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The Floods

Dusty
Grafter
Posts: 106
Registered: 27-07-2007

The Floods

I hear that water rates will go up to pay for flood defences. Who thinks this is the government's job and they have let the public down with inadequate flood defences. It was three years ago that this government said they will improve flood defenses. They have done a sterling job  Roll eyes
17 REPLIES
Pendragon
Rising Star
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Registered: 07-04-2007

Re: The Floods

Building more flood defences is a bit like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, you can’t stop dear old Mother Nature.
We build more and more houses and concrete and tarmac over more and more land and then wonder why areas flood. The rivers are doing what rivers do, they take water from a high level and deposit it into the big pond (the sea) at lower level. If the amount of water from run-off exceeds the capacity of the river then the water will overflow on to the flood plains. If you build flood defences to stop it in one place then you just move it to some other poor sucker downstream.
Also if you stop the water overflowing it may still come up through drains and simply by the increase in the water table underground come up under a house (all this has been seen in the resent floods). How would you stop that?
The only real ways of stopping flooding are to build houses on stilts or perforated walls so the water will flow underneath or not to build on a floodplain at all (not very practicable in the UK as most of our flat land is in the river valleys) or dig huge ‘spillways’ for the water to divert into (like they do in the US) and take it direct into the sea. The ‘environmentalist lobby’ would love us ripping up large parts of the UK for that, you can’t even get a bypass build these days without it taking 10 years of  court cases.
I know some ‘commentators’ on the news channels stated the sewers and drains were not capable of draining the water because they were build years ago but water can only drain downhill and if the downhill is already full how can it do that?
The only thing I would comment on is the wisdom (hindsight is such a wonderful thing) of building the electricity substations so close to the river and without adequate flood defence walls around them. They are already on a concrete base so walls and a flood defence door would have kept much of the water out and with some decent pumps could have saved the emergency services a lot of extra work they did not need.
The water treatment works by default needs to be close to the water supply (unless pumped from underground aquifers) so would expect to be flooded in times of high water. Perhaps a rethink on ways to protect the water from contamination or an alternative supply in times like this might help.
And can I say a big well done so far to all those services who have worked so tirelessly in the flooding and commiserations to the many, many people who have lost their homes and possessions in the flooding. Nothing I have said above retracts in any way my admiration for the communities who have stood together in this harrowing time.
Just my thoughts as an outside observer. Regards, P.
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 637
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Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: The Floods

Quote from: Pendragon
Building more flood defences is a bit like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, you can’t stop dear old Mother Nature.

Watched a documentary some while back (6-12 months maybe) about how the Dutch are now giving up use of quite large areas of their reclaimed land to allow the rivers to resume more natural courses again. Seemingly thought is being given in at least some quarters about how to avoid such situations worsening in the future.
Quote from: Pendragon
The only thing I would comment on is the wisdom (hindsight is such a wonderful thing) of building the electricity substations so close to the river and without adequate flood defence walls around them.

The above brought to mind a parallel - but far worse - situation regarding the location of the nuclear reactors (scheduled to be fully-operational in 2007 I believe) in Tamilnadu, India - see http://www.happychild.org.uk/nvs/news/2005/04.htm#tsunamiindia and the linked page http://www.happychild.org.uk/nvs/appeals/indtam01.htm (scroll down for the environmental stuff).
What has been happening here and across Europe in the last 2-3 years is hugely inconvenient but largely dealable-with, particularly if the Dutch (with most experience of such things) are consulted/involved in the way they were after the New Orleans disaster [I'm told they were involved here with the reclaiming of the Canvey Island area some long years back; there are still Dutch-design houses there].
But what's happening / likely to happen, with the location of the nuclear reactors now becoming operational in India and all the associated stuff detailed in the Newsletter referenced above, is infinitely-more worrying.  I don't know how these things get sorted - maybe it will take disaster upon disaster to cause sufficient re-thinking amongst the people who have the power to change things.
I publicise what I can through the site I build, but seemingly hugely more publicity-clout (or more/greater disasters) will be needed to actually change things before it's too late.
Regards,
Penny.
Penny Rollo * Force 9 from 17/02/98 * PlusNet from 2000 onwards
Project HappyChild - free maths worksheets, free French-English
worksheets and 12 other languages
personal site www.pennymidasrollo.plus.com
dgdclynx
Grafter
Posts: 187
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: The Floods

The only expertise left in Europe to build nuclear reactors would be French I suppose and arent they having dreadful problems building a new one in Finland, isnt it.
Dusty
Grafter
Posts: 106
Registered: 27-07-2007

Re: The Floods

Quote
Also if you stop the water overflowing it may still come up through drains and simply by the increase in the water table underground come up under a house (all this has been seen in the resent floods). How would you stop that?

I read some of your post about you cant stop mother nature and i think of how the dutch have created the north sea wall to stop the north sea from claiming land.
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/megastructures/episodes.html
I cant answer your question on how we stop this and that, because I'm not an engineer in that field. But i do know that technology today is beating mother nature all the time and flood defences do work if they are in place and money spent on them . 
alanb
Grafter
Posts: 459
Registered: 24-05-2007

Re: The Floods

The low countries have always had far more foresight when it comes to flooding. Even in the dark ages the Dutch were constructing their buildings on low earth mounds called 'terps' in order to protect against flooding in areas of risk.
In this country, it's utterly stupid building electricity substations at ground level in flood risk areas. If you drive around Belgium, you will see substations that look little square brick towers around two or three stories high, I've always assumed that it is done this way to allow vital equipment to be raised above ground level.
A lot more of that sort of thing could have been and should be done in this country. The extra cost involved would not be prohibitive, and in the overall scheme would be fairly small. The same principles could be applied to housing. Doing so would nibble away some of the developers' profits, but I'm sure that they could afford it, given that new-built houses always magically cost a little more than market prices, in an era when property prices are inflating much faster than the costs of building materials and labour.
That Dutch project was a response to the North Sea flood of 1953, in which thousands died and were made homeless. It's often forgotten that the same event caused the east coast floods in Britain, which killed more than 300 people in this country, and is the worst flooding disaster we've ever had. The Dutch response has been to spend tens of billions on coastal and river flood defences over the past 50 years. We in Britain appear to have been complacent and haven't learned the lessons from the east coast flood. It's like everyone involved has been colluding to ignore the problem on the basis that we are British and good old British stiff upper-lip will see us though.
alanb
Grafter
Posts: 459
Registered: 24-05-2007

Re: The Floods

Quote from: Penny
What has been happening here and across Europe in the last 2-3 years is hugely inconvenient but largely dealable-with, particularly if the Dutch (with most experience of such things) are consulted/involved in the way they were after the New Orleans disaster [I'm told they were involved here with the reclaiming of the Canvey Island area some long years back; there are still Dutch-design houses there].

It's the same in the Norfolk Broads. Dutch engineers were called on to assist in draining that area. They built the windmills and canal system, which exists mainly to drain the area. Some of them obviously liked the area enough to stay on, as you'll find places with names like New Holland, and so on.
Pendragon
Rising Star
Posts: 425
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Registered: 07-04-2007

Re: The Floods

While I agree that flood defences can be built if you throw enough money at the problem I would also like to point out that most of the comments on the Dutch defences are based on sea defences not river defences.
The sea most of the time is fairly predictable and you can calculate when and were a high tide will be and be pretty accurate as to how high that tide will rise. As long as the (sea) defences hold and the pumps work the land will stay dry. I have no argument with that. The Thames Barrier is a good example of a sea defence but was only of use in this instance to stop the tide so the river could empty downhill into the space it provided.
The weather is not predictable to any concise amount as seen by the initial weather forecast where heavy rain was predicted (and they were correct) but not the actual area the rain would fall. Also rain may well fall nowhere near your location but cause widespread flooding in your area as seen by the Welsh Hills acting as the catchment area and flooding occurring in England.
So what would you do, build flood defences along every river just in case it might rain in that area?
How big should a river be to need flood defences after all a stream can burst its banks and cause flooding if enough rain falls?
Should it be based on the number of properties that may flood or the vulnerability of some infrastructure or utility unit at the expense of a nearby village that might still flood?
The sea does not often jump up and deposit itself on the land (unless by storm and that’s usually in known areas) but rain can and will fall anywhere so I don’t see the point of trying to defeat something we have no control over (well not yet anyway). We either have to build on higher ground or build houses to compensate for possible flooding on flood plains and inject cash into moving the most vulnerable properties upwards away from the problem. A classic example is building a substation just downstream of an earth damn, if the damn had given way no amount of flood defences would have protected that or the properties in the way.
The only other way would be to build huge walls around every town and village on a flood plain and insert waterproof doors at every road, rail and river entrance and exit that could be closed in the event of a flood along with self sealing drains and some damn big pumps to clear out any build up of residue water to be pumped back over the walls. That debate is for the government to ponder upon not for you and I thank goodness.
I shall say no more as this is a Community site not a soapbox, regards, P.



Community Veteran
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Registered: 04-04-2007

Re: The Floods

Back to the Dutch.
Radio 4 carried an item on PM last week about a developer that was building house on  a flood plain that would float in the event of a flood. Cunningly designed with flexible service connections and an anchorage system that allows the house to rise and fall around some central fixed pole.
The simplest ideas are usually the best!
Dusty
Grafter
Posts: 106
Registered: 27-07-2007

Re: The Floods

Reply to Pendragon. A lot of housing is built on flood plains. Are you saying that they cant build flood defense on these areas or wont  ? I noticed that the offertories were stopping the river bursting its banks in villages by sand bags. Maybe if they stuck to their promises a few years ago and raised the walls near town they would not flood the villages and proper flood defences on flood plains the damage now would be less significant .
I think property developers should contribute to flood defences if they want to buy cheap land that is susceptible to flooding .
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,100
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: The Floods

I am curious. If all the built up areas on the flood plains (natural defenses) are protected from flooding, through flood defenses (man-made variety), where is the water meant to go?
Dusty
Grafter
Posts: 106
Registered: 27-07-2007

Re: The Floods

Good point, man made lakes that could be used for drinking water ? We are always short of water so we are told .
Dusty
Grafter
Posts: 106
Registered: 27-07-2007

Re: The Floods

You saying but the next village gets it worse, not if they do as i suggested and have reservoirs strategically placed to soak up the excess at points along a river  and contribute to the water supply . I think our infrastructure is outdated and if it was modified and things put in the right areas you could increase the water supply and reduce flood risks .
Superuser
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Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: The Floods

Quote from: Dusty
Good point, man made lakes that could be used for drinking water ? We are always short of water so we are told .

This post at something of a tangent - but flooding and provision of drinking water are not the only major "water-related" problems we now have, globally.
The New York Times provided this video today:
"Caddo Lake, Texas's only natural lake [35,000 acres], is under siege by a fast-spreading aquatic fer..."
It has not only reached North America but also Australia and New Zealand ... it progressively takes all the oxygen out of the water thus killing everything that lives there ... and the plant system doubles in size every four days.
The video (less than 2m) is well worth watching - you might need a password (?) - not sure as the NY Times send out daily (free) e-mail updates but there was a requirement for an e-mail address and password when first signed up for, years back.
Penny Rollo * Force 9 from 17/02/98 * PlusNet from 2000 onwards
Project HappyChild - free maths worksheets, free French-English
worksheets and 12 other languages
personal site www.pennymidasrollo.plus.com
pberry
Grafter
Posts: 40
Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: The Floods

Quote from: Dusty
I hear that water rates will go up to pay for flood defences. Who thinks this is the government's job and they have let the public down with inadequate flood defences. It was three years ago that this government said they will improve flood defenses. They have done a sterling job  Roll eyes

Rather depends where you live. If it's the Middle Thames Valley you have been well-served: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_River, unless you live immediately downstream Smiley