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  • by Karma Loveday

Government advisor backs water company action as part of surface water flood risk reduction package

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called for the Environment Agency and Ofwat to oversee the delivery of new local plans that are made jointly by water companies and local authorities in areas at high risk of surface water flooding.


The move was one of a package of measures to address surface water flood risk put forward by the commission in a report last week. Taking a system-wide approach, the NIC made a series of recommendations for action by government, water companies, local authorities, the Environment Agency and Ofwat, which sought to:

  • reduce the amount of water flowing into drains – it said the government should strengthen legislation and standards to discourage new developments from connecting to existing drainage infrastructure in favour of wider uptake of sustainable systems, and review options for managing the unplanned growth of impermeable surfaces;

  • expand the capacity of drainage systems – through better maintenance of existing drainage networks and expanding the use of low-cost, above-ground measures (such as channels and drains) before installing high-cost underground pipes and sewers. – Ofwat should ensure that water and sewerage companies play their part, by enabling efficient investment in above- and below-ground drainage infrastructure; and

  • create more joined-up, targeted governance and funding – the Environment Agency should be actively involved in assessing surface water flood risk and government should set national risk reduction targets. Local authorities and water companies should then work together to develop fully costed joint plans which deliver locally agreed targets, with public funding devolved to local areas.

The strategy was priced at £12bn over 30 years, split between public and private funding. The NIC said its recommended levels of investment in new infrastructure could move 250,000 properties out of the high risk category, and boost protection levels for thousands more properties.


At present, 325,000 English properties are in areas at high risk from this type of flooding, which means they have a 60% chance of being flooded in the next thirty years. Nearly 300,000 additional properties could be high risk by 2055.


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