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  • Flood maps FAQs

Flood map frequently asked questions

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to provide you with more information about flood maps.

Our flood maps show you areas that may be affected by flooding from rivers, the sea and surface water now and in the future due to climate change. They are designed to help you understand if you could be affected by flooding and the potential impacts. The information shown in the flood maps is indicative. The flood maps can be viewed online or downloaded from our website.

We currently have two flood map viewers available:

For members of the public, planning applicants & emergency responders: To find information on flood risk to an area and view the flood hazard/extent and future flood maps, visit check your flood risk. These maps will be helpful to anyone who is interested in understanding the flood risk for an area. You can search by using a postcode or by using the map viewer controls.

For Flood Risk Management professionals: For more technical information to inform Flood Risk Management Planning, please view our flood risk management maps.

The flood maps are now available as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) datasets under Open Government Licence (OGL) and are available for anyone to use and download from SEPA’s Data Publication webpage.

No, the flood maps only show the risk of flooding in any given year. To find out if flooding is happening just now, check our live flood updates.

Flood risk means the chance that an area may be affected by flooding in any given year. The higher the risk, the greater the chance of flooding in any given year.

There are some simple steps you can take to help reduce the impacts of flooding on you and your family. Visit our prepare for flooding section.

Signing up to Floodline will also ensure you receive up to date information about where and when flooding may happen.

Remember that the actual risk of flooding to your property has not changed just because it is included on the map. Not every property in the highlighted areas is at risk of flooding but being prepared means reducing the impact flooding can have on your life.

If your property is in an area that has a likelihood of flooding, you may be at risk from a range of impacts, from property flooding or vehicle flooding to flooded access routes or disruption to community services.

Being in a flood risk area does NOT mean that your property will be impacted if there is flooding. The impact across the area can vary depending on land surfaces, the built environment and community or property flood defences.

If you identify that your property is in an area of flood risk it means you should be prepared as you could be impacted in some way, now or in the future.

  • High likelihood means areas with at least 10% chance of flooding each year;
  • Medium likelihood means areas with at least 0.5% chance of flooding each year;
  • Low likelihood means areas with at least 0.1% chance of flooding each year;

Flooding has the same chance of happening in any year, with smaller floods happening more often than bigger floods. More information is shown in the legend of the flood maps, below the layer list in the flood map data bar.

Not necessarily. The information tells you the chance of flooding in any given year. Floods that happen less often can be more damaging over a wider area than those that happen more often. Having a low flood risk does not mean that an area will not flood or that the flooding may not sometimes be severe.

No. If the flood maps do not show any risk of flooding for your site, this does not confirm there is no risk.

The nature of the maps means that they do not always represent flooding in detail locally. They are also based on our best understanding of long-term flood risk at the time of being made. Our understanding improves over time as more data becomes available and more floods happen.

There is inherent uncertainty in all forms of flood map as they seek to replicate highly complex real-world events. As a result, there are a number of reasons why the flood maps may underestimate flood risk in a location.

The following are some examples, but this list is not exhaustive:

  • The source of risk is not included in the flood map model - includes some small watercourses, sewer systems in some areas, the effects of wave action in most locations.
  • Small features on the ground are not picked up by the strategic nature of the maps, but influence flood routes and flow. This could include small embankments, structures, walls, or features that act as flow routes like paths.
  • There is a nearby culvert or bridge that restricts the flow of water in the channel or floodplain, causing water to back up behind it. This could be because it is smaller than the natural flow area or it is prone to blockage.
  • In rivers, flood flows could be higher than we expected. Flow estimates of future floods are generally based on data of what has happened in the past. If no large floods happened in the past, we might not expect them to happen in future, but we may be wrong.
  • At the coast, sea levels could be higher than we expect due to local conditions influencing storm surge and/or wave impacts, or the national model of coastal flood levels might not represent local features like estuaries well.
  • In estuaries, the combined effect of the sea and high river levels is not investigated for the flood maps.

The flood maps have, until 2021, been recommended for use at the strategic scale only. We think it is increasingly important to be more transparent about the information we hold and make it more widely available to even better support people and communities to understand their risk of flooding. As part of this drive and, for the first time, we are enabling the flood maps to be viewed at the site scale to help everyone avoid flood risk at the earliest stage of the planning process and identify where further investigation is required.

SEPA has assessed flood risk to areas within Scotland, not the flood risk to individual properties. When visiting our flood maps, visibility of flood risk areas at lower zoom levels makes it easier for flood map users to identify whether their site/property sits within an area that is at risk of flooding. In changing the map zoom scale, it is important to remember that the risk of flooding has not changed. You can simply zoom in further than before.

SEPA has improved the detail of the flood maps in many areas and will continue to do so in a planned way.

Provide as much information as you can with your application to show that your development will not flood. If it cannot be shown clearly that there would be no flooding, you may need to obtain a more detailed flood risk assessment for the site.

The latest UK climate change projections predict Scotland will experience milder, wetter winters, warmer, drier summers, more heavy rainfall events and rising sea levels. This means that some areas are likely to flood more often in the future and that in some places flooding could become more severe. The amount of change that occurs will depend on how successful we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Find out more on climate change and flood risk.

The flood maps are made from a combination of national and local scale models, and so the level of detail and accuracy varies.

Find out more information on how the SEPA flood maps were developed.

You can also find lots of information on how we are continually working to develop and improve our knowledge of flooding.

The flood hazard maps were last updated in November 2023.

Flood mapping is a dynamic process and, as we develop and improve our data, methods and techniques, the maps will be reviewed and updated.

We will continue to work with responsible authorities and partner organisations to improve our knowledge, understanding and the representation of flooding across Scotland.

You can provide this information to us using our contact form. Only provide your contact details if you wish to be contacted by us.

SEPA’s flood maps that show the risk of flooding from river, the sea, and surface water are now available under Open Government Licence (OGL) and are available for anyone to use and download from our website.

Data can be viewed online using the flood map viewer.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) datasets can be downloaded from SEPA’s Data Publication webpage.

The datasets are currently only available for download and can be used within standard Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software packages. As we continue to develop our flooding products and services then we may be able to offer this functionality in the future.

License restrictions prevent the flood maps being copied and printed from the SEPA website viewer, but they can be viewed to support commercial decisions.

SEPA’s flood maps that show the risk of flooding from river, the sea, and surface water are available under Open Government Licence. This means that information about the extent, depth and velocity of flooding that can be downloaded from the SEPA Data Publication webpage can be used for commercial purposes.

SEPA has a statutory responsibility to produce flood maps to inform the people of Scotland about flood risk. As our flood maps are available under Open Government Licence, there are no restrictions on their commercial use and it is possible that insurance companies may use our flood maps to help determine insurance premiums, however they have not been explicitly designed for this purpose.

Insurance companies set their own rules for assessing flood risk and setting premiums. These range from indicators such as distance from a watercourse, history of previous flooding claims in an area, and some also have their own flood maps. They may well review their rules, which can affect insurance premiums year on year.

In general, it can be worth shopping around. Perhaps using an insurance comparison tool. Different insurance providers have different rules for determining what constitutes flood risk to a property. If you are unhappy with any part of the insurance process, you can raise it with the financial ombudsman service.

You can also refer to our flooding insurance guide .

We would recommend to people who have difficulty in obtaining insurance cover to directly contact insurance companies to discuss the issues with them and consider using an insurance broker. The British Insurance Brokers Association can help identify a range of brokers who can quote for flood insurance, whether as a stand-alone policy or as part of a bundled, household policy.

You can call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or use our contact form.

OGL stands for Open Government Licence. This means that the data can be re-used free of charge without permission from SEPA.

SEPA’s OGL datasets are available for anyone to use and download from our website.

Yes, details of permitted use are in the link provided Open Government Licence.

Flood maps

The flood maps provide national datasets to show those areas of Scotland at a risk of flooding from the sea, rivers, and surface water. Information is provided on the extent, depth, and velocity (where available) of flooding. Three different likelihoods of flooding are available for all flood sources, an additional likelihood is available for river and coastal flood maps to show the potential impacts of climate change.

Local Plan Districts (LPDs)

Geographical areas in Scotland that are designated for flood management under the Flood Risk Management Act (Scotland) 2009. There are 14 LPDs across the country which SEPA and partners use to co-ordinate flood risk management in Scotland including the development of National and Local Flood Risk Management Plans.

Potentially Vulnerable Areas (PVAs)

Geographical areas in Scotland designated for flood management under the Flood Risk Management Act (Scotland) 2009. They show the parts of catchments and coastal areas where SEPA has identified that a nationally significant flood risk currently exists now or is likely to occur in the future. PVAs are located within the broader Flood Risk Management Local Plan Districts (LPDs). PVAs help SEPA and responsible authorities in Scotland prioritise where work could provide the most benefit.

Target Areas (TAs)

Geographical areas that are used to identify locations to focus targeted flood risk management objectives and actions as identified in Scotland’s National Flood Risk Management Plans 2021. Target Areas are located within Potential Vulnerable Areas (PVAs) which are a broader unit of management, these locations are not however formally designated areas under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act.

Yes - we are working with our data providers to enable us to make more of our datasets accessible to support efficient decisions by the public and our partner organisations.

Non-OGL SEPA flooding datasets are only available to third parties with statutory flood risk management or civil contingency responsibilities, due to our obligations to the licensors of the datasets underlying our data. This is principally public bodies, statutory undertakers or those working on their behalf.

If your organisation falls into this category, please use the contact form to discuss what licensing options may be available.

An Attribution Statement is a statement that gives credit to, or attributes, the creator of the work from whom you have borrowed. If you have altered the work in any way, indicate that in your attribution statement.

The SEPA OGL datasets are derived from several different datasets belonging to other parties. It is important that these other parties are given proper credit for the use of their data.

Where you do any of these things:

  • copy, publish, distribute, or transmit the OGL datasets
  • adapt the OGL datasets
  • exploit the OGL datasets commercially or non-commercially. For example, by combining it with other data, or by including it in your own product or application

You must:

  • acknowledge the source of the Information in your product or application by including or linking to the attribution statement we provide, and
  • where possible, you should also provide a link to the Open Government Licence.

You may include a URL or hyperlink to a resource that contains the required attribution statements: if you use a document generated by SEPA you should ensure you link to a copy that you host, as the SEPA website is subject to change.

These are important conditions of this licence and if you fail to comply with them the rights granted to you under this licence will end automatically.

An attribution statement should be clearly visible where data from SEPA has been included in your work/product. The correct attribution statement(s) are provided with the documentation accompanying the dataset you have included. Where the attribution statement has been provided in a separate document, these should be linked to as locally hosted copy as the SEPA website is subject to change.

Yes. This version is the national flood forecast, the high-level version. This is the first step in the journey to providing our customers with improved flood information. The next step will involve designing a more regional flood forecast which will provide the public with more localised flood information.

Your feedback is very important to helping us improve the Scottish Flood Forecast. You can do this by clicking on the ‘feedback’ link at the top of the Scottish Flood Forecast webpage.

Yes, during the public beta release we asked the public for feedback on the test version of the Scottish Flood Forecast. As a result of this feedback, we have made improvements to the way we describe flood impacts so that this information is much clearer.