As an ex-waterway engineer and flood defence engineer with the Environment Agency in York I read with much interest the British Waterways supplement (NCE 12 November) and in particular David Hayward's article on Naburn Weir on the Yorkshire Ouse near York. However, I have to disagree with two comments in the article.
First the Ouse is described as 'flashy'. No doubt most river engineers would have a different view on what constitutes a 'flashy' river. I have looked for a definition in the dictionary and discovered a flash flood described as ...'a sudden short lived flood'. Sudden
most certainly does not describe floods on the Ouse which can take 24 hours or more to travel from its Pennine origins (not North York Moors catchment as stated) to the York area.
My second objection is on behalf of those Yorkshire river engineers, mostly now retired, who knew the Ouse catchment inside out and relates to the comment that Ouse flow can increase from just 3m3/s to over 700m3/s with little warning. They would, I am sure,
agree that the Ouse is a dynamic river, but advance flood warnings for the Ouse have been a feature for many years. The Environment Agency now uses modern technology with computerised forecasting systems but the old engineers through vast experience could almost instinctively forecast peak levels to within a few inches from a few upstream gauge board readings. The affectionately dubbed 'three taps' method was (and still is the event of computer failure) also used to forecast peak levels in York at least 12 hours ahead (the three taps being the River Swale, Ure and Nidd which combine to form the Yorkshire Ouse).
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