UK: Local authorities 'poorly informed and funded' to fulfill new SUDS duties, warns company

New powers, announced by the UK Government, for local authorities to assess and manage local flood risk from all sources, including surface water, and champion sustainable drainage schemes will be ineffective unless they are given sufficient funds and knowledge of Source Control and Sustainable Drainage (SUDS) principles to implement real change, leading surface water drainage experts are warning...

Dec. 23, 2008 -- New powers, announced by the UK Government, for local authorities to assess and manage local flood risk from all sources, including surface water, and champion sustainable drainage schemes will be ineffective unless they are given sufficient funds and knowledge of Source Control and Sustainable Drainage (SUDS) principles to implement real change, leading surface water drainage experts are warning.

Hydro International, one of the UK's leading suppliers of sustainable drainage systems and a long-time pioneer of SUDS, is warning that local authorities could end up being insufficiently informed and funded. This would prevent the correct arrangements being put in place to implement the scale of new and redeveloped drainage systems required.

"Our fear is that £15 million announced by Environment Secretary Hillary Benn will just not be enough to allow each local authority to build up the necessary expertise and resources required to replace all the knowledge lost over the last 2 or 3 decades," warns Alex Stephenson, director Stormwater Division of Hydro International and chair of British Water SUDS group.

The Government's response to Sir Michael Pitt's comprehensive review into 2007's devastating flooding is a precursor to the draft Water and Floods Bill in Spring 2009. "The Government's response concentrates heavily on how to improve the way the UK deals with floods once they have happened. The new bill must have a more practical emphasis on how the UK is realistically going to improve the surface water drainage infrastructure by the implementation of realistic SUDS measures and mitigate flood risk.

"The problem is the depth of misunderstanding of the scope of SUDS techniques which still endures and a tendency to pigeonhole SUDS as 'natural' measures such as swales and ponds, rather than a comprehensive 'toolbox' of both engineered and natural measures. To succeed, local authorities will need to adopt a 'best management' approach based on a proper understanding of the full range of SUDS measures."

"The Government's report this week showcases the Elvetham Heath, Hampshire housing development as a shining SUDS example, with its soakaways, detention basins, ponds and swales. It actually fails to point out that the scheme was only made possible with the engineered technology of 18 Hydro-Brake® attenuation devices; in fact, a mixed engineered and natural approach is an excellent way forward.

"It will be vital for the new local authority drainage boards to recognise that SUDS principles apply to all urban and rural environments and not just on new developments that can accommodate village ponds. Otherwise these natural solutions will impose space and economic restrictions which could curtail the full implementation of SUDS in many locations. The SUDS toolbox should also encompass storage and infiltration tanks, attenuation devices and even rainwater harvesting to combat flood risks.

"It's 15 years since Hydro published 'Urban Drainage - The Natural Way' highlighting the importance of Source Control and Sustainable Drainage (SUDS). Those principles still apply - and we hope that the measures taken to tackle surface water drainage will go back to those first principles."

Hydro International provides cost-effective solutions for controlling the quantity and improving the quality of water with minimal maintenance.

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