The building of more flood defences is no answer. Their effect is short term, as worse and more frequent storms arrive, and spatially they tend simply to shunt the floods on to places downstream.
What is needed is an urgent, wide-scale programme of flood abatement, whereby water is retained in the ground rather than flowing over it to rivers. There are 2 simple and proven strategies:
One is ‘buffer strips’ alongside watercourses, where there is no grazing. The effect is pretty well immediate. Surface water will be absorbed into these ungrazed strips as into a blotter.
Secondly, afforestation within catchment areas. Woodlands hold huge amounts of water. Beneficial effects may be observed within a decade or two.
The problem is, how is this to be achieved?
In most of England, at least, County Councils have the responsibility of ‘leading’ on Floods but few powers or funds. Clearly,strategies like those above require strong powers of direction, at least, and as a ‘carrot’. compensation to landowners for the loss of grazing(or as an encouragement to take steps.) Yet, typically, no such powers or funds are available. Initiatives are small scale and piecemeal, funds are often through ostensibly other routes – eg the Clun freshwater mussel(ask me more!), not for flood abatement.
There have been at least 4,maybe more, ‘1 in 100 years’ floods since 2000. Time is not our friend in answering this threat.