We’ll never stop flooding – Environment Agency

Flash flooding like that which hit the South West at the weekend will never be stopped, the Environment Agency's top water expert has told edie, but a lot can still be done to help alleviate the problem.

David King, director of water management at the agency, said that flash flooding was, by its very nature, hard to counter but with a greater understanding of how specific water courses work and co-operation between responsible bodies, the impacts can be minimised.

Although it was known that the rain was coming at the weekend and flood warnings had been in place, the sheer volumes had meant problems were bound to occur.

“We had about two inches of rain in probably less than 12 hours,” said Mr King.

“The drainage system is not able to cope. There are things we can do going forward, which were highlighted by Sir Michael Pitt, that will help alleviate it but you’ll never stop it.”

There are things that many organisations can do, including the Highways Agency, water companies, local authorities and the EA itself, he said, and top of this list is learning to work better together.

“It’s about combining the efforts of all these bodies, and having a real understanding of where the hot spots are,” he said.

Mr King said that the importance of preparedness was now better recognised and the agency had been able to bring forward Government funding earmarked for 2011 to bolster its wider flood defence programme.

The £20 million will be spent on approximately 40 projects up and down the country.

“We don’t react on one event, we have a fairly rigorous system of assessing the need and the priority right across the country so the investment is put really where the greatest degree of risk is,” Mr King told edie.

“You can’t stop flooding, you can only prepare for it and negate the impact, there’s a whole series of things you have to put in place and building defences and maintaining defences is one part of that.”

Sam Bond

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