Is engineering a way out of the flooding?

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, reported in the Guardian.

Flooding in Shepperton, Surrey, on 16 February 2014. Photo credit: Jim Crossley

Flooding in Shepperton, Surrey, on 16 February 2014. Photo credit: Jim Crossley

In light of the UK’s wettest winter on record and recent flooding in large parts of southern England, the panel gathered at a briefing in London organised by the Science Media Centre and Royal Academy of Engineering to talk about what engineering can (and can’t) do to prevent and reduce the impact of flooding in the UK.

“In some senses we’re still in a mode of ‘discovery by disaster’,” said Professor Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks and Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University. “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.”

Experts questioned the £4 million government plan to dredge two rivers in Somerset, suggesting that this project will have only ‘marginal’ effects on future flooding. Commenting in an article in the Independent, Jim Hall said “dredging can and does increase the cross-sectional area of a channel which means that under certain conditions the channel will drain faster but in places like the Somerset levels it also allows the tide to come in faster and in other conditions it can propagate water downstream to other locations faster.”

Press coverage

UK floods: raise roads and redesign houses, engineers say
The Guardian online, Jessica Aldred, 25/02/2014

Government’s £4m fund to dredge rivers in Somerset could only have ‘marginal’ effects on future flooding, experts warn
The Independent, 25/02/2014, Steve Connor

Raise Britain’s roads to prevent flooding chaos
The Telegraph online, 24/02/2014, Sarah Knapton

Environment Agency vows to minimise flood risk
ITV News online, 25/02/2014

Agency vows to minimise flood risk
Belfast Telegraph, 25/02/2014

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