Humber Bridge

IMMERSE: IMplementing MEasuREs for Sustainable Estuaries

Energy and Environment Institute research carried out as part of the European-funded IMMERSE project, focusing on challenges and threats facing estuary environments, including flooding, pollution, and management activities.

Project summary

The Challenge

Like many North Sea estuaries, the Humber faces a number of challenges and threats, including flooding, pollution, and management activities

The Approach

Working with regional stakeholders to develop the Humber 2100+ flood risk strategy, addressing tidal flood risk in the Humber estuary

The Outcome

Research to model the impacts of current flood management zones in various Humber estuary locations has fed into Environment Agency planning

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners

Mobiliteit en Openbare Werken (Department of Mobility and Public Works, MOW) - Belgium

De Vlaamse Waterweg NV (Flemish Waterway, DVW) – Belgium

Haven van Antwerpen-Brugge (Port of Antwerp-Bruges, POAB) – Belgium

Rijkswaterstaat (Rijkswaterstaat, RWS) – Netherlands

Hamburg Port Authority (Hamburg Port Authority, HPA) – Germany

Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau (German Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute, BAW) – Germany

Tees River Trust (Tees River Trust, TRT) – UK

Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers University of Technology, CHAL) – Sweden

Holbaek Kommune (Municipality of Holbaek, HOL) – Denmark

Sweco Danmark A/S (Sweco Denmark, SWC) – Denmark

The Challenge

Like many North Sea estuaries, the Humber faces a number of challenges and threats, including flooding, pollution, and management activities (e.g. dredging for navigation), but also provides extensive wildlife habitat in its large intertidal zones and salt marshes. The estuary thus has a number of nature conservation designations under UK, European, and international law. At the same time, the Humber is home to 500,000 people and industries worth over £17.5bn GVA; more than 25% of the UK’s primary energy supply flows through the region, and its ports handle 14% of UK trade.

Hull Flood 2007


properties are at risk from river and coastal flooding in the Humber region

The Approach

The IMMERSE project focuses on international cooperation to address these challenges and threats, collectively referred to as “pressures”. A three-step approach is used:

  1. pressures are investigated and potential solutions, or measures, are explored
  2. measures are assessed, tested, and recommendations are provided
  3. preparations are made to implement measures.

Flood risk management in the Humber needs to be designed and implemented to provide cost effective, longer-term resilience to flooding without compromising ecosystems and causing damage to natural habitats along the estuary. A satisfactory solution requires co-development with estuary stakeholders.

The University of Hull (UoH) has engaged with the Environment Agency, 12 local authorities and key stakeholders including Associated British Ports (ABP), Natural England and Internal Drainage Boards, to develop the Humber 2100+ flood risk strategy. This strategy aims to simultaneously address tidal flood risk while reinforcing the long-term ambition for a prosperous Humber, which is a safe and sustainable place to live, work and visit.

To do this, we have undertaken hundreds of numerical modelling simulations exploring the impact of different measures on flood risk in the Humber and extracted population and economic data from the Office of National Statistics to assess the economic damages that could be avoided.

IMMERSE Humber flood modelling against current defences
Image shows Humber Estuary flood modelling against baseline measures, in place at the beginning of the IMMERSE project

The Impact

Our simulations indicate that completed managed realignment schemes in the outer estuary, primarily to provide compensatory habitat, such as those at Paull Holme Strays and Welwick, are likely to have slightly increased flood risk within the estuary. In contrast, managed realignment schemes in the mid- to inner estuary, at Alkborough and Chowder Ness, have reduced flood risk.

As a result, the Humber 2100+ strategy team have commissioned further modelling work to explore the impact of compound events (i.e. river floods travelling down the Ouse and Trent combined with a North Sea storm surge and sea level rise) on flood risk.