Let’s start with the red herrings. Development in flood plains and developers “concreting over everything” has not caused the floods. Trust me on this one, I work in house-building. To get planning consent in a one in hundred year floodplain you have to jump through hoops. This includes alternate drainage, evacuation plans and a host of other things. The industry hardly bothers despite what you’ve been told. Sure there has been some development, but its amount is tiny and the impact is trivial.
As to the concreting over everything stuff, less than 3% of the UK is developed (from our entire history) and all new schemes have drainage plans. So this is obvious nonsense.
Another massive red herring is the warble gloaming nonsense. Driving around a bit less and shivering in your house will have no impact on the flooding. Also, trying to say that weather you have predicted is climate change, but weather you haven’t is just weather…well, that’s just like picking winners when the race is over.
Another red herring is lack of money. Guido reported the UK environment agency is the biggest in Europe. If they’ve money for all the bureaucrats and money for £30M bird sanctuaries, there is money enough for what needs to be done.
So what is responsible? Sure it’s been raining, but we cannot control the weather regardless of how “sustainably” we live. What we can do is have infrastructure in place to deal with heavy rain. And the rivers are splendid at channelling rainwater and controlling its flow along predictable lines.
However, if we don’t dredge them, they will silt up and become shallower over time. This will reduce their capacity to carry water and crucially, not allow pumping of flood water into the rivers which is how we deal with flooded areas.
So it really is that simple, dredge the river. We’ve been doing it since Norman times. So why did we stop in the late 1990’s ? The Environment agency have stopped doing it, ostensibly on the orders of the EU. Expect a bun-fight of mutual blaming shortly.
Now there are those who don’t want dredging and they are doing their best to persuade you it’s a really bad idea. Including the ever-wise George Monbiot.
George tells us
“The concept of dredging to prevent extreme flooding is equivalent to trying to squeeze the volume of water held by a floodplain within the volume of water held in the river channel”
Er, no it’s not. Rivers flow, whereas floodplains tend to be static and slow to drain. Also, as the immediate rainfall ceases, the flow of the river lessens and it is possible to pump floodwater back into the river. Currently, our under capacity rivers remain full and floodwater is left standing as there is nowhere to pump it. This is hardly trivial, setting aside the cost and disruption, standing floodwater is seriously unhealthy.
He goes on
“ You can increase the flow of a river by dredging, but that is likely to cause faster and more dangerous floods downstream when the water hits the nearest urban bridge (something the residents of towns like Taunton and Bridgwater should be worried about). If you cut it off from its floodplain by turning it into a deep trench, you might raise its capacity from, say, 2% of the water moving through the catchment to 4%. You will have solved nothing while creating a host of new problems”
Er, no. Simply making a deeper channel does not necessarily increase the speed of a river, that’s just not hydro-dynamically correct. As to the 2% to 4% figure, Georgie doesn’t quote a source so I presume he’s pulled it out of his arse. We do know however that some of the non-dredged rivers have lost not 2% but 40% of their capacity.
Then we have his list of made-up reasons not to dredge. They are:
1. Massive expense. Once you have started dredging, “it must be repeated after every extreme flood, as the river silts up again”.
Yes, you must carry out maintenance to maintain stuff, but a few less bird sanctuaries and paper-pushers and a few more dredgers please. Compared to the cost of flooding, it’s cheap.
2. More dangerous rivers: “Removing river bank vegetation such as trees and shrubs decreases bank stability and increases erosion and siltation.”
You don’t have to remove a lot of vegetation from the banks,. Dredging tend to be at the bottom of the river. More nonsense.
3. The destabilisation of bridges, weirs, culverts and river walls, whose foundations are undermined by deepening the channel: “If the river channels are dredged and structures are not realigned, ‘Pinch Points’ at structures would occur. This would increase the risk of flooding at the structure.” That means more expense and more danger.
No-one is talking about deepening the channel in absolute terms, merely restoring the previous depth which the bridges would have been designed to accommodate.
4. Destruction of the natural world: “Removing gravel from river beds by dredging leads to the loss of spawning grounds for fish, and can cause loss of some species. Removing river bank soils disturbs the habitat of river bank fauna such as otters and water voles.”
And this is the bottom line. Some of ‘em don’t like dredging because it hurts bottom-feeders. You can kinda see why they make common cause.
But seriously, this isn’t hard, it’s not global warming, or floodplain building, just dredge the fucking rivers.
And now we have this utter hoon from the Met office
saying “no definitive answer” to what caused the storms. ”But all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change,” she added. There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”
And that’s the “evidence” No proof it didn’t, therefore it did. Fucking hell, Private Fraser, you maybe right.