Call for shift in approach to flood and water level management

A FUNDAMENTAL shift in the Government’s approach to dealing with flood risk and water management is required, with a bolder, braver and more innovative investment programme, delegates were told in London at the 82nd annual conference of ADA, the representative body for drainage, water level and food-risk management authorities.

As parts of the country remain under flood waters , with many warnings and alerts still in place, industry leaders heard how closer government engagement and building stronger partnerships in flood and water management is essential, whether that is along the coastline, around more resilient water resources, or with the agricultural community.

Delegates heard how a lack of conveyance and maintenance on key stretches of lowland river, such as the Lower Don, has been driven by current policy that can leave rural communities, farms and villages undefended, a situation that must change.

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ADA chairman Robert Caudwell. PHOTO: TIM SCRIVENER

Welcoming the capacity audience to the conference, ADA chairman Robert Caudwell stated, “There needs to be a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to dealing with flooding and drought. It is not just about money, but also how and where it is spent. Crucially, it is also about greater partnerships, both with government, but all risk management authorities and other stakeholders such as the NFU.”

Keynote speaker Stuart Roberts, vice president of the NFU, added during his opening address, “There is a need for more money to be invested in water, but we also need to be bolder, more innovative and braver with the investments. We need to think big, water is such an important asset, particularly in Britain. We need to be embracing our engineering skills.”

Picking up on the theme of innovation, Mr Caudwell referenced the need to look at ways of storing floodwater on farmland in a controlled manner, offering incentives to farmers in recognition of the public good they provide. This year has seen droughts in some parts of the country, yet millions of gallons going back out to sea in other areas, in reasonably close proximity.

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Having set out a 7-point manifesto for political leaders ahead of the election, ADA is ready to support the next government in managing and maintaining water systems, but warns that failure to give proper consideration will result in considerable exposure to risk.

ADA technical manager Ian Moodie. PHOTO: TIM SCRIVENER

Talking about the condition of major rivers in parts of lowland England, ADA’s technical manager, Ian Moodie said, “Conveyance in our lowland rivers is a broader topic than simply dredging. It also includes controlling aquatic plants and bushes growing in the river and maintaining bank condition. Removing targeted constrictions in lowland rivers must be undertaken in a considered and targeted manner. Internal drainage boards have the engineering skills and local knowledge, but this can only be achieved by working together with other authorities and partners.”

ADA believes that measures such as river and embankment maintenance must be used as part of a catchment approach to flood resilience, working alongside building traditional defences and sustainable drainage systems, good soil management, and attenuating and storing floodwater in washlands or through slow the flow initiatives.

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ADA chief executive Innes Thomson. PHOTO: TIM SCRIVENER

ADA chief executive Innes Thomson added, “There is no doubt in our minds, without a clear and collaborative approach, utilising the local knowledge available, we will see even more suffering, the like of which we are witnessing this week.”

Mr Caudwell said, “While there has been an understandable focus on the current flooding situation around the country during the election campaign, we also need to understand how each of the political parties plan to support effective and sustainable flood and water level management in the future.”

Some 200 delegates from across the UK’s flood and water level management sectors attended the ADA annual conference, again taking place at One Great George Street, Westminster.

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In a revised speaker line-up, owing to rules covering the pre-election (purdah) period, delegates also heard from Bryan Curtis, chair of the Coastal Group Network, and interim managing director of Water Resource East (WRE), Robin Price. Sarah Hendry, director general of the CLA answered questions as part of the panel discussion.

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