Call for cash injection to boost England's flood defenses

LONDON, England, UK, Jan. 20, 2010 -- England will need to double its investment in flood defenses to £1 billion a year by 2035 if it is to keep pace with climate change and prevent future devastation, according to a new report from the Environment Agency (EA)...

LONDON, England, UK, Jan. 20, 2010 -- England will need to double its investment in flood defenses to £1 billion a year by 2035 if it is to keep pace with climate change and prevent future devastation, according to a new report from the Environment Agency (EA).

The report, published only two months after major flooding in the Cumbria region, revealed that the floods of summer 2007 cost the country an estimated total of £3.2 billion.

According to the government regulatory body, the 2007 floods were said to cause around £660 million in damage to "critical infrastructure and essential services."

Water supplies and treatment plants were the worst affected by the flooding, followed by roads, electricity supplies, agriculture and disruption to schools.

Utility companies and their customers incurred most (£330 million) of these costs, including £186 million by water companies and £139 million by electricity and gas suppliers, mainly due to disrupted supplies.

Other costs included:

• Communications and transport: including damage caused to roads: £230 million (7% of the total cost)
• Local government: £140 million (4%)
• Agriculture: £50 million (2%). Farmers lost an average of £1,150 per flooded hectare
• Emergency services: including response by the Environment Agency: £27 million (about 1%)
• Education: the loss of 400,000 pupil days due to school closures.

Commenting on required investment, the EA said the cost of the 2007 floods "underlines the importance of continued investment in managing flood risk."

It was predicted that the cost of further disruption, damage to infrastructure and loss of business could rise by 60% by 2035 unless funding for flood defenses is increased. Investment in the building and maintaining of flood defenses will need to almost double to £1 billion a year by 2035 to keep pace with the effects of climate change, the EA urged.

Robert Runcie, director of flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said: "It has now been almost two months since the devastating floods in Cumbria and although the full economic costs will not be known for some time, our report into the summer 2007 floods suggest that they are likely to be substantial.

"The 2007 flood cost homeowners, businesses, emergency services and others some £3.2 billion. The high costs of flooding underline the importance for continued investment in reducing flood risk, particularly as climate change means that we are likely to see more severe and frequent flooding in future."

UK engineering design consultancy, Atkins, supported the call for increased spending on flood defenses but said the additional money must be transparent.

Mike Woolgar, flood defense expert and managing director with Atkins' Water & Environment business, said: "Flooding is devastating for those affected -- communities are still counting the costs of the 2007 floods and those more recently in Cumbria will resonate in towns like Cockermouth for years to come. The government must ensure that flood funding is visible, sufficient and guaranteed so that the Environment Agency and its partners can continue to take a structured, planned and consistent approach to safeguard our homes, communities and infrastructure."

Woolgar added: "It will be much more cost-effective to channel investment into structured flood mitigation plans now to prevent future flood devastation than just responding to the most recent disaster."

The report can be downloaded at: http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/SCHO1109BRJA-e-e.pdf

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