Defra looks to climate-proof urban drainage

Finding new ways to ward off urban drainage flooding as flood risk rises together with temperatures are the objective of a series of pilot studies launched this week.

Urban drainage flooding in England costs an annual £270m at present but this is likely increase sharply in a warming world and could reach £15bn in 75 years unless action is taken to adapt, according to Defra.

The 15 pilots, to be rolled out across England between now and April 2008, will also look at ways of resolving ongoing problems such as the lack of clarity over who is responsible for protecting town and cities against drainage flooding.

Responsibility for urban flood protection is currently shared between a number of authorities, including the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards, highway authorities, water companies and private owners.

In an effort to clarify confusion over sewers located on private properties, Defra is currently looking into transferring all responsibility for these onto water companies with all customers paying for repairs and improvements through their water bills.

The £1.7m cash boost to go on the urban flooding pilots is the latest funding injection made under the Government's Making Space for Water strategy, and closely follows last week's announcement of £1.5m to be spent on flooding and coastal protection pilot studies (see related story).

Announcing the pilots, environment minister Ian Pearson said: "Adapting to the impacts of climate change is vital if we are to manage the risks of flooding and coastal erosion. We can't ignore the consequences which is why we need to start adapting now.

"The issue of urban drainage flooding is of growing concern to towns and cities across England. Many homes and businesses have already suffered from the devastating impacts. But climate change will make the problem of urban flooding more serious because of the increased likelihood of more intense and frequent rain storms.

"These 15 pilot studies will test new approaches to reduce the future impact of urban drainage flooding on people's lives and their businesses. This will help us understand the problem of surface water flooding better in urban areas and will help us consider how arrangements can be improved in future."

More information on the pilots can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz



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