Winter is on the way – and makes this report on future flood prevention from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (released today) very timely. Today’s report, ‘Future flood prevention’, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmenvfru/115/115.pdf builds on previous works such as ‘Floods and Dredging – a reality check’ from CIWEM
http://ciwem.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Floods-and-Dredging-a-reality-check.pdf and others, recognising that in many cases, traditional approaches to managing flood risk are not only unaffordable and unsustainable – they don’t always work and are neither, the only – nor, sometimes, the best solution.
The report highlights how a catchment wide approach is central to achieving an affordable and sustainable response to flooding in a more populated future, facing the consequences of climate change.
The Catchment based approach (CaBA) https://www.catchmentbasedapproach.org/ and Catchment Partnerships are well placed to drive this forward and deliver real solutions to communities not able to benefit from more traditional ‘hard engineered’ and expensive schemes. Existing Catchment Partnerships have developed strong links between local communities, local authorities, the Environment Agency, wildlife trusts and large institutions such as water companies and local industries, and are already delivering projects that enhance and protect our precious water resources and habitats; using a holistic approach to achieve multi-benefit solutions.
At the South East Rivers Trust, we are proud to host and co-host river catchments across the South East, and are increasingly involved in projects addressing local flood issues. In September, the Loddon Catchment Partnership http://www.loddoncatchment.org.uk supported a resident-led workshop, hosted by the Loddon Basin Flood Action Group and the University of Reading, on the potential for natural flood management projects to help residents who are at risk of flooding in Berkshire.
Although there is a need for more evidence to inform best practice (but see Wilkinson ME, Quinn PF, Welton P. (2010) Runoff management during the September 2008 floods in the Belford catchment, Northumberland. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 3(4)), schemes such as those described in the report have shown the potential to achieve cumulative benefits from linked, practical projects that use techniques as diverse as increasing the area of land that can absorb water by planting woodland, to creating extra water storage areas by installing ‘leaky dams’ of natural materials that slow and divert water during high flow events.
Reproduced from Future Flood Prevention (EFRA Committee report)
It all makes so much sense! – BUT there are challenges. The report highlights that the key to the success – or even existence of these projects lies in taking the whole community along, and providing realistic payments to landowners whose livelihoods are affected by these schemes. In discussions at our Cuckmere and Pevensey Catchment Partnership meeting http://www.cplcp.org.uk farmers stressed the need for these payments to be an ongoing income stream, rather than one-off payments that do not reflect changes to their business model. This necessity is also highlighted in the report along with the criticism that government response to flooding has been reactive rather than pro-active, resulting from too short time scales for meaningful, strategic planning.
Improving communications across all areas of local planning is also essential. Highlighting the potential for new developments to embrace these methods can only help mitigate against the effects of yet more impermeable roofs, roads and pavements contributing to localised surface flooding.