Mapping surface water issues

Mapping surface water issues

After our recent bout of cold weather and snow, our minds are now turning to flooding and surface water issues.

When walking, cycling or driving around our towns and villages after a heavy dose of rain we always see big puddles and sometimes fully-flooded roads. Depending on your mode of transport this can have quite an impact on your journey. It could be simply not having such a clean car as you did before, or it could be a full drenching by a bus as you walk past the standing water. Did they aim for it or was it just bad luck?!

Either way, these surface water issues can have a big impact on the smooth running of your Parish Council for businesses and residents alike. Heavy rainfall events over the last 45 years have increased in all areas of the UK according to the Met Office, so this isn't an issue that's going away.

Using Parish Online there are some simple practical steps you can take to start the process of resolving these issues. Flooding can cause accidents, damage and disruption, so taking preventative measures is critical. Whether they are your responsibility or not, accurate information is key to getting the wheels in motion.

Capturing the Information

The first step is understanding where surface water issues are arising. One Councillor from Ducklington Parish Council (a Parish Online user) in West Oxfordshire conducted a survey around his Parish the day after a heavy rain event with a few printouts from Parish Online and marked the extent of the flooding on the map. He also took photos that could be used to verify the annotations on his maps.

WARNING: We advise anyone looking to do this to stay safe and sensible and to read the Environment Agency and AA guidelines on water safety before doing so. Flood water can be polluted and contain hazards. Stay a safe distance away from water sources.

Recording the Information

Once we’ve collected the information, the next step it to record it to Parish Online so that it’s saved as a permanent record. For this we’ll first create a new polygon Map Layer and call it ‘Flooding Event – 14th Dec 2017’ which will be saved in our Parish Layers collection. We’ll give it attribute columns to allow us to write a description about each record.

We’ll then use the Editor tool to draw a polygon representing the surface water we identified, using the paper map and the background mapping as a reference. We can then use the Info Click tool and Attach File button to upload the photos we took and add them to the Map Object, saving them for future reference.

This is a better, more foolproof way of recording the information, rather than the paper maps getting lost and the photos being deleted from your camera.

Analysing the Information

Now that the information is in Parish Online, we can look at other map layers to help us understand the issues. If your District or County has shared map layers with you, you could look at these. Drainage would be our first layer to check. Are there drains in that location? If there are, can you find out the last time they were cleared? This is a great evidence gathering exercise that will help you solve the issue.


The next step is deciding what the priorities of the Parish are. Is one flooding instance causing more problems than others for your residents, business owners and commuters? What economic, environmental, social and health impacts is it having? We could use Parish Online to add information about why you think one instance needs focusing on. This is valuable information for other Parish staff in the future.

Sharing and Resolving the Issue

And finally, we need to share our findings with the people who are responsible for remediation. If it’s the Parish Council itself then you’re already some way to producing a diligent and comprehensive business case for why money or resources should be spent on a fix. If it’s the District or County, then you can print PDF maps in Parish Online to share the issue and present a professional and accurate case.


With more wintery weather on the cards over the next few weeks and months we hope Parish Online can help your Town, Community or Parish make a difference. Be sure to read the NALC 'Get Ready for Winter' guideline article for winter preparedness.


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