Sweden has not yet experienced flood events of the magnitude seen in central Europe over the past few years; hence flood-risk management is low on its political agenda.

This paper investigates the gaps, barriers and opportunities in implementation of flood risk reduction, which, to be effective, needs to be part of an adaptive river basin management framework. It analyses progress on the ground illustrated by a case study from Kristianstad, the most flood-exposed municipality in Sweden.

A literature review, interviews, a regional workshop and a focus group discussion show that structural flood-control measures dominate in Kristianstad municipality, mainly due to the prevalence of sectoral approaches, which are reinforced at the national level. There is no integrated and holistic spatial planning model for flood risk management that takes water resources management and green infrastructure into account at the river basin scale.

Therefore, there is a need for guidance on a broader set of measures to manage flood risk across sectors at the local planning level. Also, reliance on expert opinion needs to be complemented by strengthened stakeholder participation in the spatial planning process.

The authors identify future opportunities in flood-risk reduction, including synergies between the EU Water Framework Directive and Flood Directive, guided by national priorities.

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