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River Thames Estuary


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Where is the Pilot Site? Back to top
The Thames Estuary is one of the United Kingdom’s major east-coast estuaries. It extends from the tidal limit of the River Thames at Teddington Lock in the west, through the heart of London, out to the North Sea. The character of the flooding changes from a fluvial dominance in the upstream reaches to the hazards posed by storm surges and waves in the downstream reaches. The estuary has a dynamic sediment regime with sequences of erosion and deposition on each tide. Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament and Thames Estuary Pilot Study Area Map
Why was this site chosen? Back to top

There are approximately 500,000 properties, housing 1.25 million people, and a significant proportion of London’s essential infrastructure at risk from flooding. The area also has tidal salt marsh and extensive mudflats exposed at low water, which provide important habitat to a wide variety of species.

London’s existing defences (including the Thames Barrier) provide a very high level of protection against flooding, but this will gradually decline over time. Flood risk is increasing in the Thames Estuary because of:

  • Climate change – as the oceans warm the level of the seas around the British coast is rising and intense rainfall and extreme stormy conditions are likely to increase in the future
  • Land levels lowering – the south-east of England is slowly sinking in relation to the sea; a legacy from the last ice age
  • Ageing flood defences – the current flood defences that protect London and the other communities along the estuary are getting older and more costly to maintain
  • Increasing development – the pressure for more houses and jobs within the tidal floodplain is increasing.

Thames Estuary 2100 project is being undertaken by the Environment Agency in order to develop a strategy for flood risk management in the estuary for the next 100 years. This site was chosen as one of FLOODsite’s pilots to take advantage of the large amount of work already undertaken to collect data, such as the condition of defences, and to understand how weather conditions, sea levels, river flows, the operation of flood defences and the changing shape of the estuary itself, affect the likelihood of flooding.

Who is involved in the study? Back to top

The FLOODsite project team is working closely with the Environment Agency for this study.

River Thames at Westminster QEII Bridge Thames Barrier
Westminster Bridge and the
Houses of Parliament
QEII Bridge Thames Barrier in Operation

What is the study for? Back to top

The purpose of this study is to help flood defence managers in determining the best programme of actions to be taken to reduce flood risk, for example when to maintain or replace existing defences. The study includes understanding the needs of flood defence managers in the Thames Estuary to do their job as well as possible, reviewing different options for managing defences based on the performance of the defences and understanding how that performance might best be measured.

The study is closely linked to the Environment Agency’s PAMS project, which is looking at asset management within the EA across the whole of England and Wales, not just the Thames Estuary.

How will the study be of benefit to those living in the Thames Estuary area? Back to top

There can only ever be a limited amount of money available for flood defence. Improved management practices will help to provide best value for money in maximising the level of protection for people and property in the area of the estuary.

Where to find more information Back to top

Further details of this study can be found here.

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