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Agency seeks cash for natural flood control

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency wants more cash to fund research and investment into sustainable ways of coping with future flooding events other than raising flood defences.

'Residents aren't always happy to see flood walls rise by at least 2m, ' EA flood defence policy manager Brian Epsom told NCE last week.

Instead flooding will have to be prevented using a range of techniques which will allow rivers to act as naturally as possible, said Dr Paul Samuels of HR Wallingford. He recently co-authored a report for the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food on flooding risk published in June.

The solution would be a combination of flood water control, run-off storage, diversion of water away from conurbations, extending or improving existing drainage systems or building higher flood walls.

One storage option would be to create more washlands, where floodplain land upstream of towns is used to collect and store water diverted from fast flowing rivers.

This has already been used successfully in East Anglia.

Samuels said washlands 'act as a safety valve' as they are fed by rivers as they swell and overtop their banks. The water can then percolate more slowly back into the river, or be controlled via floodgates.

However, washlands require a larger land take the further they are built down the river system - up to 50 km 2in some instances.

But Jacob Tomkins, environment policy advisor for the National Farmers Union, supported landtake providing landowners were adequately compensated for their land.

'Water could potentially be the next cash crop, ' he said.

'There is massive potential for floodwater storage. It desynchronises run-off, creates a more naturalised river system and generates biodiversity.'

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