Speaking at the NCE water conference in London today, the minister announced a new strategic overview role for the Environment Agency for all forms of flood risk management throughout the country as part of the proposed Floods and Water Bill.
"In the year since last summer's devastating floods, and in response to Sir Michael Pitt's interim report, we have been taking action to ensure the country is better prepared to deal with flooding. This new role for the Environment Agency will ensure a more co-ordinated response to future floods," said Woolas.
In his interim report Sir Michael Pitt called for clearer roles and responsibilities to be set out for organisations responsible for surface water management, as well as improved co-ordination and co-operation.
Local authorities will take responsibility for surface water flooding in their own communities, supported by the Agency.
It is thought these changes will help the relevant authorities to respond more effectively to future flooding events, and provide better protection for people and property.
"Local authorities have a vital role to play, and under the Agency's overview they will be supported to take the lead on the ground. We are prepared if necessary to back this up by providing authorities with the powers to ensure that organisations and landowners responsible fulfil their obligations; for example by maintaining drains," said Woolas.
Mr Woolas is also expected to announce how the Floods and Water Bill will replace existing outdated legislation and tighten up reservoir safety. Under new rules, more of the country's reservoirs will be subject to stringent inspections.
Defra is aiming to consult on the draft Bill in Spring 2009.