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Suds language romanticises natural solutions, says expert

The language used around sustainable drainage systems (Suds) flood mitigation solutions could hinder good flood defence design, a senior water engineering expert has told NCE.

British Water Suds Focus Group chair and Hydro International stormwater director Alex Stephenson said terms such as “soft” and “hard” engineering, and “green” and “grey” infrastructure risk romanticising some solutions and demonising others.

Stephenson said he agreed with experts who said last week that stormwater should no longer be buried underground as a “guilty secret”, but warned that the language used around Suds could be misleading. Polarising terms such as “green” and “grey” could undermine understanding of the fact that the two can complement each other, and could make developers feel that natural Suds are complex and expensive to build in comparison with traditional “hard” solutions, Stephenson said.

“The language itself can create barriers,” he said. “All water management solutions are engineered in some way, even the most ‘natural’. But often nature needs a helping hand through ‘grey’ engineering to help save space, or provide pollution protection for ponds or wetlands, for example.”


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