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Water load of…

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to greatness

The question many of us are asking is, can there be any more of the wet stuff left in the sky? Surely, we say to each other, there can be no more rain since I has all fallen into our rivers, canals and field, soaking the ground and making ‘squelch’ the sound for January.

There may be headlines about the poor state of clothing retailers’ profits thanks t the unseasonably warm weather, but anyone who makes a living selling wellington boots or those thing-high waders must be laughing all the way to the bank. Assuming their bank wasn’t in one of those flooded high streets.

The trouble is, I’ve written this kind of thing before. Last year. And the year before that and the year before that and… well, you get the picture. Over the past few years we’ve had terrible flooding of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Scotland, Worcestershire, Kent, Somerset, the Thames Valley and now Yorkshire and Cumbria again.

Have we learned the lessons of previous floods? Doesn’t seem like it. I know the thing with floods and rivers overflowing their banks is that they are natural events and, as such, hard to predict and, therefore, hard to plan for. Still, we’ve had enough experience of floods and where and when they happen to be able to plan a little better than we currently do.

Forward-thinking, that’s the key. Get the rivers dredged as part of a regular waterways maintenance programme. The trouble is, regular maintenance programmes are hard when they are one of the things to which swingeing Government cuts have been applied.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only parent of a miserable 8 yr old whose rugby and football matches have been cancelled yet again because the ground is too saturated to use, thanks to a council whose contracted maintenance work has been conspicuous by its absence.

The whole problem of what we do with all the wet stuff, of course, is much more complicated than simple maintenance programmes. We need to be building into our infrastructure proper systems for manageing ever–increasing amounts of water. The more homes we build and the more we urbanise the landscape, the less land we have for rainfall to be able to soak away into the ground. It’s vital that water is managed where it falls, reducing the demand on built drainage and the sewerage infrastructure.

So, SUDS, soakaways, rainwater management – whatever the solutions they need to be incorporated now into our building and planning psyche. Before we all develop webbed feet.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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