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Glossary of Terms



Appropriate Assessment

An assessment based on best scientific knowledge, by a person with ecological expertise, of the potential impacts of the plan on the conservation objectives of any Natura 2000 Environmentally Protected sites (including Natura 200 sites not situated in an area encompassed by the plan or scheme) and the development, where necessary of mitigation or avoidance measures to preclude negative effects.

Arterial Drainage Scheme

Works undertaken under the Arterial Drainage Act (1945) to improve the drainage of land. Such works were undertaken, and are maintained on an ongoing basis, by the OPW.

Breach of defences

A structural failure at a flood defence allowing water to flow through.


The area that is drained by a river or artificial drainage system.

Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies (CFRAMS)

A catchment-based study involving an assessment of the risk of flooding in a catchment and the development of a strategy for managing that risk in order to reduce adverse effects on people, property and the environment. CFRAMS precede the preparation of Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans (see entry for FRMP). Kilkee is covered by the Shannon CFRAM (http://www.floodinfo.ie/)

Climate change

Long-term variations in global temperature and weather patterns, which occur both naturally and as a result of human activity, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions. 

Consequences of flooding

Health, social, economic and environmental effects of flooding, some of which can be assessed in monetary terms, while other less tangible impacts are more difficult to quantify. Consequences depend on the hazards associated with the flooding and the vulnerability of receptors.

Conveyance function

When a river overflows its banks, it continues to flow over the flood plain, conveying water down-stream, as well as storing water where the flood plain may be obstructed and releasing it slowly.

Detailed flood risk assessment

A methodology to assess flood risk issues in sufficient detail and to provide a quantitative appraisal of flood hazard and potential risk to an existing or proposed development, of its potential impact on flood elsewhere and of the effectiveness of any proposed measures. 


Works to remove or facilitate the removal of surface or sub-surface water, e.g., from roads and urban areas through urban storm-water drainage systems, or from land through drainage channels or watercourses that have been deepened or increased in capacity.

Flash Flood

A flash flood is a rapid flooding of an area of land as a result of intense or extreme rainfall events or failure of infrastructure designed to store or carry water or protect against flooding and is distinguished from general flooding by the sudden onset. 

Flood Defence

A man-made structure (e.g. embankment, bund, sluice gate, reservoir or barrier) designed to prevent flooding of areas adjacent to the defence. 

Flood Extent

The extent of land that has been, or might be, flooded. Flood extent is often represented on a flood map.

Flood Hazard

The features of flooding which have harmful impacts on people, property or the environment (such as the depth of water, speed of flow, rate of onset, duration, water quality etc). 

Flood Plain

A floodplain is any low-lying area of land next to a river or stream, which is susceptible to partial or complete inundation by water during a flood event. 

Flood Relief Scheme (FRS)

A scheme designed to reduce the risk of flooding at a specific location.

Flood Risk

An expression of the combination of the flood probability, or likelihood and the magnitude of the potential consequences of the flood event. 

Flood Risk Management (FRM)

FRM combines the function of mitigating and monitoring flood risks and may include pre-flood, flood event or post flood activities.

Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMP)

Plans which are developed in accordance with national flood policy and the EU Floods Directive and which provide the strategic direction for flood risk management decisions in a catchment. These will describe a range of traditional river or coastal defences to non-structural responses such as flood warning and resilience measures at property level.  The FRMP for Ireland are available at www.floodinfo.ie

Flood Storage

The temporary storage of excess run-off, or river flow in ponds, basins, reservoirs or on the floodplain. 

Flooding (or inundation)

Flooding is the overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. It may be caused by overtopping or breach of banks or defences, inadequate or slow drainage of rainfall, underlying groundwater levels or blocked drains and sewers. It presents a risk only when people, human assets and ecosystems are present in the areas that flood. 

Flooding Directive

The EU Directive 2007/ 60/ EC of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks which is aimed at integrating the way flood risk is managed throughout the European Union transposed into Irish Law under SI122/2010. 

Fluvial flooding

Flooding from a river, stream or other watercourse. 


A factor of safety applied for water surfaces. Defines the distance between normal water level and the top of a structure, such as a wall or embankment. 

Groundwater flooding

Flooding caused by groundwater escaping from the ground when the water table rises to or above ground level. 


A place in which a particular plant of animal lives. Often used in the wider sense referring to major assemblages of plants and animals found together. 

Habitats Directive

The Habitats Directive [92/43/EEC] aims at securing biodiversity through the provision of protection for animal and plant species and habitat types of European importance.


The science of the behaviour of fluids, often used in this context in relation to estimating the conveyance of flood water in river channels or structures (such as culverts) or overland to determine flood levels or extents.


The science of the natural water cycle, often used in this context in relation to estimating the rate and volume of rainfall flowing off the land and of flood flows in rivers.

Hydrometric Area

Hydrological divisions of land, generally large catchments or a conglomeration of small catchments, and associated coastal areas. There are 40 Hydrometric Areas in the island of Ireland.

Likelihood (probability) of flooding

A general concept relating to the chance of an event occurring. Likelihood is generally expressed as a probability or a frequency of a flood of a given magnitude or severity occurring or being exceeded in any given year. It is based on the average frequency estimated, measured or extrapolated from records over a large number of years and is usually expressed as the chance of a particular flood level being exceeded in any one year. For example, a 1 in 100 or 1% flood is that which would, on average, be expected to occur once in 100 years, though it could happen at any time. 


Hydrological divisions of land, generally large catchments or a conglomeration of small catchments, and associated coastal areas. There are 40 Hydrometric Areas in the island of Ireland.


The term is used to describe an action that helps to lessen the impacts of a process or development on the receiving environment. It is used most often in association with measures that would seek to reduce negative impacts of a process or development. 

Natura 2000

The EU-wide network of protected areas, recognised as ‘sites of Community importance’ under the EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora). They comprise “Special Areas of Conservation” (SACs) under the Habitats Directive and “Special Protection Areas” (SPAs) under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EC on the conservation of wild birds). 


An option (when used in the context of a flood risk management option) is a collection of flood management measures, which may be structural and/or non-structural, but together provide a means of managing flood risk.

Ordnance Datum (or OD) Malin

A vertical datum used by an ordnance survey as the basis for deriving altitudes on maps. A spot height may be expressed as AOD for "above ordnance datum". Usually meansea level (MSL) is used for the datum. In the Republic of Ireland, OD for the Ordnance Survey of Ireland is Malin Ordnance Datum: the MSL at Portmoor Pier, Malin HeadCounty Donegal, between 1960 and 1969. Prior to 1970, Poolbeg Ordnance Datum was used: the low water of spring tide at Poolbeg lighthouseDublin, on 8 April 1837. Poolbeg OD was about 2.7 metres lower than Malin OD. 

Overtopping of defences

Failure of a flood defence when flood water reaches levels that are higher than the flood defence level and flows over the top of the structure. While the structure may remain stable, erosion of the landward face of the defence could cause the defence to collapse. 


These provide the connection between a particular source (e.g. High River or tide level) and the receptor that may be harmed (e.g. property). In flood risk management, pathways are often ‘blocked’ by barriers, such as flood defence structures, or otherwise modified to reduce the incidence of flooding. 

Pluvial flooding

Usually associated with convective summer thunderstorms or high intensity rainfall cells within longer duration events, pluvial flooding is a result of rainfall-generated overland flows which arise before run-off enters any watercourse or sewer. The intensity of rainfall can be such that the run-off totally overwhelms surface water and underground drainage systems. 

Precautionary approach

The approach to be used in the assessment of flood risk which requires that lack of full scientific certainty, shall not be used to assume flood hazard or risk does not exist, or as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to avoid or manage flood risk. 


Things that may be harmed by flooding (e.g. people,houses, buildings or the environment).

Residual risk

The risk which remains after all risk avoidance, substitution and mitigation measures have been implemented, on the basis that such measures can only reduce risk, not eliminate it.


Sometimes known as “wet-proofing”, resilience relates to how a building is constructed in such a way that, although flood water may enter the building, its impact is minimised, structural integrity is maintained, and repair, drying & cleaning and subsequent reoccupation are facilitated. Resistance, sometimes known as “dry-proofing”, this relates to how a building is constructed to prevent flood water entering the building or damaging its fabric. Receptors Things that may be harmed by flooding (e.g. people, houses, buildings or the environment). 


Sometimes known as “dry-proofing”, this relates to how a building is constructed to prevent flood water entering the building or damaging its fabric.

Return Period

A term that was used to describe the probability of a flood event, expressed as the interval in the number of years that, on average over a long period of time, a certain magnitude of flood would be expected to occur. This term has been replaced by ‘Annual Exceedance Probability, as Return Period can be misleading.


The combination of the probability of flooding, and the consequences of a flood.

River Basin Management Plans (RBMP)

As required by the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/ 60/ EC), these plans will establish a strategic plan for the long-term management of the River Basin District, set out objectives for waterbodies, and in broad terms identify what measures are planned to meet these objectives, and act as the main reporting mechanism to the European Commission.


The flow of water, caused by rainfall, from an area which depends on how permeable the land surface is. Run-off is greatest from impermeable areas such as roofs, roads and hard standings and less from vegetated areas – moors, agricultural and forestry land.


A source of hazard (e.g. the sea, heavy rainfall). 

Source-pathway-receptor model

For there to be flood risk, the three components of flood risk - the source of the hazard, the receptors affects by the hazard and the mechanism of transfer between the two - must all exist.

Standard of Protection (SoP)

The magnitude of flood, often defined by the annual probability of that flood occurring being exceeded (the Annual Exceedance Probability, or ‘AEP’), that a measure / works is designed to protect the area at risk against.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

The process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes. The objective of the SEA process is to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of specified plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development.

Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA)

The assessment of flood risk on a wide geographical area against which to assess development proposed in an area (Region, County, Town).  An SFRA is normally carried out to support a planning document, such as a Local Area Plan or other development plan.

Surface water management

This activity focuses on the assessment and management of flood risk within the urban environment from sources primarily resulting from intense rainfall. Surface water management should understand the performance of the urban drainage network, where exceedance flow routes would form and what impact this would have. Solutions to surface water flood risk can involve green infrastructure provision to capture and direct these exceedance flows to lower vulnerable areas or open space. New development can provide solutions to reducing runoff not only from the proposed development but also from existing areas. This should be considered in the SFRA in critical areas where development is planned upstream of flooding hotspots. 


The capacity to endure. Often used in an environmental context or in relation to climate change, but with reference to actions people and society may take.

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

A form of drainage that aims to control run-off as close to its source as possible using a sequence of management practices and control structures designed to drain surface water in a more sustainable fashion than some conventional techniques.


The resilience of a particular group of people or types of property or habitats, ecosystems or species to flood risk, and their ability to respond to a hazardous condition and the damage or degree of impact they are likely to suffer in the event of a flood. For example, elderly people may be more likely to suffer injury, and be less able to evacuate, in the event of a rapid flood than younger people. 

Water Framework Directive (WFD)

A European Community Directive (2000/ 60/ EC) designed to integrate the way we manage water bodies across Europe. It requires all inland and coastal waters to reach “good status” or “good ecological potential” in the case of heavily modified water bodies by 2015 through a catchment-based system of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP), incorporating a programme of measures to improve the status of all natural water bodies.