Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Now that the worst of the flooding has subsided, it is time for the relevant authorities in the affected areas in Yorkshire, the Thames valley and the south-west of England to plan against the next inundation, which cannot be long away. So should the Welsh Government and Welsh councils - we were unbelievably lucky in 2013/14.

Expert advice is that dredging of rivers may be part of the solution, but may also make situations worse. Speeding up flows may increase the trouble for communities downstream. However, the authorities seem to have used that advice as an excuse to do nothing, not even the active land management which experts also recommend.

Anything which can slow rainfall on its rush to the sea is valuable. Wetlands, ground-cover (trees or scrub) or even garden ponds in built-up areas help. As an article in the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust magazine Waterlife magazine puts it:

We all need somewhere to live, somewhere to work and somewhere to shop; many of us want a place to park our cars and outlets for our leisure activities. As our numbers increase, so we must continue to build. 

Yet the amount of water on our planet remains constant, forever falling from the sky, making its way to rivers, flowing to the sea, evaporating, forming clouds and then falling to Earth once more. 

The more we build, therefore, the fewer places it has to go. [...] By increasing the capacity of landscapes, whether rural or urban, to capture and store water, we slow the rate at which those landscapes drain, helping to avoid the disasters of too much water reaching conduits such as rivers at the same time. It's all about building and maintaining catchment levels. 

Restoring wetlands, and making those that exist more effective, is part of that process, so is introducing wetlands into areas where they don't currently exist. WWT's SuDS programme is part of that latter thinking.

An initiative by a mid-Wales farmer would also help in rural areas. He planted some trees originally to provide shelter for sheep to lamb outside, and thus save electricity bills. Other local farmers took up the initiative. They found that a beneficial side-effect was the reduction of water run-off.

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