"Major storms are becoming more intense and frequent"
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Adrian Horton of Slow the Flow, a charity working to advance the education of the public in Natural Flood Management, has shared his thoughts following the storm:
“As Storm Christoph moves away from the UK and into Northern Europe, parts of the North West of England and North Wales are feeling the effects of yet another major storm which, due to effects of our changing climate, are becoming more intense and significantly more frequent.
“Here in Calderdale, the communities along the Calder Valley have got away with some very frayed nerves and minor disruption on a local level in Walsden and in a small area of Mytholmroyd.
“Large capital flood alleviation schemes like the one recently completed in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, are an important part of keeping people safe and making them feel that they have adequate protection from this growing threat.
"These schemes, though, are very expensive; over £40m in Mytholmroyd. They can also be very intrusive and have a high carbon footprint in their construction. It is also argued that by keeping water in channel, this can push the risk of flood into communities further downstream. The works can be disruptive to the local economy and to the mental, physical and practical wellbeing of residents, not to mention the impact on tourism and on the numbers of visitors who tend to avoid these areas while these works are being carried out.
“That being said, Slow The Flow is supportive of traditional ‘hard engineering’ schemes because they can keep communities safe from rising river levels and make communities feel safer, however, there have been instances where recent schemes have been overtopped.
“Notwithstanding the above, we also need to focus on the causes of flooding in our communities, not just treating the effects of flood water, but slowing water reaching these schemes in the first place, thereby reducing the flood peak and hence the possibility of overtopping of our flood defenses.
“Natural Flood Management (NFM) schemes, like the ones we are currently developing here in Calderdale, offer a tangible and cost-effective additional route to flood alleviation. This includes a catchment-wide, holistic approach to flood management and includes solutions like tree planting, the installation of leaky woody dams and the construction of attenuation storage ponds, all of which can make a significant contribution to reducing flood risk on a local level and reducing the increasing flood risk into populated areas below.
“There are, of course, additional benefits like promoting ecological diversity and promoting a sustainable green infrastructure by using these natural processes.
“Slow The Flow has developed a number of schemes here in Calderdale. The development of these schemes and the work undertaken to monitor their success can be found here.
“We are also delighted that The Environment Agency supports around 60 similar NFM pilot schemes around the UK, plus another 40 projects which are within their capital funded program.
“There are other organisations around the UK pioneering NFM who are also looking at alternative ways of working with natural processes to combat climate change.
"The Environment Agency have produced lots of very good information on ‘Working With Natural Processes’ here and it is clear that NFM has a major part to play in reducing flood risk.
"These schemes are typically cheaper to design, build and implement, as well as providing multiple green infrastructure benefits. They are also usually less intrusive and cause far less disruption to the communities they serve, because NFM will typically be implemented in uninhabited areas of the catchment in the uplands and away from where people live and work.
“So why not invest in both on the same scale?“