Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Engineers urged to raise voices in flooding debate

Better communication needed to ensure government spends wisely.

Senior water management figures have urged engineers to do more to make their voices heard in the debate about how to protect Britain from floods.

“Engineers need to communicate better with science,” said CH2MHill professor of water management Roger Falconer.

He said infrastructure schemes such as raising roads above flood levels would be a better investment than dredging - a policy advocated by ministers for the Somerset Levels.

“We should also be telling individuals they need expert advice before spending on flood defences for their properties,” he added.

The Environment Agency this week revealed that it was not consulted before ministers decided to dredge the rivers Tone and Parrett in Somerset.

This controversial move, thought to cost about £4M, has been questioned by critics on scientific and financial grounds.

Agency executive director of flood management David Rooke was not asked for his opinion on the project despite attending a series of flood meetings convened by the government’s emergency planning committee Cobra.

Rooke, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, insisted that the government was getting sound advice but said that more could be done.

“We are advising the government - and engineers have a role to play advising at all levels, including in education,” he said.

“Engineers are the means,” he added. “It’s about using smart phones and working with IT companies and schools.”

Jim Hall, director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said engineers should take a more broad minded approach.

“Smart engineering is about understanding the [geological] system, seeing where the risk is and what the steps are that could be taken to manage it down.”

He added: “We need to take a long-term strategic approach to keep risks under control. I fear the coverage of these floods may have knocked us off that long-term approach.”

Meanwhile, the ICE last week stepped up efforts to urge the government to reverse recent flood management funding cuts in its submission to the Treasury ahead of March’s Budget (see ICE News).

“The ICE and its members stand ready to work with government to deliver more effective ways of building resilience into our approach to flood risk management, and provide expertise and technical support to government’s review into transport network resilience,” said ICE director-general Nick Baveystock.

The ICE called for a return to pre-2010 capital and maintenance investment in flood risk management, as well as pressing for a longer term investment programme. It also said the government should work closely with lead local flood authorities to target flood defence spending.

“While government funding for flood risk management rose to £370M in 2015/16 and is protected in real terms to 2020/21, unfortunately this provides neither the level of investment nor long term certainty required to improve resilience against flooding,” said Baveystock.

“The reductions to the maintenance settlement are also concerning, and as the recent flooding and coastal surges have shown, the flood defences protecting our communities, businesses and the other vital infrastructure networks and services we depend on, must be maintained - regularly and comprehensively.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • There is no question that there is an essential need for the overall issue of flooding to be properly assessed and a way forward planned and put into action before we are faced with a repeat of the current disaster that the Country and its unfortunate people are suffering. The present arrangements where decisions are fragmented between particularly the Environment Agency and local County Councils, who now have a separate responsibility for Surface Water Flooding under the "Flood & Water Management Act 2010", leads to confusion and "passing of the buck" when a flooding affects a community. Also I believe that the various responsible bodies are now in a position where none of them have on their staff a sufficiency of qualified Chartered Civil Engineers who understand the issues that they are facing and their only recourse is to put the problem to consultants who are not "au fait" with the local issues and usually have a very poor and inadequate brief to work to. The outcome is no one properly deals with the matter at hand and the situation under investigation is not adequately assessed.

    In particular it is important to recognise that all bodies with flood responsibilities should now be working with flood mapping that has been properly updated to accord with the requirements of the Water Resources Act 1991 Section 105(2) and the following Circular 30/92. These laid a requirement on the Water Authority/EA that they produce up to date surveyed mapping of the floodplains such that this supersede the then current "indicative " mapping. In my area of Northamptonshire it is clear that despite assurances in 2003 that this was in hand some 23 years later (after the 1991 Act) only the "modelled and updated" indicative maps are forming the basis of advice for future developments. This is an UNSUSTAINABLE approach to a national problem and we are now all throughout the country reaping the whirlwind where the updated SURVEYED mapping as required by Circular 30/92 has not been prepared. WHY NOT?
    I have to question when will the EA take on their responsibility for the necessary national reassessment to provide proper and engineeringly checked advice on the true extent of floodplains such that new developments based which continue to be based upon "indicative" mapping do not further extend the areas subject to flooding?
    Alan E. Hames C.Eng.,MICE, MCIHT

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.