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Dredging not the panacea for river flooding, says the Angling Trust

15.11.19

Worcester racecourse 1

Worcester Racecourse after the River Severn burst its banks this month

The Angling Trust is warning politicians not to repeat the mistakes of the past in their rush to make political capital out of the government’s response to the recent floods.

Calls are growing to ignore the science and recommence wholesale river dredging as a quick fix. In fact, widespread dredging could make flooding in some communities worse in future - not better - according to the report published by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) at the time of the severe flooding in 2014.

Far from advocating dredging as a panacea, the CIWEM report - endorsed by the Blueprint for Water coalition of environmental NGOs, which includes the Angling Trust, and backed by a range of organisations - suggests solely relying on dredging can even make some downstream communities more vulnerable to the risk of flooding by moving water more quickly down the river catchments.

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust said:

“The thoughts of the Angling Trust and anglers throughout the country are with those who have been so badly affected by the flooding around the River Don in South Yorkshire and the River Derwent in Derbyshire. The impacts of flooding can be devastating, not only in the financial costs for businesses and farmers in the flooded areas, but for the many people who have been forced to leave their homes or have seen their home inundated with water.

“It is a sad fact that with climate change comes a change in the rate and distribution of rainfall. More intense periods of rain will be more frequent and often last longer. Flooding of the type we are seeing today, and saw in 2007 and 2014, are no longer a once in a 100 year event.

“It is obvious to anyone who works in, or has an interest in, water management policy in England, that the system is broken. It needs major reform and significant investment. It needs to embrace, not only issues of flood management, but where and how development is taking place, the design of development that has to be built in high risk areas, and land management reform to ensure that practices do not contribute to flooding, but rather mitigate flooding.”

The CIWEM report, Floods and Dredging – a reality check, concluded:

“…that dredging can play an important role in flood risk management in some cases, but is not a standalone solution. It should be considered in the context of a range of tools and the origins of different sources of flood water, and comes with significant risks that must be understood at a local and catchment scale.”

With the new Agriculture Bill, along with a new Environment Bill, expected in the next parliament, this is an opportunity to take a radically different approach to our management of water in the context of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Through the proposed Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs), farmers should be paid to manage their land to help to store water and protect communities.

Martin Salter, Head of Policy at the Angling Trust and a contributor to the 2014 report added:

“In the inevitable review of these most recent floods, the Angling Trust is calling on the government, the Environment Agency and local authorities to follow the science and look at the evidence. Flood management has to start from looking at the whole catchment. Solutions need to include a focus on the upper reaches of a river, and with using natural flood management measures such as tree planting, changes to land management and the creation of storage areas to hold the water in the environment and on the land. This, coupled with the creation of new flood bypass channels and barriers, brings a range of environmental and economic benefits. It would help protect and restore wildlife, and it can provide increased protection for vulnerable communities.

“Our rivers are dynamic, living eco-systems. We do not want to see them turned into featureless drains and deep channels whose only purpose is to move water as quickly as possible to the sea.”

Useful link:

CIWEM report Floods and Dredging – a reality check

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