Posted by: Vicki Burns | February 12, 2014

Severe Flooding in Britain Raises Familiar Questions

The terrible flooding that has hit southwest England in the last few days caught my attention, first because we have visited there just a few months ago and secondly because some of the questions raised are similar to what we face here in Manitoba. We visited Cornwall in October 2013 and were so impressed with the beauty of the terrain and the charm of the old seaside towns. It’s amazing to realize that the railway we traveled to get from London to Cornwall has been cut off due to damage from flooding.

Flooding in Windsor 2014

Flooding in Windsor 2014

High tides, strong winds and the rainiest season in 248 years have combined to create terrible flooding in parts of Britain. According to a report from the chief scientist 10 years ago, Sir David King, “Hard choices need to be taken – we must either invest more in sustainable approaches to flood and coastal management or learn to live with increased flooding.” At that time, scientists were predicting that the kind of flooding we’re seeing today would be occurring in the 2030’s due to climate change but apparently it’s happening much more quickly.

What really twigged my interest in this was the idea, presented in the Guardian article,that we could do something to decrease the overall severity of flooding with “natural flood management, based on working with natural processes to increase infiltration, detain water within headwater catchments and restore meanders and large wood in rivers (even perhaps reintroducing beavers to manage that wood) can help”. These concepts are very similar to what we have been promoting here in terms of “keeping water on the land” using wetlands and other constructed water retention areas. As well, in Britain they are discussing the need to replace Victorian era combined sewer systems that are subject to overflow in these heavy rain events, a problem that is occurring all too often here in Winnipeg and other Canadian cities.

We are faced with very similar challenges and some solutions can also be similar but for now, I hope our British friends do not suffer greatly from further flooding.

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