MWH expert calls for urban flooding to be managed differently

July 6, 2007
In the wake of the recent flood chaos in large parts of the UK, Professor David Balmforth, Technical Director of MWH and one of Europe's leading experts in flooding and wastewater management says we need to quickly adopt better ways of managing urban flooding. In particular he is calling on the Government to take a stronger lead in promoting a more integrated approach. "If we do not grasp the opportunities for change now, then the scenes of devastation of the last couple of weeks will become...

LONDON, June 28, 2007 -- In the wake of the recent flood chaos in large parts of the UK, Professor David Balmforth, Technical Director of MWH and one of Europe's leading experts in flooding and wastewater management says we need to quickly adopt better ways of managing urban flooding. In particular he is calling on the Government to take a stronger lead in promoting a more integrated approach. "If we do not grasp the opportunities for change now, then the scenes of devastation of the last couple of weeks will become a regular occurrence," says Balmforth.

Asked to comment by BBC News 24 and Radio 5 Live among other media he referenced evidence from major flood events, which show that drainage systems and watercourses are overwhelmed early in extreme storm events. This means that the major proportion of flood flow, around 80%, is conveyed on the surface -- causing indiscriminate flooding of homes and businesses.

"Surface flooding is simply not being managed effectively. Engineers know that more can be done to manage floodwater at source by containing it before it even enters drainage systems. Also, by better design and layout of the urban area, flood flows can be actively managed during extreme events to avoid much of the flooding we currently see. But this requires significant change to our current management strategies. We will have to design urban roads and pathways to act as flood channels and use open space and car parks for temporary flood storage. It may also mean that some parts of our urban areas may have to be sacrificed to flood water during extreme storms. Such areas would no longer be used for high value purposes such as homes," says Balmforth.

He believes that effective flood management is being hampered because no single agency is responsible for surface water management. Therefore he feels that the Government should take a stronger lead in promoting a more integrated approach to managing urban flooding.

He concludes; "Such radical approaches will need careful management with the public. In the future, we will all have to learn to accept regular flooding of parts of our urban areas and using the roads and pathways as flood channels for the more extreme events as a fact of life. Current research into the effects of climate change show that extreme flood events are likely to occur far more frequently in the future. So we have to act now if we are to avoid regular repeats of the damage and destruction caused by the flooding of the last couple of weeks."

Professor David Balmforth is Technical Director, MWH. His role involves advising municipalities on how they can tackle the increased risk of flooding and pollution arising from climate change yet avoid large infrastructure solutions that might adversely affect their carbon footprint.

MWH is a global leader in water and environmental engineering. With a staff of 6,000 worldwide, it provides industry-leading, knowledge-driven services to government agencies, utility companies and multinational organizations in more than 36 countries. It is one of the world's foremost experts on power, water and wastewater issues. MWH has worked in the UK for 160 years and has designed, built and managed many of the largest, most innovative and technologically advanced projects around the world.

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