Tuesday, February 25, 2014

UK floods: raise roads and redesign houses, engineers say

Jessica Aldred in the Guardian (UK): Houses should be redesigned, roads raised and tidal lagoons built that generate energy to reduce the impact of flooding in the UK, according to a panel of senior engineers and academics. Recent flooding has affected large parts of southern England in the UK's wettest winter on record – particularly the Somerset Levels and Thames valley, resulting in more than 5,000 homes and businesses being flooded, major road and rail networks disrupted, and a political row over who is to blame.

"In some senses we're still in a mode of 'discovery by disaster'," said Prof Jim Hall, professor of climate and environmental risks and director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said at a briefing held in London by the Science Media Centre and Royal Academy of Engineering. "With the exception of rail infrastructure, critical national infrastructure has come through this latest set of floods pretty well, but adapting to changing climate risk is still very much a work in progress."

David Rooke, executive director of flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said the organisation was still in "operational mode" with high tides and more rain forecast for this weekend, and still-rising groundwater levels. "No government across the world can protect all people, in all property from all flooding – but we will do all we can to minimise impact."

Prof Roger Falconer, professor of water management and director of the hydro-environmental research centre at Cardiff University, said the UK should be following the examples of other countries in designing houses that could cope with increased flooding.

"In this country we talk about putting houses on stilts and following the Netherlands. But I think it would be better if we turned and looked at the United States and countries with high tropical storms like Malaysia," he said, describing houses that have a garage and playroom in the basement and living areas on the upper floors....

Extremely flooded River Stour at Ilford Bridge, Bournemouth, in Dorset, shot by Tazbo123, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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