Europe's floodplains once covered wide stretches along European rivers and were valued for their high ecological importance. Over a number of years they have been cleared for agricultural purposes and changed through urban expansion and artificial flood control structures. Existing natural waterways do not always have the capacity to bear any excess water which can lead to the flooding of downstream areas. As a rough estimate, around 20 % of European cities are classified as being vulnerable to river floods. Therefore, increasing urbanisation and soil sealing, along with wetland conversion or degradation, have contributed to increased run-off and flood risk.
Green infrastructure (GI) can provide essential benefits to flood management and co-benefits to society and the economy. Evidence shows that investment in green solutions, such as landscape conservation and restoring for upstream floodplains or wetlands, is more cost-efficient and provides improved infrastructure solutions. This comes at an opportune moment as decision-makers and investors from both the public and private sectors are seeking out new, innovative and more sustainable infrastructure-based solutions to mitigate flood management. Green solutions can also provide additional benefits such as increased biodiversity, recreational opportunities, and carbon sequestration, which makes for a compelling investment case. This European Environment Agency (EEA) report looks at a number of case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of so-called 'GI solutions'.