Innovative engineering cuts flood risk to thousands

Posted: Thursday 29th November 2012

A new breed of futuristic flood defences is appearing across England, as the Environment Agency seeks to keep up with the increasing threat of flood risk.

Flood defences made of glass, water gates that close by themselves and trees that stop water flooding town centres may seem fanciful, but are all now being built and used by the Environment Agency to reduce flood risk to homes and businesses across the country.

And advances in flood warning and forecasting, as well as investment in flood defences, has meant that this summer over 53,000 people were protected from flooding, while over 100,000 flood warnings were sent out, allowing people essential time to prepare their homes and businesses for flooding.

Some examples of advances in flood engineering and flood warning technology include:

  • In Cockermouth, which flooded in 2009, a new flood defence is being built by the Environment Agency, which uses self raising flood gates – a first for the UK. These self closing gates use the power of flood water to lift the barrier and hold them in place. As the flood waters recede, the barriers slowly go down.

  • Just a few miles away in Keswick, also flooded in 2009, sits a newly built glass flood defence. It was built to protect the picturesque town from flooding, while maintaining its spectacular views of the river and the Lake District hills. A traditional reinforced concrete defence would have completely obscured the views in this popular tourist town.

  • While in Belford, Northumberland, a completely different method of controlling floods has been implemented. The town suffers from frequent flooding when rain runs off nearby farmland. A combination of ponds to store flood water and planted woodland to slow the flow of water, have been installed, which are both cheap and effective ways to protect against flooding.

  • Before a flood, the Flood Forecasting Centre (a joint Environment Agency & Met Office team, based in Exeter) use satellite data, weather forecasts and flood models to forecast potential flooding. The FFC has vastly improved the lead time and accuracy of flood forecasts, giving more time and better information to emergency responders such as the police and fire service, as well as infrastructure operators and of course, home owners.

  • As well as being able to receive early warning of flooding via telephone, email and text message, we've also recently added new online and social media applications to these systems including the Facebook FloodAlerts App and Flood Alert apps for iphones and ipads and Windows 8 tablets.

Floods are now the number one natural hazard facing the UK and with climate change, more and more properties are likely to be at risk. But, says the Environment Agency, simply building bigger walls is not the answer.

Pete Fox, head of Strategy and Investment at the Environment Agency, said: “We are increasingly looking at more innovative ways of dealing with flooding, such as glass walls and self raising barriers, as well as softer defences such as using purpose-built ponds to store flood water, and building in better drainage for towns and cities.

“But we cannot prevent flooding entirely and so it is vitally important that people help protect themselves from flooding by finding out if they are at risk, and signing up for free flood warnings.

“Advances in flood warning and forecasting technology has meant that we are able to warn people even earlier if their home is at risk, and over 1.1 million have already signed up to receive these warnings.

“Being prepared is the most important thing that you can do to minimise the damage to your home and belongings.”




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