As well as blaming people for building/buying on floodplains (we all need somewhere to live and 10% of total land in England lies within areas of flood risk) people can reduce the impact of heavy rainfall by installing water butts to capture runoff and by providing plenty of permeable surfaces around their property.  Built up urban areas, which are largely paved, only add to the problem as water runs off roofs and patios, over impermeable surfaces and straight into overloaded drains.  Waterwise, a UK NGO focused on decreasing water consumption in the UK, suggest that every drop of water prevented from entering a river “can reduce the flood peak and prevent a disaster”.

A report by Sarah Mukherjee, BBC environment correspondent, looked into sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) which could become compulsory in just a couple of years. She interviewed a flood risk assessor from the Environment Agency who suggested that “we have to find other ways of managing rainwater”.  Collection systems are being built into some new housing estates; diverting water before it reaches sewers, filtering then storing it in gardens.  It can then be used for washing or flushing the loo.

Interceptor_drain_5 Around half of sewers with domestic connections are actually privately owned and many people don’t realise it’s their responsibility to maintain them – this equates to 100,000 miles of pipe!  Interceptor drains, as they are known, help to lighten the load on the sewerage systems.

As an aside, a recent survey by Natural Enlgand also suggests that our obsession with low maintenance gardens and hard landscaping is having a detrimental effect our British wildlife, another reason to avoid concrete!  An area 22 times the size of Hyde Park is now paved over and lost “reducing havens for wildlife, increasing the impact of flash flooding and contributing to climate change”.

Maybe we should start taking some responsibility instead of moaning about the water companies, about how summers used to be, what the authorities are going to do, and why they haven’t told us how to manage (why can’t we work this out for ourselves?).

Could it be that a little perspective is required?

Here’s a bit –  during the floods in Mozambique in 2001:

  • 700 people lost their lives
  • half a million lost their homes and most of their possessions (10% of the country’s homes were destroyed)
  • two million people were directly affected by the flooding
  • 150,000 hectares of food crops were lost in the five affected provinces
  • 30 percent of the cattle in the three southern provinces of the country were lost
  • and this baby was born in a tree while his mother hung on, waiting to be rescued.


(figures are an estimate, South African Broadcasting Corporation News)

Oxford_residents_demanding_action_3 These protesters are blaming Gordon Brown and climate change for the floods (the former has been PM for exactly one month, and the question of the latter is for another blog), but don’t we have the resources and the ability to do something for ourselves?

  • 18 per cent of the world’s population, lack access to safe drinking water
  • people in slum areas have very limited access to safe water – 5 to 10 litres per day at his or her disposal, while a middle- or high-income person in the same city may use some 50 to 150 litres per day, if not more
  • water use increased six-fold during the 20th Century, more than twice the rate of population growth. While water consumption in industrialized countries runs as high as 380 litres/capita/day in the United States and 129 litres/capita/day in Germany, in developing countries 20-30 litres/capita/day are considered enough to meet basic human needs.

Would we be moaning about queuing for bottled water if we’d never had a reliable source of clean drinking water in the first place?

These facts came from here and there are plenty more, just in case you need convincing of how lucky we are.
As it happens, you can view a couple of abstracts on interceptor drains by searching CAB Abstracts on Google , and even more on these drains, flooding, and around a 100 records on flood prevention in CAB Abstracts.

You can calculate the amount of water you use here, and read more about saving water (and why you should) from the Environment Agency here.

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