Lessons learnt from levee breeches around the world have been brought together in a new guide that is to be published in early December that aims to prevent future failures.
Work on the International Levee Handbook (ILH) has been led for the UK and Ireland by standards organisation Ciria, which has worked with government bodies and companies from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US on the development.
“The role of levees in flood defence has received increased attention in recent years, following a series of events that caused risk to human health including long-term effects and economic damage, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the US in 2005,” said HR Wallingford technical director and technical leader on the ILH Jonathan Simm.
“The International Levee Handbook (ILH) has taken five years to write and is the first guide of its kind to offer international good practice on levees based on current knowledge and experience from six countries in one single, comprehensive handbook.”
According to Simm, levees are a vital part of modern flood management and although their task is simple, they can often be complex structures to design, build and maintain. “Often levees have been built up and extended over decades or sometimes centuries,” he explained. “So, by their very nature, few of these were originally designed or constructed to modern standards and in many cases, records of their construction and historical performance do not exist.
“Even today, when existing levees are maintained and improved and new levees are built, many of the techniques used do not necessarily take full advantage of the experience developed in other countries.
“In the aftermath of the hurricanes in the US, the Xynthia storm in France in 2008 and the flooding in
Southern Pakistan in 2010 that affected 18M people, the governments of the six authoring countries realised that there was the need for the production of a single reference source on good practice in the management and design of levees.”
UK levee construction and maintenance expertise was included in the guide through input from Atkins, Bam Nuttall, Black and Veatch, Halcrow, HR Wallingford, Mott MacDonald, Opus, OPW and Royal Haskoning DHV, as well as the Environment Agency, the Scottish Government and the ICE.
The UK launch of the handbook will be held on Monday 2 December at 6.30pm the ICE in London.