It’s an unfortunate fact of life that flooding can’t always be prevented. When it occurs, there can be a severe impact on individuals, communities and the surrounding wildlife. With oncoming climate change the number of flood alerts increase each year in the UK. There is now more of a need than ever to find effective solutions for flood risk. One type in particular which is being focused upon is freshwater management such as lakes and lochs of which there are over 1000km2 in the UK and are a vital part of flood management.
Using nature to help reduce flooding
Habitats around us can be utilised to help minimise flood risks in certain scenarios and the results are beneficial to both biodiversity and local communities.
Working alongside nature means that it is possible to restore a natural capability to deal with flooding. This can be achieved by resurrecting previously damaged catchments. Experts know that woodland and wetlands can slow the speed of water flow and they offer water storage which in turn can reduce the possibility of flooding at downstream homes.
Combining nature with traditional risk management measures
With freshwater management, it is always possible to put measures in place which combine natural habitats and manmade flood defences such as concrete walls. There are a number of benefits to this including:
- The use of buffer strips; pieces of land in permanent vegetation which trap sediment and slow down water run off
- Restoring natural habitats; taking away flood embankments and reconnecting a river with the floodplain which means an improved geodiversity
- Improving landscapes and amenities
Working for the future
Flooding legislation regarding freshwater areas covers the implementation of frameworks to continually assess and manage risks. The laws and guidelines look to reduce the impact of flooding on the health of communities, the economic activity dependent on freshwaters, the overall environment surrounding freshwater areas and linked cultural heritage.
The Environment Agency in England and Wales and SEPA in Scotland are working with a number of partner authorities to take forward the legislation and the development of freshwater flood management schemes. For there to be change, there are calls for many to be involved in the work ahead such as:
- Landowners making voluntary changes to their own land management practices
- Local authorities putting new land management strategies in place where work is required with natural habitats
- Creation of new woodland
- Restoration of bogs
- Creation of wetlands
Work in urban areas
As well as carrying out protective measures on and around the freshwater areas themselves, there’s work for those living in affected urban areas. Slowing the flow to give more time for flood barriers to be put in place and restoring and creating greenspaces in towns and villages also help and will benefit the environment of the local community.
Plans are already being put in place where watercourse culverts (usually undersoil structures such as pipes to allow water drainage) are being removed. In their place, strips of land known as green corridors are being cultivated to sit alongside watercourses. These climate-smart habitats will allow for storm water flows in a natural way.
There will be encouragement to maintain existing green spaces to not only serve the community with areas such as playing fields but to also be used as water storage during a flood.
The promotion of the work to combine encouraging and enhancing nature in conjunction with the use of manmade defences mean that freshwater flooding can be managed more effectively. Involving all who live and work in a threatened area helps to provide a way to futureproof not only the safety of all those with homes and businesses, but also the natural inhabitants who can play their own part in keeping an area much more safe.