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Severe flooding in Somerset

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Been watching the inland sea that has become the Somerset levels on TV with some villages cut off for weeks. Feel sorry for them, looking at the models it's just going to get worse, perhaps a lot worse.

Some villages could be cut off well into Spring.

 

 

Makes you wonder if it would be cheaper to re-home people in worst areas and let nature take back the Somerset levels rather than pay millions yearly on drainage they have to way up the costs. 

 

It's the same in some coastal areas, should we keep paying out for multi million pound defences for a few people?

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Makes you wonder if it would be cheaper to re-home people in worst areas and let nature take back the Somerset levels rather than pay millions yearly on drainage they have to way up the costs. 

 

It's the same in some coastal areas, should we keep paying out for multi million pound defences for a few people?

Surely its more than a few people that we're paying to protect.....what about the farmland ? 650sq km of grazing land has got to be worth a bit to both the local and national economy.

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Makes you wonder if it would be cheaper to re-home people in worst areas and let nature take back the Somerset levels rather than pay millions yearly on drainage they have to way up the costs. 

 

It's the same in some coastal areas, should we keep paying out for multi million pound defences for a few people?

 

We dont pay out for flood defences unneccessarily, you are right. Its done on a cost benefit analysis basis - i.e. prove the business case for building the defences. I worked on a few flood defence projects for Somerset (I remember some on  the River Parrett which helps drain the Levels)  in the 90s - quite hard to solve them with decent infrastructure that is sustainable, unless you have access to mega bucks.

If average sealevel is zero metres datum and 10 miles inland is only 1 or 2m above, then without pumps its hard to drain it. Add to that the increadible power of the green lobby to prevent dredging on the basis that it can disturb wildlife habitat, and we have a problem. Its not that it hasnt been studied, it all has, I guarantee it. So when some MP jumps up and down, you can believe that he will do so until it drains away naturally and everone's forgotten about it.... till next time.My view is that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of the green lobby and there is much we are sufferring due to it.

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This is the recent trendy 'solution' which George Monbiot has been pushing in The Guardian (as he has a book about it)While there is some sense there, it really wouldn't help much in prolonged flooding like on The Levels.It can help in flash flood scenarios.The idea of causing deliberate waterlogging is unsound as a means to reduce floods; you can't make a sponge soak up water indefinitely - but if you have a part dry sponge it can absorb water.Some of the promoted methods such as leaving logs in watercourses can have negative effects when a large flood washes all the stuff downstream which can block bridge arches.Balancing pools seem a good idea and do not preclude normal use of the deliberately flooded area at other times.Also it is a fallacy to imply the uplands have 'recently' had a lot of trees removed.Upland areas are generally dominated by livestock farms, and have removed very few trees and hedges as they don't need to increase field size to facilitate large arable machinery - and there is far more planted forest in many areas.The uplands were largely deforested in pre-history - typically Bronze Age. 

Yes and the levels largely unpopulated (for a good reason). I have a link to a summary of historic flooding events which makes interesting reading. We think that humans can engineer solutions to natural phenomena. Well perhaps we can but can we afford to do so?

 

Many moons ago, when studying geomorphology, the wisdom was that many of UK's land features could only have been formed during periods of very significantly greater rainfall than we see today. Also that this must have occurred in (geologically) recent past. Humans are a very optimistic and tend to ignore events of just a few years ago, let alone earlier generations.

 

At least we are now able to spread risks associated with crop failures over the entire world as not so long ago this winter would have resulted in famine for many people.

 

Having said all that there is little doubt in my mind that deforestation has as big, if not bigger, effect on climate change than the burning of fossil fuels and it is well known that arable farming directly causes loss of soils on hilly ground. 

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Been watching the inland sea that has become the Somerset levels on TV with some villages cut off for weeks. Feel sorry for them, looking at the models it's just going to get worse, perhaps a lot worse.

Some villages could be cut off well into Spring.

 

Hopefully the environment agency can get on top of the floods they have 60 pumps working around the clock to drain an estimated 65 million cubic metres of floodwater from the Levels. Its a balancing act of keeping the rivers at a safe level and making progress on getting the water down from the levels

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1 million m3 per day x65 I don't think the locals will be happy with that !!...

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BBC site says:Currently about 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) of the Somerset Levels are inundated by about 65 million cubic metres of water.28,000 acres is an awful lot of land to 'abandon' considering even low grade land is worth at least £1000/acre and anything half decent 2 or 3 times as much.

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BBC site says:Currently about 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) of the Somerset Levels are inundated by about 65 million cubic metres of water.28,000 acres is an awful lot of land to 'abandon' considering even low grade land is worth at least £1000/acre and anything half decent 2 or 3 times as much.

 

Average farm land value for the area is £7500!

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Unfortunately, today has seen a constant stream of heavy rain and showers heading over the affected area and up the Avon valley, it hasn't really stopped since the early hours so I do not see any improvement for days yet.

Indeed, the Avon is rising very quickly as well.

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‘Natural’ engineering offers solution against future flooding

 

Published this month in the academic journal Science of the Total Environment, the findings were presented last week at the House of Commons Office of Science and Technology to inform the Government’s Environment White Paper.

 

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/natural-engineering-offers-solution-against-future-flooding

Edited by knocker
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The Quangocrats from the Environ agency are the ones to blames, primarily, led by ex-Labour minister Lord Smith (Chairman of Environ agency) who is on £100K a year for a 3-day week - nice work if u can get it!

Secondly, the govt for not stumping up the money, from their Emergency Fund, needed to try and turn things around - although it's probably too late now it's all happened.

I believe one of the reasons the Environ agency has given over the years for not dredging is to protect some rare species of wildlife - welcome to Britain 2014!.

Don't really understand why people choose to live on land at or below sea level though - people can move even if a property or land has been in the family for generations. Only the 'very few' have that kind of privilege.

 

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Once the floods clear...they're going to start dredging? And act quickly...Horse, stable, bolted, door, open..comes to mind.

Not sure it would help all that much, it's the shear amount of rain that's fallen, if it happens again the area will flood again. We've had less rain here but the water is just coming out of the ground in places, no river dredging will stop that. Mud is every where.

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Not sure it would help all that much, it's the shear amount of rain that's fallen, if it happens again the area will flood again. We've had less rain here but the water is just coming out of the ground in places, no river dredging will stop that. Mud is every where.

Improving drainage lowers the water table over a surprisingly wide area.This means the surrounding land can soak up more water before it starts coming out everywhere.This seems a difficult concept to grasp for those proposing deliberately making areas waterlogged in advance. 

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Improving drainage lowers the water table over a surprisingly wide area.This means the surrounding land can soak up more water before it starts coming out everywhere.This seems a difficult concept to grasp for those proposing deliberately making areas waterlogged in advance. 

Ok didn't know that tbh, thought it just got rubbish and silt out of the river.

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I'm a little delayed posting this reply but shall now

 

This is the recent trendy 'solution' which George Monbiot has been pushing in The Guardian (as he has a book about it)
While there is some sense there, it really wouldn't help much in prolonged flooding like on The Levels.
It can help in flash flood scenarios.

The idea of causing deliberate waterlogging is unsound as a means to reduce floods; you can't make a sponge soak up water indefinitely - but if you have a part dry sponge it can absorb water.
Some of the promoted methods such as leaving logs in watercourses can have negative effects when a large flood washes all the stuff downstream which can block bridge arches.
Balancing pools seem a good idea and do not preclude normal use of the deliberately flooded area at other times.

Also it is a fallacy to imply the uplands have 'recently' had a lot of trees removed.
Upland areas are generally dominated by livestock farms, and have removed very few trees and hedges as they don't need to increase field size to facilitate large arable machinery - and there is far more planted forest in many areas.
The uplands were largely deforested in pre-history - typically Bronze Age.
 

 

Yes I was not thinking many trees had recently been removed, if anything more planting projects these days. Just saying this could perhaps contribute to reducing the surface run off component, meaning lower more drawn out flood peaks, which may mean the rivers over spill the banks less often. Though you would need a widespread catchment response and I am not sure how feasible that would be.

I just thought some of the ideas may be useful. I am not sure how much truth there is in a few of the things perhaps.

It is true though that it would not stop some flooding in situations like this, we may have to accept that areas like that flood sometimes. A large engineering project of widened/new channels may reduce it significantly but I can't really see the funding being released for that.

 

There have been a few silly comments e.g from here though

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25908098

 

I.e from the MP: "He dismissed as "pathetic" the Environment Agency's claims that the rain would have overwhelmed the river system even if it had dredged the waterways."  Ok so you really think that one of the wettest, perhaps the wettest, year on record in 2012 and then one of the wettest Decembers and Januaries on record now wouldn't have caused flooding, and that this 65 million cubic meters of water covering vast areas would have fitted in the channels? Peak levels may have been slightly lower/less prolonged I don't know.

 

""It is an absolutely ridiculous excuse," he said. "This never flooded to this level ever in living memory, and we've got people who have been here for a long time. If you look back into the mists of time you don't have this."

 

That would surprise me to be honest, perhaps this is rare due to exceptional wetness, but I suspect major flooding has happened in the past.. and it used to be a general marshland.. It is described as a wetland and some of it lies lower than peak tides in the Bristol Channel, so drainage would always be a struggle (again an argument for dredging perhaps but that won't raise the land, or river gradients, leading greatly to increased flow rates..). The gauging stations available don't show record heights recently at least where they are located. Also when water over-tops the often man made levees, it often can't get back in without pumping anyway. I wonder how sustainable agriculture there actually is/will be in some parts of the levels in the future?

When you watch the areal footage most houses/villages seem on ridges or islands of slightly higher ground surrounded by water rather than flooded themselves. There's a reason for that..

It may have to stop as some say, but I doubt that will be possible to stop flooding or ensure major floods don't happen again to be honest.

Edited by Evening thunder
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Think it may have something to do with the above avg amount of rain we have had in certain areas, if you have a pint pot and keep filling it without taking some out it will eventually start to over fill, so no matter a river, ditch, pond, lake, road or flood plain, once the pot is full it will start to spill out.

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It seems like we are finally starting to see some progress Rivers Will Be Dredged once rivers are safe this could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on how February turns out and extra high volume pumps will be coming to the somerset levels

 

Flooding: Cameron Vows Rivers Will Be Dredged

 

David Cameron says he will "rule nothing out" in tackling flooding in the Somerset Levels, as he warned that political arguments must not delay help for frustrated residents. The Prime Minister told MPs that the current situation was not acceptable and that rivers will be dredged. Speaking in parliament today, Mr Cameron said dredging would begin once water levels had receded to safe levels.  "I can confirm that dredging will start as soon as it's practical, as soon as the waters have started to come down," he told MPs. "The Environment Agency (EA) are pumping as much as possible given the capacity of the rivers, but I've ordered that further high volume pumps will be made available to increase the volume of the pumping operation. "We're urgently exploring what further help the government can give to locals to move around and I rule nothing out for the days ahead to get this problem sorted."

 

Mr Cameron's comments came ahead of another meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee to discuss ways to help flood-hit residents. The EA has issued some 24 flood warnings and 151 flood alerts, mostly for areas in the South East and the South West. Many of those in flood-hit areas are calling for immediate action to alleviate what some residents have described as "Third World" conditions. Parts of the Levels have been under water since Christmas. There are fears that it may be months before the water is entirely pumped away. Further showers have fallen across England and Wales today. Rain is also expected to spread across the Republic of Northern Ireland tomorrow, and there will be more patchy rain for parts of England. The further weather warnings came as it was revealed insurance claims from the floods and storms over Christmas and the New Year could reach £426m.

 

http://news.sky.com/story/1202796/flooding-cameron-vows-rivers-will-be-dredged

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Yes and what appears to be a below average IQ of those who continually ignored warnings before actual flooding occurred? To save upfront costs. Now to clear up the mess, costings will be two fold, fixing what needs to be fixed and yes dredging amongst other things. Prevention is allegedly better than cure or as common sense once dictated.Joined up thinking....haha pull the other one!

But dredging does not make the pint pot bigger.

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Improving drainage lowers the water table over a surprisingly wide area.This means the surrounding land can soak up more water before it starts coming out everywhere.This seems a difficult concept to grasp for those proposing deliberately making areas waterlogged in advance. 

 

So why are they still pushing ahead with dredging...directly after the big floods?

The qther quoted post says why, I'm just not sure whether that is true or not.

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So why are they still pushing ahead with dredging...directly after the big floods?

Best guess would be to been seen doing something (at cost) and the next time it happens they can go " well we did this ", not sure what people want TBH other than someone to blame these days, build on a flood prone area and it floods, hell we must be able to blame someone right? get extreme weather events? (like all that wind that ripped off roofs and felled power lines recently), someone must be accountable for it for sure, right?

 

I am not religious but even "that book" mentions floods and famine and stuff (so I think I recall) so these are by far not recent types of events, it is like accidents, these days it seems anyone involved in one is only set on seeking out a cause and reason and something to blame when in all honesty all too often they were their own nemesis, but that cannot be true, so it is time to seek out a person or something they can blame it on instead.

 

lawyers go kerching! we all pay more for basic insurance etc etc.

 

World is fornicated if you ask me Posted Image

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Jax..nobody is saying there's a perfect solution - weather is both unpredictable and sometimes yes even breaks records. Solutions are pardon the pun never ever water tight.

As a tax payer, flooded out, livelihood etc at stake there are some pretty annoyed folk who were to be frank..let down.

Cost to put right? Much more now than if for example precautions were taken. More money yes wasted.

Easy Tiger Posted Image

 

My point I was trying to make is that for some, no matter what you do, they will flood and in extreme events (such as the rain we have seen recently) sadly that can and will happen, whilst we build and cover land like we do in areas as we have the knock on issue will be flooding when we get above avg rain for , best solution is IMHO remove the cause, because building a better defence in one place just moves the problem to another.

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Bit of a silly headline.. but then it is the daily fail. The one thing I think it is good with is pictures, but anyway surely it's primarily the weather's mess?

I'd like to see some sources/references for it's figures and experts too.

 

Ah just seen they think Britain is braced for a 'big FREEZE' now.. lol.

 

Should more money be available? I think so yes, I'm just not sure it will have quite the effect some desire unfortunately. Mind you not sure the Environment agency's money is best spent always (local case near me last year of something not needed, just done to use spare EU funding according to links to internal sources) and Mr Patterson is perhaps not the most logical person to be head of an environment agency, saw a comment on the independent 'Owen Patterson in charge of the Environment portfolio is like putting Gary Glitter in charge of Children's Services'

 

Never mind, Mr. Cameron to the rescue.

 

"It means national guidelines from the 1990s which stopped regular dredging of rivers are likely to be torn up."

 

I guess this is what I'm worried about. When ever any river floods elsewhere, we may see cries for dredging just because a river did what it naturally does and always has done, ruining the look/feel/ecology etc of the river just so some fields won't flood or houses occasionally wont (but probably will in reality). Already seen a few comments like this.

 

If this change is only for the levels due to realization they are not appropriate for them due to their specific circumstances (low elevation etc) then I'm fine with that. Sadly some without geography knowledge may think otherwise in different areas.

Dredging will have various environmental impact around the levels but we may have to live with that in this case.

 

Pm says current position is and I quote "not acceptable."

So who's fault is it exactly? time to dig out the script...lessons shall be learnt, we're on to it, robust plans blah blah blah blah.

 

Number one factor has to be rainfall? it may not be acceptable but it may be unavoidable at times.

 

So why are they still pushing ahead with dredging...directly after the big floods?

Partly because it sounds good and is more likely to please the locals and looks like they are doing something, perhaps partly because it may be part of the solution and other options may take longer so may be not so much else available in the short term.

A longer term option to use as well may be something like this higher in the river catchments (posted by Knocker on the last page) http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/natural-engineering-offers-solution-against-future-flooding

Still won't prevent all flood flows though.

Edited by Evening thunder

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Improving drainage lowers the water table over a surprisingly wide area.This means the surrounding land can soak up more water before it starts coming out everywhere.This seems a difficult concept to grasp for those proposing deliberately making areas waterlogged in advance. 

Agreed, provided that the subsoil is permeable. Around the River Parret - I recall from my flood alleviation studies - it is quite high permeability

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We don't know the detailed facts and I should be interested to know whether it is the drainage channels that are causing constriction or whether it is the outfall sluices that are struggling to cope. I suspect the latter might be the case otherwise levels would surely have dropped through water running over fields rather than along rivers - it can still flow. 5 miles by 1m deep water equals one mile by 5 metre deep channel- it can move a lot of water!

 

The permeability / capacity bit is probably part of the problem, there is a limit to the capacity of subsoil . Once that capacity is sated the run off becomes extreme as seen at Boscastle etc. I think we are seeing the same thing but over a more protracted timescale due to the shallower gradients. EA have been warning the SW about saturated ground since well before Christmas.

Edited by egret

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