Sector gets smart on long-term resilience and pledges curb on flooding for winter

Smarter management of river catchments through "sophisticated modelling" was high on the government's list of long-term measures to arrest flooding while at the same time relieving water stress. In its National Flood Resilience Review published recently. More immediately, the water sector has pledged to shore up the resilience to flooding of its networks for the coming winter.

Engineering consultancy AECOM welcomed the review for its "recognition that extreme and rare events could become more frequent due to the changing climate." The consultant's water director, Jon Robinson, said the review paved the way for a new approach to flood management: "Ultimately, a more holistic approach that brings together multiple stakeholders working together across entire catchments is needed," he said.

The government said in the review: "There are obvious benefits to managing water in a way that reduces both flood risk and water stress, and that delivers wider environmental benefits, by slowing the flow of water from the land into our rivers and smoothing the flow of the rivers themselves."

The government would achieve these aims through its 25-year plan for the environment by "managing whole river catchments intelligently, developing sophisticated modelling to work out what can be done in each part of the catchment to minimise flooding." The approach is being tested in a pilot project in Cumbria.

Chief scientist with Greenpeace, Dr Douglas Parr, pressed for urgent action: "Investment in flood defence infrastructure is a no-brainer, but the government now has a critical window to fundamentally reassess how we deliver flood prevention and environmental protection in rural areas," Parr said.

Along with the telecoms industry, the water companies will, in the coming months,

"develop and implement plans for temporary improvements to resilience in line with those already available in the electricity supply industry," according to the review.

The plans being put together by water and telecoms firms include their stock-piling of temporary defences ahead of flood emergencies. And they will work up site-specific plans to tackle any serious floods this coming winter.

The government said in its review that the power sector has joined the water and telecoms utilities in an agreement with government to develop over the remainder of this year measures to protect "significant local communities" from flooding defined in the Environment Agency's Extreme Flood Outlines. The utilities will then put in place "longer term plans for permanently improving the resilience of service provision" for the same communities. Those measures are expected to feature greater interconnection to enable the utilise to re-route services in the event of severe flooding.