Level: , Topic: Rivers, Water on the Land

Link to GCSE syllabus: Water on The Land Q5 UNIT 1: The frequency and location of flood events – in the UK in the last 20 years.  A case study of flooding in a rich part of the world and one from a poorer area – the different effects of and responses to flooding.

The frequency and location of flood events – in the UK in the last 20 years.

The floods this winter (2013/2014) were not only devastating for communities but also a repeat of the damage in 2007. Some areas benefited from defences as a result of the 2007 flooding, and this time escaped unscathed but this winter the floods reached new heights and areas previously untouched found themselves inundated.

Areas hit badly this winter included the Somerset Levels and many coastal locations including Cornwall. Are flood becoming more frequent? what are the causes of this? Is it natural or is it part of man made climate change? These questions are hard to answer but sharing your views is good. We have had severe storms in the past and also serious flooding. However the damage being done recently seems to set a record bill. Perhaps not because the floods are worse but perhaps because we are putting more of our valuables in harms way. As the demand for housing increases, we build more properties in flood risk areas increasing our spending on defences. Some people see this increase in spending as an indication that flooding has become worse. This article is useful.

The impacts of the 2014 floods. This can be used as your MEDC case study or you can use the 2007 example below.


Causes: Heavy rain falling on already saturated soil. This meant water could not infiltrate and travelled as overland flow to the river channels. Water reaches the channel very quickly this way, rather than taking days to travel through the soil by through flow. As you can see in the source below. England received over 200% of monthly rainfall in June and July 2007. The chart also shows a useful comparison to last winters flooding.

floods compared

Mankind can make flooding worse by paving over surfaces and building effective drainage which means the water can reach the channel faster (shorted lag time, see your storm hydrograph).

Effects:1800 homes damaged by floodwater and a sewerage treatment works was flooded causing contamination. Roads and railways were blocked and impassable making it difficult for emergency services to reach people who needed them. 200 families were still not home even after a year, with many living in caravans. 13 people died and it cost £3.2 billion.

Responses: We are lucky that as an MEDC, we have lots of support in the form of education. The Met Office and council provide us with information and up to date websites on which to warn us, the offer advice on how to respond and prepare for a flood. As an MEDC this helps to minimise damage and protect lives. In cases where fresh water supplies are cut, the country is quick to respond by providing water. The emergency services are well trained and response quickly to minimise injury or loss of life. People lost their lives in the winter floods, not so much from drowning but by standing in dangerous locations along the coasts during the storms themselves.  Communities work together in order to ensure everyone is safe but loss of life, although rare, still occurs. RAF helicopters were used in the rescue efforts and the army supplied food to cut off towns. £800 million was spent on flood defences in the long run.

CASE STUDY 2: Bangladesh 2004 LEDC

Bangladesh experiences severe flooding on a regular basis. It is a low lying country located on the delta  of the Ganges.

Bagladesh is an LEDC which means it is not as developed as the UK. This means quality of life and provision of services are lower than that in the UK.

Effects: The 2004 floods hit from July to September, at their peak half the country was flooded. This is on a much bigger scale than the floods in the UK. 40% of Dhaka was underwater and 750 deaths were reported as well as 30 million people displaced and made homeless. This is around half of the population of the UK without a home. 100,000 people suffered from diarrhoea as the floodwaters left raw sewerage in towns. The airport in Dhaka was flooded, bridges destroyed and railways damaged. The loss of these vital transport links meant that aid was slower to arrive. Schools and hospitals ware damaged as well as many rice crops and food supplies.

Responses: As an LEDC, Bangladesh relied heavily upon foreign aid. Soon, food supplies, medicines, clothing and blankets were distributed. Local communities worked together just like they did in the UK, but here they rebuilt homes which were completely destroyed. In the UK material possessions were lost but the buildings were dried and people were able to move back in. Charities such as Water Aid worked to provide water purification tablets to provide safe drinking water. In the UK safe water was quickly brought to those in need (which was only a short time) and supplies restored quickly.

In Bangladesh the scale of the flooding was much larger than the UK, the effects were more damaging to life and the help that came afterwards took time and required foreign aid.

Bangladesh are not able to spend billions on defences, they simply have to cope when this inevitably happens again.


Overall the ability of a country to respond to and cope with a flooding event depends on its level of economic development. MEDC can recover quickly, are more prepared and educated and have more money to invest in defences for the future. LEDCs may already have poor emergency services and will require help from the more developed world. Disease is a huge killer in LEDCs and the problem of homelessness is massive. In the UK we lose carpets, TVs and cars, all of which can be replaced. We claim on insurance, our employment continues and we recover. In Bangladesh life in changed for years, entire homes and possessions are lost forever, people die of disease and despite aid from abroad the human suffering is worse.


Use a case study to describe responses to river flooding. 8m

Using case studies explain why the effects and responses to flooding vary in countries of differing levels of economic development. 8m (This means why are the effects and responses different in MEDCs and LEDCs)


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