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Design of the times


The legitimate concerns over a lack of commonly accepted design standards and long term adoption/maintenance for sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) (NCE 9 May) should not be confused with the question of whether such techniques actually work.

Although SUDS can suffer from poor design, maintenance and ultimately fail this is not a unique trait. Surface water flooding was common during the exceptional conditions of winter 2000/01 much of which was caused by the failure of conventional drainage systems.

In light of that experience we must now look to ways to design for safer failure rather than simply damning SUDS as impractical.

The application of sustainability to land drainage is not just about building ponds and soakaways, it is about looking at the issues in the round. While piped drainage may be the most sustainable option for some sites, in many it will not.

We cannot face the promise of increased storm severity with an attitude of business as usual and we should no longer be treating run-off as a problem to be moved off-site for someone else to deal with.

Robert Cunningham, water policy officer, The Wildlife Trusts, Elm Tree Court, Long Street, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1NJ

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