What tropical countries can teach the U.K. about flood management

which could be applied in U.K. cities, said Falconer. “This is something we might have to look at to contain surface waters.”

Nathan writes that South American cities such as Buenos Aires accept that floods will happen and divert surface water down designated streets away from commercial and residential areas. “That is something that can be considered for new developments,” added Falconer.

Other urban planning techniques include porous pavements placed on top of drainage channels and reservoirs underneath car parks to receive floodwaters. “It does represent an investment, but if you look at the £3bn that the 2007 floods cost, in damages and rescue efforts, it would be worth it.”

Many techniques could be imported, but U.K. engineers are also looking at the problem, with one new technology about to be trialled in the Midlands. Devised by John Greenwood of Nottingham Trent University, the SELOC (Self-Erecting Low-Cost Barrier) is, he admits, not a high-tech solution. The barrier itself, originally made of wood covered with a waterproof membrane on the side facing the flood-risk area, lies flat on the ground most of the time, hinged along its bottom edge. As the water rises, it floats, with its top edge rising with the water level. A restraint stops it when it reaches the vertical.

The system’s strength comes from the membrane,” Greenwood explained. “Before you install the barrier, you dig a trench along where it’s going to be. Most of the membrane forms a liner for the trench, leaving just the part that covers the inner side of the barrier itself. You then backfill the trench, and that’s what makes the system withstand the pressure of the water.”

Although it seems simple, SELOC provides a reliable automatic solution to flooding. “I looked at some of the other systems around, such as temporary barriers, but these systems were all ‘hard-engineered’ and needed manpower to put them up. That takes time and effort, and while the barriers aren’t in place, the water is coming in. The SELOC system rises with the water and it doesn’t need any intervention to activate it.”

Since the original development of SELOC, Greenwood has teamed up with GA Geotechnical, a company specializing in membrane-based technologies, to commercialize it. “We’ve made it more robust,” said Peter Atchison, GA director.

The first market for SELOC is likely to be protecting areas such as music festival sites and sporting arenas, particularly low-lying