24 Jun 2015

Guest blog: catchment wide water management

Anett Szabo & Gabriella Kovacs of Water21
Here is a guest blog from Julian Jones and the team at Water 21. It is worth noting that it was a talk by Julian that inspired local people in Ruscombe to establish and action group that spent many years successfully gaining improvements to our sewage system and waterways. Stroud is now working on catchment wide water-management solutions. You can also see 4 films made by Water21 here. Anyway here is the blog:

Report from the Commission of Inquiry into flood resilience of the future

In autumn 2014, Parliament conducted a public inquiry into delivering future flood resilience to the country. This included taking evidence from industry, various Government agencies, and local authorities.

The report seeks to set out the challenges facing local communities, and calls on both national and local government to demonstrate a greater sense of leadership, recommending a strategy which can help to provide some practical answers to these challenges. Disappointingly the Environment Agency failed both to appear before the inquiry or provide it with any written evidence.

Photo above: Dispersing flood storage for a 1/75 year storm across a steep Gloucestershire catchment

Water21's contribution based on their work in Stroud can be found highlighted on page 26 of Parliamentary Report, ‘Living With Water’:

The need for catchment wide water management

Julian Jones of Water21 (a not-for-profit organisation that works with landowners and communities to develop sustainable protection against flood, drought, and public health risks in the community) gave evidence on the need for catchment wide water management.

Catchment wide management plans are seen as an essential tool in increasing water resilience in the built environment. The aim of catchment wide plans is to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood (the flood peak) or to delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare for floods. These aims are achieved by restricting the progress of water through a catchment. This can be done by storing water using and maintaining the capacity of, ponds, ditches, embanked reservoirs, channels or land; and increasing soil infiltration, potentially reducing surface runoff. As well as aiding with flood risk mitigation, such an approach provides a balanced opportunity for addressing water resource pressures, which are important as supply abstractions are to become more constrained in the future at the same time as demand for water will increase.

Water 21 devised the UK’s first empirical catchment flood planning methodology in 2008, and applied this to a notional 1 in 75 year storm event, finding that this could be stored with land owner agreement several times over within a very steep catchment in Gloucestershire. If an empirical approach were applied to the development of catchment plans, not only flood control, but multiple objectives could be met, ranging from public health, to drought control, and reduced water charges. What is missing is the overarching catchment planning and facilitation by a favourable regulatory requirement.

I suggest that a means to allocate responsibility for managing rainwater according to land ownership and tenure is devised, and appropriate practice facilitated through the structures and the professions, be set in place by the Flood and Water Management Act, to be overseen by the local authorities including public health as an aspect of their normal planning obligations.

This (water) deficit demonstrates the need for a long term strategic view by Government on water supply, as managing our catchments and utilising our surface water more effectively could significantly reduce (or remove) this deficit.

The full APPG report may be downloaded here : http://www.water21.org.uk/2001/living-with-water/

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