In recent times there has been much ado in all the forms of media about flooding, and rightly so. I feel so sorry for those who have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, having been through serious flooding inside our home about 10 years ago.
Like the vast majority, if not all, of those who live by the rivers of the UK, I have been speaking out for the Government to dredge the riverbeds. I'll go into detail as to why in a moment.
As I wrote on Twitter, flooding is not caused by rainfall, it is caused by bad planning, and now I firmly believe that to be true.
I wrote to our Member of Parliament and got a reply. I no longer blame the Government. It turns out that the Environment Agency (who, I hear, do not like me calling them the 'Environmental Agency' even thought I do think they must be a bit mental) are an advisory body. They advise Parliament about such matters and then it is down to whichever Government we have to implement their advice.
That is understandable. You cannot expect MPs to know everything. The problem is that the advice they were given is totally wrong. I do not say that lightly. It is illogical nonsense. I read the report that my MP got regarding this area and it simply does not make sense.
When I spouted about this on the social media networks of course I got a few people pointing out that I am not a hydrologist, that I do not have degrees in water management. Perhaps if I had I would have been taught by professors who pass on the same mistakes and have believed them. How many times, in whatever your profession, you have despaired of architects who never consult the workers within their 'environment' and so those workers have to adjust to fit the unsuitable working conditions.
It's the same with the rivers. IF the EA had consulted those who have spent a lifetime by the waterways they would have heard that EVERY time dredging has ceased over the past hundred years, a few years later the water has overflowed the banks and caused havoc and destruction.
I demonstrated this as simply as I could by filling a bowl with water to the brim. That water was put into a jug and then the bowl was half filled with mud. When I put the water back into the bowl it overflowed. That was not a surprise; it was to be expected.
FACT: if a river is deeper it holds more water.
There's more to it than that. One of the current (not a pun) problems is that the water table, that hidden 'enemy' lying beneath the surface of the earth, is very high. It has built up over the past months. The reason is that had nowhere to go. Because the river in the months leading up to December and January has not been dredged and has not been lowered, the surrounding fields had nowhere to drain into.
Dredging would have lowered the water table. The EA workers on the ground could have used the lock and weir systems to get ready for the deluge that we always get in the winter months. Perhaps the EA computer workers have not realised that is when we get rain. Sarcastic? Not at all and let me explain why.
A couple of years ago I needed permission to lay down a concrete pad in my garden and the EA sent round to people to check it. They were young women from Australia who had been in the country three months, spotted a job advertised and had been employed to make such decisions. Neither of them had any river knowledge whatsoever.
During the recent problems a woman neighbour phoned the EA 'helpline' (misnomer of the decade) and asked why she had not received any flood warnings. From the accent she thought the 'helper' was either New Zealand or Australian and he told her that the phone/email system, on which she was registered, had not cut into action because 'you are not flooded'. She told him that she was standing in water that was 18" deep. 'No you are not' he said, and when she argued he told her that she could not be in flood water because his computer said there wasn't any! No action was taken by the EA.
In our home we received flood warnings five days after the house was surrounded.
When I am working at my job, I create special effects and magic routines. When I have the routine worked out, I then give a lot of thought to where it can go wrong and I plan for such possibilities.
In the case of a river, I can see that it needs to be tended to keep it clean, without pollution, that any dangers must be minimised, and so on. But now I think, what happens if we get extraordinary weather? If the scientists are right, and weather patterns will change, the likelihood of increased rainfall is something that we need to plan for. We WILL get a lot of rain. We NEED to somehow STORE that water until the deluge passes and then release that water back into the system.
If we do not do this then, despite the EA saying that dredging the UK rivers will be expensive for THEM to carry out such works, then it is going to be far more expensive for US, not only on the one to one personal basis but also as taxpayers. The cost of this last flood session must be immense. In our tiny lane alone we had firemen and soldiers from other parts of the country checking to see if we were safe. Multiply that across the South of England and do the sums.
Decades ago the Dutch decided that it was far cheaper to invest than to pay for the damage and the recovery.
What would I do? Obviously I would immediately set up a nationwide dredging system to create more space for impending rainfall. I would consult with riverside farmers, dwellers and workers and I would take their advice. I would look at increasing the length of the rivers not by digging straight concrete canals through the country side (what a failure the Jubilee cut turned out to be) but by studying the topography and seeing where we could make the rivers meander more in their upper reaches.
All ditches and cuttings would be dredged and in the flood plain areas I may well be looking at creating low areas to take flood water in times of emergency without damaging surrounding areas of crops.
ALL development in flood plain areas to cease immediately. It is madness. The only possible exception to that rule would be to grant building permission provided that the developer created holding areas for water on the same site that had to be five times the capacity of the ground floor. Have a look at what they built underneath Tokyo for what I am talking about.
That would only be the beginning. Expensive? Not in the long run. We really should plan for the future.