U.K. to spend £1.7 million on urban flooding projects

Published 17 January 2007

Urban flooding caused by limited drainage system and ancient infrastructure; overlapping and conflicting government authorities make the problem difficult to solve; global warming has British government anxious

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, so they say, but in England the plains often flood, causing £270 million in damage every year. That sounds bad, but it could get worse if current global warming projections hold up. No wonder, then, that the U.K. Ministry for Climate Change (no such agency in the U.S., of course) is spending £1.7 million on fifteen new pilot projects to consider how to reduce the impacts of urban drainage flooding in towns and cities across England. “Adapting to the impacts of climate change is vital if we are to manage the risks of flooding and coastal erosion,” said minister Ian Pearson. “We can’t ignore the consequences which is why we need to start adapting now.

Urban flooding is typically due to a combination of high river levels, concentrations of overland flow following heavy rainfall, limited capacity of drainage systems, and blockage of waterways and drainage channels. The problem is compounded by a mishmash of government agencies presumed to oversee it, from the water companies to the Environment Agency to the Highways Agency. Under the new Integrated Urban Drainage pilot projects, these bodies are expected to begin working together to sort out overlapping and conflicting authorities.

Among the projects to receive the go-ahead include:


* Thames Water will lead a project in North Brent, London where there is a significant history of flooding in the area from sewers and rivers. The partners in the project will produce a joint drainage strategy to alleviate sewer and river flooding for a wide range of potential rainfall events.

* Birmingham City Council and partners will work to gain an improved understanding of a whole range of flooding issues in the Upper Rea catchment, an area which includes the former Rover car plant in Longbridge and in which significant redevelopment is expected.

* In West Garforth, Leeds, culverted watercourses are a major cause of flooding, but responsibilities for the problem are unclear. Leeds City Council and partners will develop practical ways to overcome such problems of ownership, especially for urban culverts owned by several different organisations.

-read more in this report