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Drain on resources


Your article Ofwat spending limits hamper flood control say water firms (NCE 16 November) may have given readers the wrong impression.

The floods experienced recently in many parts of the country were largely caused by land drainage systems and flood defences being overwhelmed by exceptional river flows. Such matters are within the remit of the Environment Agency and other authorities - not Ofwat or the water companies.

Indeed, Raising the quality, the Government's guidance as to what Ofwat should allow for when setting companies' price limits, made no mention of surface water drainage.

Price limits set last November include around £140M to tackle some 4,500 sewer flooding problems. At the time, Ofwat made clear that more would have been allowed had it not been for financing issues caused by the sheer size of investment needed for the environmental programme.

Hydrological records show that the provisional October rainfall total for the UK ranks equal second wettest since 1900. Throughout most of England October rainfall exceeded twice the average.

Some locations suffered storms that might only be expected to occur once every 400 years.

Contrast this with the one-in30-year storm event design standard for surface water sewers and it is easy to see why drainage systems could not cope. When a river bursts its banks and drains and gullies are several feet underwater, no amount of storm water drain enlargement is going to have a significant impact on events.

Kevin Ridout, Head of capital maintenance, Office of Water Services

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