“Supersized” Hydro-Brake® Technology Holds Back Floods Upstream

Written by: , 1 Dec 2014

Installation of one of the Hydro-Brake® Flow Controls at Wigan

Thousands of homes and properties in the UK could be protected from river flooding by a ‘supersized’ engineering solution which uses the proven principles of vortex flow control technology to deliver carefully-engineered flood protection, while creating biodiverse landscaping and wetlands.

Holding back excess flood water with Hydro-Brake® Flood Alleviation vortex flow control technology is an innovative and sustainable solution to protecting vulnerable areas, using a passive system that requires no power and minimum maintenance.

The Hydro-Brake® vortex flow control was invented and developed by Hydro International more than 30 years ago and has become an industry-standard method of flow attenuation. Increasingly it is being used as a lower-impact technology for upstream attenuation flood defences, with the largest schemes controlling flows in excess of 33 m3/s and holding back millions of cubic metres of water.

Alex Stephenson, chair of the British Water Sustainable Water Management (SuWM) Focus Group and Group Market Development Director for Hydro International said:

“Hydro-Brake® vortex flow control technology is used extensively to prevent surface water and watercourse flooding. It is well proven and completely scalable from small schemes protecting a few properties to giant fluvial dams that protect major urban conurbations.

“In the midst of media hype and misunderstandings of what it means to design a sustainable flood defence, the engineering community must provide judgement, professionalism and long-term vision. We should also be prepared to shout passionately about the best technologies that science and engineering can offer, many of them ‘home-grown’ and proven.

“Tackling flooding requires a range of measures on an integrated catchment level, from holding back fluvial flooding in upland catchments to a range of at-source SuDS and surface water control for highways and in our towns and cities. Many of Hydro International’s technologies are quietly not making the news today because they are just doing their job protecting many thousands of homes and properties.”

The opportunities offered by upstream temporary flood storage have attracted attention as a viable, lower-impact solution to flood risk management of river catchments. The Hydro-Brake® Flood Alleviation flow control holds back water without the need for power or mechanical intervention. The geometry of every Hydro-Brake® can be optimised and upstream storage areas fine-tuned ensuring vulnerable properties are protected.

The Hydro-Brake® Flow Control’s internal geometry allows water to flow through it unhindered for as long as possible. A self-activating vortex is created when the water upstream reaches a pre-determined height, for example in a flood situation, throttling back the water, and releasing it at a measured, controlled rate.

The self-activating hydrodynamic vortex control technology was pioneered in the UK by Hydro in the 1980s and used extensively to prevent surface water and watercourse flooding ever since. Most frequently used in much smaller dimensions as part of new and retro-fit surface water drainage designs, the technology is completely scalable from small dispersed schemes with pass forward flow rates of a few litres per second, to giant schemes that protect major urban areas. 2013 saw the rapid acceptance of its most advanced design yet, the Hydro-Brake Optimum®.

Two major benefits of the Hydro-Brake Optimum® are that the water storage requirements are up to 30% less than for a valve or penstock controlled scheme, and that the maximum inlet design flow can be varied ± 20% to allow for climate change increases.

Hydro-Brake® Flood Alleviation installations form part of Scotland’s award-winning and largest flood alleviation scheme, the White Cart Water Flood Prevention Scheme where 1,750 urban and suburban properties are protected, including commercial and residential. The flow controls hold back water behind three dams creating temporary storage areas on agricultural land in the highlands above Glasgow. The water is released downstream at a controlled rate so that it does not overspill flood defences protecting properties downstream.

Two other multi-award winning projects are: a scheme in the valley of the River Douglas in Wigan which protects 610 properties from flooding in the nearby city centre, and River Gaunless in Co. Durham. Smaller communities from 70 to 300 homes have also benefited, for example at Portpatrick, Argyllshire, once devastated by flash floods through its streets, Weedon Bec in Northants and Devil’s Bridge near Sheffield.


Read the blog by Phil Collins – Flood Defences:  Getting our Priorities Right

Read the blog by Alex Stephenson – Climate Change Won’t Wait for Widespread SuDS

For further information call the Hydro-Brake Hotline: 01275 337937 or visit:  www.hydro-int.com


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