Largest pumping operation ever as Somerset experiences biggest flood
With the ground already saturated, rivers and groundwater levels remain very responsive to rainfall, particularly on the Somerset Levels and Moors– which are currently experiencing the most significant flood for 20 years.
Environment Agency teams continue to operate up to 62 pumps, 24-hours a day, to drain an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of water (equivalent to 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools) off an area of the Levels spanning 65 square kilometres – the biggest pumping operation ever undertaken in the county.
There is also a risk of groundwater flooding in Hampshire until Wednesday. Parts of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, West Berkshire and Surrey may also experience localised groundwater flooding over the next five days.
The Somerset Levels has a history of flooding dating back centuries. The tidal range in the Bristol Channel is the second highest in the world – with high tides causing flood water to back up along the rivers across the Levels and Moors.
Currently, around 40 properties have flooded on the Levels, while defences have protected over 3,500 properties and 200 square kilometres of land within the Parrett and Tone, and Brue and Axe catchments.
The Environment Agency will be working with Government, the local council, Internal Drainage Boards and other partners on a long-term action-plan for tackling flood risk on the Somerset Moors and Levels.
Since early December, flood schemes have defended more than 1.1m homes and businesses and protected nearly 2,500 square kilometres of farmland across England.
Kate Marks, Environment Agency flood risk manager, said: “The country has faced an extraordinary combination of weather conditions over the last six weeks and our thoughts are with those communities that have and are experiencing flooding.
“We are doing everything we can to pump water off the Somerset Levels and have 65 pumps working 24-7 in the biggest pumping operation ever undertaken in the county.
“Nationally we spent £45m in the last financial year on river clearance, including dredging and weed removal and de-silting work was last carried out on pinch points on the Parrett and Tone rivers in November. However, dredging is often not the best long term or economic solution and increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding.”
We should consider returning to the smaller, more sheltered farm fields of the early Victorian era, but use teams of robot tractors instead of labour intensive horse drawn ploughs, in order to keep food production costs down.
As a bonus, the build-up of water holding humus in the soil would trap carbon dioxide and reduce the climate change that is probably aggravating our flooding problems.
“Modern Victorian” flood reduction farming is discussed on the Cheshire Innovation web site, www.cheshire-innovation.com.
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