Coffey calls for action on surface water management

Water minister Therese Coffey has identified five key actions that warrant greater exploration in pursuit of better long-term management of surface water, particularly when drainage systems get swamped during downpours.

In a statement to Parliament on 19 December, the minister listed the following key actions:

  • Development of a clear and independently assessed national planning scenario for surface water flood risk based on plausible extreme rainfall events.

  • Effective collaborative working, including best practice sharing and priority alignment between the various risk management authorities. Coffey commented: “The work of Water UK’s 21st Century Drainage Programme is a great start in this respect as they begin to develop over the coming months the framework for Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans. The content of these long-term plans will require exactly the kind of engagement and consultation with a range of organisations that will help foster greater partnership working and common goals and aims.”

  • Address skills and capacity issues – the minister noted the work had “identified some particular concerns, for example in relation to drainage engineering skills as well as staff retention and succession planning”.

  • Maps and data – The Environment Agency aims to improve the availability, consistency and accuracy of data across the range of bodies involved.

  • Forecasting - the Met Office and Environment Agency are carrying out a review on how improvements in surface water forecasting and communication can be made to make the best use of the information produced across agencies.

Coffey (pictured) said the five actions have been identified following extensive work with stakeholders including Water UK’s 21st Century Drainage programme. Proposals to support these areas will be considered by the Inter Ministerial Group on Flooding early this year, with a report outlining actions and an implementation timetable due in spring 2018. This month, DEFRA will co-host an event with Water UK to present its findings so far and work on collaborating on delivery.