Flood prevention: the natural solution?

April 22, 2016 5:59 am

We wrote in February about an imaginative flood prevention scheme in Oxfordshire aimed at protecting the town of Witney from flooding. Now there’s news of another which apparently stopped some serious flooding in the Yorkshire town of Pickering this Christmas, when the rest of the area was so badly affected.

According to a report on the BBC website, Pickering’s novel scheme catches rainfall in the hills above the village, and various different measures have been designed to work together to achieve this aim.

The first is to use what are described as ‘long, low, leaky dams’ which slow the flow of water off the hills, while an upstream reservoir stores flood water. In addition, some land management measures have been taken: 40,000 trees have been planted and heather moorland restored to act as a natural sponge.

When more than two inches of rain fell over 36 hours in December, it seems that the scheme slowed ‘river peak flow’ by almost 20 per cent and saved Pickering’s museum and several homes. According to a report just published by the Environment Agency (EA), half of the reduction in flood water at Christmas was due to the land management measures, and the other half because of the flood storage scheme.

The EA has warned however that the scheme might not be so effective in extreme rainfall and there is still a need to use traditional flood defences in tandem with these more natural methods.

The terrible impact of the floods in the winter has triggered the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee to hold a future flood prevention inquiry. Natural management methods are a key part of its investigations, and the Pickering scheme shows just what can be done.