Despite a relatively mundane season weather wise, the end of 2015 saw some of the heaviest rainfall the UK has ever experienced. This has resulted in unprecedented levels of flooding, destroying infrastructure, businesses and property, a life changing situation for some of those affected. True to form we started looking for someone or something to blame, global warming, the Environment Agency, local authorities, budget cuts and the list goes on. All had the finger pointed at them and in some cases quite rightly so, but then we also need to look at some of the changes in construction practices over the last couple of decades.
It’s easy to blame a lack of river dredging, ditch clearing and irregular cleaning of gulley’s. However consider the loss of land to building, huge tracts of land which used to naturally absorb water have now been replaced by acres of tarmac and huge retail parks whose roofs collect and channel thousands of gallons into inadequately maintained drainage systems. Natural flood plains for some reason now seem to be suitable for housing and business development, why then is it a surprise when these areas are shown on our TV’s under several feet of water, did nobody in planning look at the definition of a flood plain, I wonder.
Not as common a sight as it used to be
To a much lesser extent reduced maintenance in the form of drainage and regular aeration of sports fields and parkland means that water doesn’t drain the way it used to, meaning field capacity is reached a lot quicker. This can be further exasperated by running machines or vehicles over wet land causing unnecessary compaction. The unusually mild conditions at the end of 2015 meant grass kept growing leading to increased and in some cases unreasonable demands to keep grass heights within specification, regardless of the damage to the soil structure below. In these situations there is no simple solution, drainage and aeration would definitely help as would a more realistic approach to operating in wet conditions. A 2m hover mower would be good, though we might need Dynamo to operate it, as he’s the only person I’m aware of who allegedly can walk on water!
On a more serious note, more thought needs to be given to construction projects, large or small we should still consider where the water will go and in particular how much could there be. Flood prevention now needs to be a key consideration. Block paving is all very nice and easy to maintain but it doesn’t absorb water so why not consider porous paving surfaces, grasscrete and the like. It could be that in six months time we are suffering a drought and subject to hosepipe bans such is the fickle nature of the British weather, so should we also consider storing some of this water.
We should consider the long term damage of driving over wet ground.
I’m no expert in landscape construction, soil mechanics or flood alleviation but common sense says to me that that water has to go somewhere and if you limit its options it will eventually find the point of least resistance, wreaking havoc and destruction as it does. It’s becoming obvious from watching the weather and the changes in the pattern of the gulf stream that global warming is no longer a myth and extremes of climate are becoming the norm. We need to plan accordingly and not wait until the water is flowing under our front doors to wonder if the tarmac drive was such a good idea.
Will flooding of this magnitude become an annual event?