Understanding the true cost of flooding and how we prevent it in the future is the theme for a public debate being held this week in Newcastle.
‘Flooding – who pays?’ has been organised by experts at Newcastle University and the Institute of Civil Engineers in association with The Great Debate and in response to recent flooding events such as Thunder Thursday, the Morpeth floods of 2008 and the devastating events of Christmas 2015 in Cumbria.
Bringing together experts from academia, business, government organisations and the public, the aim is to better understand the impact of flooding on people and infrastructure and discuss what systems should be put in place to be better prepared.
Financial and emotional cost
“Flooding has become a big issue for many people over recent years and our weather patterns suggest it is something that will become more frequent and affect even more of us in the future.
“The cost of flooding is huge – not just financial but also physical and emotional – and the question is how should we intervene, and how much should we spend to prevent the devastating impact that we have seen in recent years?”
Weighing up the cost
Following the floods of December 2015, it was estimated the cost of the UK’s winter floods would be in the region of £5bn.
Last year, a £26m flood relief scheme was launched in Morpeth as a response to the River Wansbeck breaking its banks, damaging 1,000 homes and businesses in September 2008. The protective measures include a huge upstream dam and storage area on the Mitford Estate storing enough water to fill 560 Olympic swimming pools.
“The question is, do we plan for the thousand year event which could happen anywhere, anytime but has a devastating impact when it does hit, or do we put all our resources into high risk areas?” says Dr Hewett.
“Do we focus on natural flood management and conservation, interventions that slow the flow of floodwater and so minimise the impact downstream in our towns and cities, or do we spend money at the coal face, protecting people’s homes and livelihoods?
“Some good things are already happening but we need to hear from the people who were directly affected to better understand how we can make the biggest impact.
“Investing in flood defences is not money down the drain – as long as we get it right.”
Bringing together water management and green infrastructure, Newcastle University is leading the way in research into flood alleviation schemes.
Using Newcastle as a demonstration city, researchers are testing ways to store water at the surface of the land, and use green infrastructure to soak up water from flash floods.
Similar to other urban areas Newcastle’s city centre surface is mainly impermeable making it unable to deal with high volumes of rain over short periods of time. The response has been to develop the Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) which is being installed on Science Central and has been designed to slow down and hold back rainwater run-off from the site.
Working with local authorities, the Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water and community groups, they have developed a Surface Water Management Plan for Newcastle and Gateshead. The top nine flood hotspots identified are the focus of the project.
Science Central, a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and L&G Capital, is a £350m urban regeneration project, the largest of its kind in the UK and a test bed for innovation and sustainability. The site will house the University's £58m Urban Sciences Building and the School of Computing Sciences, the £40m National Innovation Centre for Ageing, the £30m National Innovation Centre for Data and the £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration.
Flooding – who pays?
Will be held on Thursday, 25th May, 2017, between 5.45pm-7.30pm at The Mining Institute, Westgate Road, Newcastle, NE1 1SE. Entry costs £3, which includes refreshments.
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