Flood management in Suffolk

How flooding is managed in Suffolk, with a broad overview of which responsibilities individuals and organisations have in terms of flooding and drainage.

How the council manages flooding

Suffolk County Council is a Lead Local Flood Authority as defined in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.  

We are also a risk management authority with responsibilities for dealing with flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses. 

The Environment Agency has a strategic overview for all flooding, as well as coastal erosion. It is the risk management authority for flooding from rivers and the sea. 

Suffolk Flood Risk Management Partnership

The council is responsible for coordinating a partnership approach to flood and coastal risk management with all risk management authorities in Suffolk. We do this through the Suffolk Flood Risk Management Partnership.

It's possible to keep track of what the partnership is doing on the Green Suffolk website, along with many other projects which aspire to make Suffolk the Greenest County.

The partnership has produced a Flood Risk Management Strategy to help everyone understand and manage flood risk within Suffolk. 

Suffolk Joint Emergency Planning Unit (JEPU)

Suffolk County Council is a member of the Suffolk Joint Emergency Planning Unit (JEPU).

The JEPU is a shared service for all Suffolk local authorities (County, District and Borough) to prepare for emergencies including major flooding events.

It acts as a focal point for local authorities when dealing with the Emergency Services and other agencies during a major incident as part of the Suffolk Resilience Forum.

Our responsibilities with flooding, and sandbag policy

We're responsible for investigating 3 types of flooding:

  1. Surface water (rainfall) runoff, which flows from, or over, surfaces that cannot easily absorb water
  2. Overflowing ordinary watercourses (e.g. small streams/ditches)
  3. Groundwater flooding caused when heavy or prolonged rainfall makes the groundwater table rise above its normal level

Our duties include: 

  • Investigating and publishing reports on significant floods in Suffolk and identifying the responsible Flood Risk Management Authority
  • Recording flood assets - identifying those responsible for them and designating any features which have a significant impact on flood risk so they cannot be removed or replaced without consent
  • Determining the outcomes of Land Drainage Act applications for ordinary watercourses
  • Developing and delivering a Suffolk flood risk management strategy alongside our partners in the Suffolk Flood Risk Management Partnership.
  • Acting as a statutory consultee to ensure that developments drain in a manner which does not increase flood risk elsewhere, as well as trying to reduce the risk of flooding wherever possible 

Additionally, we have the power to:

  • request information regarding flooding from any organisation or person
  • commission works to prevent surface water runoff and groundwater flooding

Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment

As a Lead Local Flood Authority, we have a responsibility to publish a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PRFA). Find out more about this on our PFRA page


Sandbags do not provide enough protection during a flood. Water can get into properties through many routes, not just doorways. They can also be challenging to dispose of after they are used since it is likely that they will be heavy and contaminated.

Local authorities in Suffolk won’t provide sandbags to try to protect individual properties, but instead use these limited resources in bulk to raise and repair defences or divert water away from groups of properties. You can check your property’s flood risk by contacting floods@suffolk.gov.uk and detailing your query. If it’s appropriate to use purpose-made flood protection products, details can be found on the National Flooding Forum’s “Blue Pages”.

Your responsibilities with flooding

Homeowners are responsible for protecting their property from flooding, although we do provide support and guidance. The Suffolk Flood Risk Management Partnership has created a flood guide and a "Guide to Riparian Ownership" which contain all the critical information for people who could be affected by flooding and nearby watercourses.

If your property is prone to flooding you should prepare yourself and make your own arrangements to protect it. The National Flood Forum has lots of helpful advice about how to do this.

The Suffolk Resilience Forum has information about emergency planning for floods in Suffolk as well as advice on what to do if the worst happens.

If you own land which is adjacent to, or crossed by a watercourse you are likely to be deemed a riparian owner, and have certain legal obligations to maintain that watercourse. You can learn more about this on our riparian ownership in Suffolk page, or follow the link below to read the government guidelines for riparian ownership. Alternatively, if you feel as though you would like some advice on how to properly maintain you watercourse, please don't hesitate to contact us at floods@suffolk.gov.uk.  

Read more about riparian ownership

House insurance and Flood Re

Flood Re is a government endorsed scheme designed to help provide better access to affordable home insurance for those in high flood risk areas across the UK.

If your home is at risk of flooding and you have problems finding affordable insurance, visit the Flood Re website which has a comprehensive guide and links to insurance companies that can offer polices under the scheme. 

To find out whether your home might be at high risk of flooding, you can request a flood map from us. Alternatively, please don't hesitate to contact the council at floods@suffolk.gov.uk.  

How we investigate a report

We'll assess each flood incident report against our priority criteria before undertaking an investigation.

Once this has been done we will aim to deal with the most serious incidents first.

Our levels of priority are:

  1. Internal flooding to 5 or more properties, flooding to major infrastructure for 10 hours or more
  2. Internal flooding to less than 5 properties, flooding to external property (i.e. gardens & drives), flooding to major roads
  3. All other flooding occurrences

We will:

  • undertake a formal investigation when we've received significant flooding incidents for a street or an area
  • try to find the cause of the flood and will suggest recommendations and action to reduce flooding from happening again

We have a guidance document which details how we investigate flooding incidents.

Current investigations

As of October 2021, we currently have open investigations in Haverhill, Gazeley, Aldeburgh, Bury St. Edmunds & Felixstowe.

Completed flood investigations can be read here once they are published.