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All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Lois Kingscott, Posted: Sunday, 24th January 2016, 08:00

Once again, flooding has hit the UK and caused devastation up and down the country. While there is much debate about the best type of flood defence mechanisms to prevent future flooding, unfortunately this won’t help those communities already hit.

Restoring original meandering patterns
Environmental group WWF have worked with farmers across the UK in recent years in a bid to restore upstream rivers to their original state after hundreds of years of being manipulated into straight, fast-flowing channels to flush rainwater off fields.

Using traditional meandering patterns forms ‘lazy rivers’, which flow much slower than straight channels and don’t have the energy to carry much silt. Furthermore, ponds were created to catch any silt running off the fields that could later be used by farmers on their land. The return to the meandering method means there is significantly less risk of flooding on land downstream.

Working with natural processes
Restoring rivers and floodplains to their natural functions also helps to reduce the risk of flooding. Creating wetlands, capturing runoff in low-lying ponds, and planting trees are all methods that promote infiltration, helping to store water and slow down the rate at which it enters river systems.

Working with natural processes has only been effective so far in small catchments and will by no means resolve all flooding problems. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. In some places this may be the only viable means of managing flood risk, and in others it can be used to support more effective flood defences.

What will you do?
There is, of course, action that the public can take to support their community. Connecting water butts to downpipes collects water from the roof, stopping it running straight off onto roads. They are cheap to buy and install, and are available in multiple sizes so even homeowners with limited space can have one. Furthermore, during weather on the end of the spectrum, water butts provide a source to water plants with during a drought.

Another idea which is becoming more popular is growing a green roof. This is a roof or deck onto which vegetation is intentionally grown. This not only reduces the amount of water that runs off, but also slows water down, allowing drainage systems more time to cope with excess water. The vegetation can be grown on a shed roof if you’d prefer, and depending on the design of the roof, can insulate buildings from extreme temperatures. Green roofs attract wildlife and can be used to grow edible plants and herbs.

Support local wildlife too
Finally, garden owners can plant trees. While it is clear that large reforestation would need to occur to significantly reduce flooding in large areas, if every garden owner planted one or two trees, this would make a difference. Trees absorb water and their roots help water penetrate deep into the soil. It is then slowly released rather than running off quickly and overwhelming drainage systems. Planting native trees can also attract and support local wildlife, and enhance your garden.

Implementing these suggestions won’t fix the problem entirely, but they go some way to supporting natural and man-made drainage systems in coping with intense rainfall.

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