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No viable alternative

What is missing in the current debate on flooding is the importance of local institutional knowledge in managing not only urban drainage but all urban infrastructure.

I was one of the last civil engineering graduates to enter the municipal engineering training scheme run by the City of Hull during the 1970s, and spent 18 months in what was then the drainage section. Hull was one of the areas most severely affected by last year's floods.
However, under a local government system where the city retained the responsibility and the competency for urban drainage management, the floods would surely have been managed very differently.

The engineers with whom I worked in Hull had an intimate knowledge of the city's drainage network. Their understanding of urban infrastructure management has been of benefit throughout my career.

So rather than asking "are [Pitt's] recommendations practical?" (NCE 3 July), we should ask "is there a viable alternative?" After 35 years of experience in city infrastructure management in different countries of the world, I don't believe there is.

Rebuilding local institutional knowledge, by situating expertise at the city level, is the only way to manage urban stormwater in a way that prevents this level of flooding.

John Abbott (M), 37 rue de la Fontaine, 01170, GEX, France

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