing pasture. Further still are fields, roads and car parks. Industry and housing are sited furthest from the river.


  • More expensive buildings and land uses are further away from the river, so have a reduced flood risk.
  • Less damage is caused, leading to fewer insurance claims.


  • Not always possible to change existing land uses.
  • Planners have to decide what type of flood to plan for.