Fluvial and pluvial flooding are two distinct types of flooding events that transpire due to different natural processes. Fluvial flooding or river flooding refers to the inundation of land around a river or stream due to overflowing water within its banks. Generally, some of the many root causes of fluvial flooding include heavy rainfall and snowmelt, leading to water levels in rivers to rise and spill over into surrounding areas. Factors such as the land’s topography, the water volume in the river, and the amount of precipitation can exacerbate fluvial flooding.

On the other hand, pluvial flooding, also referred to as surface water flooding, is when an excessive amount of rainfall exceeds the capacity of local drainage systems to carry away water. Surface water flooding can affect both urban and rural areas, as it is not limited to rivers and streams. Generally, urban areas with impervious, hard surfaces, such as roads and pavements, experience pluvial flooding as water cannot infiltrate the ground and accordingly accumulates on the surface.

In summary, the main difference between fluvial and pluvial flooding centers on the water source causing the inundation — with fluvial flooding caused by overflowing rivers and streams, and pluvial flooding caused by excessive rainfall overwhelming drainage systems. Understanding the differences is crucial for effective flood risk management and mitigation efforts for infrastructure stakeholders across the built environment.

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