Devastating floods over the last 10 years have exposed the UK’s lack of resilience to increasing water levels – and climate change means more frequent severe rainstorms will happen.
Governments must take an appropriate and technically sound long-term approach to flooding because our existing infrastructure cannot cope.
The UK’s water supply chain needs to become more sustainable. We need to look beyond the 19th century solution of a pipe in the ground as the best way to remove rain water.
A UK strategy on water management needed
Observational records up to 2014 show that seven of the 10 wettest years in the UK have happened since 1998, says the National Flood Resilience Review 2016.
However, during this time no comprehensive UK water management programme to combat floods has been defined or adopted.
The lack of any long-term approach has led to the annual cost of flooding in England reaching about £1.1billion, according to the report ‘Flood defence spending in England 2014’.
Taking a long-term approach to water management
We need a long-term approach to managing, storing and distributing water which covers water supply, waste water, surface water and flooding. This holistic approach must be suitable for all new places – both the natural and the built environments.
We also need to look at managing water on larger catchment areas, for instance how land management and flood alleviation schemes can hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers.
Crucially, we must consider how and where we plan new developments, and that all new housing in flood plains is built to be resilient.
Using urban planning and design to reuse rainwater
WSUD uses urban planning and design to reuse rainwater and stop it from reaching our waterways (rivers, canals, etc). The adoption of WSUD is an essential solution to flooding, droughts and water quality, and one that should be adopted when designing and developing new places.
Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)
Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) integrates water cycle management with the built environment through planning and urban design. Find out more in our short film on WSUD.
Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)
In addition, we believe that SuDS should be a part of every local Plan to provide better resilience against flooding. SuDS mimic nature by managing rainwater close to where it falls, taking account of water quantity, water quality and amenity issues.
Landscape architects have the skills to plan and design landscapes that integrate SuDS and reduce the risk of flooding while making best use of available land for a wide range of functions. SuDS features include trees, permeable pavements, and ponds.
All new developments should integrate SuDs and there should be a comprehensive programme of retrofitting SuDS. National planning policy encourages SuDS in all major developments ‘unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate’, while as of January 2019, SuDS are mandatory in Wales for all new developments over 100m2.
But 96% of local authorities report that the quality of planning submissions for SuDS are either ‘inadequate’ or ‘mixed’. And as of 2017, 25% of local authorities had no formal SuDS policies in place, nor any immediate plans to implement any. This is putting communities under threat of surface water flooding as climate change continues to put pressure on our landscapes.