It’s a huge question isn’t it… what’s the future of drainage? When I’ve asked people without the chance to think I’m generally greeted with a blank face. We, along with the ICE, have been asking this a lot recently because we’re interested what the industry thinks.
The first evidence of drainage pipes dates back to Mesopotamia, around 5,000 years. Since then very little has changed other than, perhaps, the materials from which pipes are made and, more certainly, the weather we now face.
In the UK alone, 2.44M properties are at risk of flooding from rivers and seas, while 3M are vulnerable to surface water flooding. Moreover, the housing crisis is likely to force more homes to be built in flood-prone areas. The magnitude of collateral damage that flooding brings is hardly surprising; each year, disruption from flooding costs the UK £1bn, with the cost only growing.
Twenty years or so ago the concept of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) started to be discussed as a way of managing stormwater more effectively. These quickly evolved into Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). Dropping the “Urban” (and making the u small) was a small but significant step, liberating the concept away from only urban developments with the realisation that stormwater management and flood protection required a collective responsibility and was not the sole responsibility of the urban environment.
The Flood & Water Management Act (2010) contains all the elements that would require SuDS to be included in all future developments. However, the government has yet to implement the relevant clause (well done Wales on pushing ahead with this, I’m sure many on the England side of the border will be watching with interest).
Despite the reluctance of government to implement the legislation, SuDS have proved a successful alternative for traditional stormwater management via sewer within the built environment. However, is this it – have we cracked the code to effective drainage? Or is this just a stepping stone, leading to an even better solution?
Does part of the answer lie in technology? All around us technology is shaping infrastructure. Many homes are now fitted with smart meters for utilities and we are controlling central heating with an app on our phones. On a much larger scale, previously congested motorways are running better than before via smart flow management. I know water companies are looking at how technology can help predict where problems may occur, and it may be that one day we see smart sewers, whatever they might look like.
Fundamentally there is no one size fits all solution, SuDS is only part of the answer but it is apparent that the bigger picture is what really matters. Cities like Portland, Oregon, lead the way in developing a community based city-wide strategy that delivers a safer, cleaner and drier environment for its inhabitants; perhaps that’s the future of drainage?
You can contribute your thoughts on the future of drainage by visiting www.futureofdrainage.co.uk
● Martin Lambley is Wavin product manager, foul, utilities and water management
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