Gareth Owen

‌‌Gareth Owen -


PhD Title:

Catchment Characterisation and Modelling Schemes to Address Natural Flood Management Issues


PhD Project Details:

The research is using a number of modelling methodologies supported by field experimentation to investigate the potential of natural flood management (NFM) in mitigating flooding in small rural catchments (<30km2).  This research is timely, given recent legislation that promotes more holistic approaches to tackle excess runoff, for example the European Flood Directive (2007/60/EC) and the Flood and Water Management Act in the UK (2010), and the ongoing extensive flooding in southern England.


The rationale underpinning this approach is that land use change and management interventions affect the storage-discharge relationship of a catchment, resulting in both changes to flood peaks (Qp) and time-to-peak (Tp).  However, despite knowledge of how local (field) scale changes impact on runoff generation, the understanding of how these impacts propagate to the larger catchment scale is limited.  It has also been noted that mapping between empirical and expert knowledge to numerical models (and parameterisations) is difficult and that ‘the use of rainfall-runoff to predict land-use management impacts on flooding is underdeveloped’ (O’Connell et al., 2007).


The PhD makes best use of existing evidence and expert opinion in order to model the likely impact of land use change on catchment flood hydrology.  Three different modelling approaches / structures will be tested to investigate the differing ways in which they handle the storage-discharge relationship and how well suited they are for impact assessment and decision support functions (Wilkinson et al., 2013).  The results will be brought together in the form of a simple decision support tool, the FARM matrix, which will provide quantitative guidance on how interventions may impact at the larger catchment scale.



Quinn, P., O'Donnell, G., Nicholson, A., Wilkinson, M., Owen, G., Jonczyk, J., Barber, N., Hardwick, M. and Davies, G. (2013) Potential Use of Runoff Attenuation Features in Small Rural Catchments for Flood Mitigation.


Packman, J.C., Quinn, P.F., Hollis, J. and O'Connell, P.E. (2004) ‘Short Term Improvement to the FEH Rainfall-Runoff Model: Technical Background’ (Defra R&D Project Record FD2114/PR3)


Wilkinson, M.E., Quinn, P.F. and Hewett, C.J.M. (2013) 'The Floods and Agriculture Risk Matrix: A Decision Support Tool for Effectively Communicating Flood Risk from Farmed Landscapes', International Journal of River Basin Management, pp. 1-16.

(Image - A diagram of the Floods and Agriculture Risk Matrix which attempts to illustrate the potential impacts of certain land management choices of flood peaks.  The numbers and colour scheme are based upon modelled results for manipulating runoff rates and time peaks within the FEH rainfall-runoff model)



Dr Paul Quinn

Dr Greg O’Donnell



Environment Agency



Related Outputs:

Owen, G., Quinn, P. and O'Donnell, G. (2014a) 'A Decision Support Matrix (DSM) Approach to Mapping the Impacts of Flooding Mitigation using a Flood Impact Model (FIM)', EGU General Assembly 2014, Vienna.


Owen, G., Quinn, P. and O'Donnell, G. (2014b) 'Integrating Observations and Models to Help Understanding How Flooding Impacts upon Catchments as a Basis for Decision Making', EGU General Assembly 2014, Vienna.


Owen, G., Quinn, P. and O'Donnell, G. (2015a) Flood Impact Modelling to Support Decision Making', EGU General Assembly 2015, Vienna.


Owen, G., Wilkinson, M., Nicholson, A., Quinn, P. and O'Donnell, G. (2015b) ‘Observational Techniques for Constraining Hydraulic and Hydrologic Models for Use in Catchment Scale Flood Impact Assessment', EGU General Assembly 2015, Vienna.


Owen, G.J., Perks, M.T., Benskin, C.M.H., Wilkinson, M.E., Jonczyk, J. and Quinn, P.F. (2012) 'Monitoring Agricultural Diffuse Pollution through a Dense Monitoring Network in the River Eden Demonstration Test Catchment, Cumbria, UK', Area, 44(4), pp. 443-453.


Snell, M., Barker, P., Surridge, B., Large, A., Haygarth, P., Jonczyk, J., Reaney, S., Benskin, C., Perks, M., Owen, G., Cleasby, W., Deasey, C. and Burke, S. (2013) 'The Role of ‘Real Time Ecology’ in Understanding the Nutrient and Community Dynamics of Headwater Streams', Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (in review).



Gareth received an MSc (Merit) in Sustainable Management of the Water Environment from Newcastle in 2008.  He then worked as an Analyst at JBA Consulting, working mostly on flood forecasting models and warning studies (2008-2010).


Gareth has since worked as a field technician within CEGs on a host of catchment based studies mitigating for diffuse agricultural pollution and studying the impact of Natural Flood Management (NFM) schemes. This led to him to starting the PhD in this area in January 2012.