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Engineers propose "out of the box" flood strategies for UK

Leading civil engineers have proposed that the UK adopts the strategies of other countries in dealing with floods as climate change makes flash flooding more of a risk.

Ahead of a meeting at the Royal Academy of Engineering, experts said techniques used in countries where torrential rain is common could be successfully used in this country.

One suggestion, from Professor Roger Falconer of Cardiff University, was to build large open drainage ditches at the side of urban roads, a technique that can channel large volumes of water in a short time that is used in Malaysia.

Another method proposed by Michael Norton, of consultant Halcrow, was to allow water to run through certain streets as is done in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Engineers are also looking at measures such as porous pavements and storing water in reservoirs or underground to avoid keeping it in pipes, which can quickly become overwhelmed.

Peter Jones, head of flood and coastal risk management branch of the Welsh Assembly Government, said existing systems had served UK cities well in the past, but with extreme rainfall becoming more common, some areas could suffer problems from surface water flooding.

Readers' comments (3)

  • NZ typically adopts a 5 or 10 year design for sewers, with 50 or 100 year for overland flow. Roads are used for surface water channels above the 5 or 10 year event as long as the velocities and flow do not move cars or cause danger to pedestrians. Overland flow is specifically designed for by road or overland, and overland flows are identified and protected from being built over. Surface flow water quality and discharge is considered and applications for treating surface water are retrofitted into existing catchments. Catchment modeling is carried out on this basis and has been for many years.

    UK are at least 15 years behind NZ in their approach. NZ has moved on making some mistakes, but making some good strides in this area. Suggest you take visit to Auckland City particularly for their integrated catchment studies. There are various summary reports and contacts on internet if you search Auckland Integrated Catchment Study.

    I believe Australia and US are probably also comparatively advanced.

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  • Katja Leyendecker

    Yes, swales - bring them on! They also help settling out heavy metals. [However maintenance, and hence disposal of settled silts, require consideration.] In addition, It's probably a good step to leave systems visible, above ground, for everyone to see and appreciate. Engineers tend to hide too much...

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  • As a country, we have to start taking some of these ideas on board, although we must remember that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to flooding problems. With the new Flooding Bill on the horizon, we will no doubt see more of these solutions coming into practice, particularly as the local authorities begin to tackle localised flooding issues. There is unlikely to be sufficient funding to provide conventional solutions with appropriate standards of protection.

    Whilst PPS25 ensures that flood risk and the disposal of surface water are considered for new developments, it is more problematic with existing flood risk areas and attempting to retrofit solutions. It is inevitable that in urban areas the existing systems won’t be able to deal with all rainfall events and we need to be able to manage this with methods such as intercepting overland flows, implementing SUDS techniques and channelling flood waters away from properties at risk.

    Chris Wotherspoon, technical director, Grontmij

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