Have We Really Moved on Since Pitt?

Written By: European Sales Director, Hydro International

Tewkesbury Abbey

2012 has been another landmark year for flooding across the UK.  Once again we have been reminded of water’s deadly and devastating potential to wreak human misery.

Our summer began with widespread fears of severe drought before melting into floods.  After an ‘Olympic’ respite, the floods began again, bringing ever-more dramatic scenes to our TV screens.  Now the Environment Agency is warning that high levels of groundwater saturation could lead to greater risks of flooding in the coming Autumn and Winter months.

Five years ago, another summer of floods prompted Sir Michael Pitt’s groundbreaking recommendations to shake-up surface water management.  But have we really moved on since then?  Have we moved forward sufficiently towards the joined-up thinking we need that can link water scarcity and surface water management as two sides of the same coin?

Issues of both water scarcity and water shortage were highlighted  by high-profile reports during the summer that demonstrate the need for action and the merits of exploring ‘joined-up’ approaches to tackling the issues of water shortage and flooding.

The Committee on Climate Change warned that four times as many properties in England could be at risk of flooding in the next twenty years without further steps to prepare for climate change.

The implementation of the Flood and Water Management Act and new National Standards for SuDS was subject to further delay and uncertainty.

The parliamentary EFRA committee criticised the Government for its lack of urgency in implementing Sustainable Drainage Systems, particularly retrofitting measures that could serve to bridge the gap between water shortage and surface water flooding.

Meanwhile, the Institution of Civil Engineers in its State of the Nation report demanded more decisive action to tackle water security, whilst suggesting that greater public recycling and reuse might be encouraged if water was given a higher value.

There’s a long way to go and it’s up to all of us in the industry to keep pushing for change.  But we should also remember it’s not all bad news and there are many best practice examples of surface water management from the largest to the smallest, that have quietly done their job this year protecting homes and businesses.

Innovative and sustainable flood storage schemes like those on the White Cart river in Scotland and Wigan’s River Douglas are among the many flood defence schemes that successfully protected many thousands of properties.

The White Cart scheme was a worthy winner of 2012 British Construction Industry Award announced recently.   And if you want to see a spectacular visual example of brilliant engineering in action, just take a look at the scenes of flood storage at Wigan taken by a local film enthusiast during a downpour.

With climate change, extreme weather events are going to become more frequent, so we must ensure our politicians wake up to the potential and the priority for flood defence, fully support community fundraising and resolve issues surrounding flood insurance.

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