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.”