A flood is an overflow of water that submerges or “drowns” land. The European Union (EU) Floods Directive defines a flood as a covering by water of land not normally covered by water. In the sense of “flowing water”, the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Flooding may result from the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, which overflows or breaks levees, with the result that some of the water escapes its usual boundaries, or may be due to accumulation of rainwater on saturated ground in an areal flood.
While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, it is unlikely to be considered significant unless it floods property or drowns domestic animals.
Floods can also occur in rivers when the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders in the waterway. Floods often cause damage to homes and businesses if they are in the natural flood plains of rivers. While riverine flood damage can be eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, people have traditionally lived and worked by rivers because the land is usually flat and fertile and because rivers provide easy travel and access to commerce and industry.
Some floods develop slowly, while others such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Additionally, floods can be local, impacting a neighbourhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins.