What can be done to improve storm defence infrastructure?

Stormproofing infrastructure Ellis Fox Blog

The number of storm warnings issued during the recent storms Ciara and Dennis tallied almost 800, with over a thousand homes being flooded and many more left without electricity. Historically major flooding events happened every 15 to 20 years in the UK. However, scientists are warning that this is now more likely to occur every 3 to 5 years. These 2 storms in one week have illustrated just how woefully inadequate the UK’s infrastructure and flood defences are.

While city councils are trying to mop up the damage, residents are bracing themselves as the Met offices warn that there are more storms on their way. With infrastructure already damaged there are concerns that the next storms will result in an even greater loss of life and damage to homes.

In the meantime politicians are promising to spend £4 million in the next 5 years to improve storm defences. But with scientist predicting that winters will get at least 30% wetter in the next two decades, this isn’t even going to come close to providing adequate flood protection.

Poor planning and consistently ignoring environmental issues in favour of progress and development is coming back to haunt us. It is estimated that one in ten homes built in the past seven years have been built on floodplains or areas at high risk of flooding. Rivers have been diverted from their normal course to make way for infrastructure and industry. Even more alarming is the number of man-made barriers that have been inserted into waterways, disrupting the normal flow. And then politicians suggest natural solutions such as planting more trees in upper catchment areas is an adequate solution? We don’t have that much time.

It’s going to take a great deal of fast thinking on the part of civil engineers and construction professionals to come up with workable solutions that can be implemented quickly. Could technology provide a solution? It’s certainly a possibility. Drones could be used to survey landscapes and flood areas. Digital and infrared scanning systems could be used to test the strength of bridges and water barriers. Digital modelling could be used to analyse and predict flow rates and directions of water courses. 3D printing could be used to quickly construct flood defences to help limit damage until a workable long term solution could be found.  But it’s going to take much more than £4 million.