Maintenance of flood defences 'only a small part of flood prevention'
“In the long term the management of water requires a clear strategy. The government needs to recognise the importance of regular maintenance work but overall this is not the all-purpose solution. Farmers need to invest in improvements to their land drainage and factor drainage operations into their overall farm strategy,” said Alastair Taylor, CEO of IAgrE.
Flooding not only occurs when water tables are high; a lot of flooding is down to the soil condition. Infiltration of rainwater into the soil is severely limited by loss of soil structure due to compaction. The use of increasingly larger and heavier machinery causing soil surface smearing, especially on wet soils. High animal stock densities, over working the soil, losses of organic matter, soil biology and so on all add to the problem.
Jack Rickson, IAgrE Fellow and Chartered Environmentalist comments, “Often the soil is relatively dry over a spade-depth down because water cannot infiltrate and without soil and water storage flood risk is increased. Many drainage schemes are poorly maintained but the concern is that draining land or dredging of channels will simply send the flood water somewhere else, possibly at a faster rate, so peak floods might be even higher in downstream areas – possibly urban areas with higher population densities.”
IAgrE recently joined 16 other professional organisations to urge the government create a clear strategy and engage in appropriate long-term planning to avoid further flooding devastation in the UK.
The group called for a complete re-think to the way the country manages, stores and distributes its water, and how we plan both the natural environment and the built environment of our towns and cities to make them more resilient.
“There are many lessons to be learnt from the crisis and we need more agricultural engineers with an understanding of soil and water engineering. Environmental courses and training programmes need to include more focus on this vital subject. We need environmentalists to have a better understanding of the agricultural engineering solutions to this significant challenge,” added Mr Taylor.
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