West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

Rewilding for Fewer Floods

The Marlais thunders and foams through Llansawel after heavy rains 

Opinion: We must take action to limit damaging floods

Last night in Llansawel a drain, overloaded after torrential rain, flooded houses. The fire and rescue service arrived from Llandovery as fast as they could, given near-impassable sections of road (hats off to them), and pumped out the water. The houses now have to dry out.

We can’t afford repeated flooding, either as individuals or communities.

But we can’t stop the water coming. As the surface of our planet heats up, weather systems become more unstable, and weather events are more severe. Longer droughts, more violent storms. Defending one village or town from rising waters just displaces the water to somewhere else. Flood water scours roads, loosens tree roots, causes landslips, all creating inconvenience and escalating repair costs

Two questions:

  • Who decides what flood measures need to be introduced?
  • Who pays for them?

We need major land use changes, but the people most at risk of flooding in urban areas are unlikely to own the land from which the water flows. Instead of public money flowing to landowners according to how many acres they own, as in the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, paying landowners for environmental services, such as the rewilding advocated by George Monbiot, seems a more promising approach. Rewilding results in naturally regenerating ecosystems with water-holding capacity — more trees, scrub, bogs and meadows  – and in addition small reservoirs slow rain run-off. The reservoirs also come into their own during droughts. Who pays? A combination of government and landowners?

Building codes should change too. Doors and windows higher off the ground, flood guards, ramps for disabled access, electrical sockets at waist height, porous parking areas, will all help. Who pays? Government at all levels has to get involved, including community and parish councils, which will probably need to re-prioritise spending in favour of resilience.

Flood barriers like this are common in coastal areas of County Cork, Ireland. 

Insurance? Here’s to the continuation of Flood Re, the last-resort provider of flood cover in the UK, but prevention measures are preferable to prolonged clean-ups and people excluded from their homes for months on end. In any case, Flood Re is due to end in 2039, to be replaced with an open market in which flood insurance may be unaffordable for millions of people. At five year intervals until then, premiums will be reviewed and almost certainly increased, to accustom the long-suffering public to free-enterprise prices.

Unless government policy changes, that is.

And all the time that we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the fragile atmosphere, weather emergencies will become more dramatic and harder to survive.



Single Post Navigation

5 thoughts on “Rewilding for Fewer Floods

  1. J Emyr George on said:

    Broadleaf trees only take up water in summer when ‘sweating’ through their leaves. So pretty useless come October onwards. Large scale conifers as the Brechfa forest created a much damper climate according to the old flock who lived through the change . So getting the uplands to hold more water is a none starter, once a sponge is saturated with water will it hold any more? If people will build on flood plains, and refuse to dredge our rivers then they have to live with the consequences. Have any of our old churches been flooded out? Dont think so…people knew where to build in the olden times.

    • When a hillside in north Carmarthenshire was bulldozed to even out the surface, about 20 years ago, water run-off to the land below was much faster and more damaging, and turned the track along the foot of the hill into a river. It seems that the landowner was at liberty to do this. It’s about topography as well as vegetation, but natural ecosystems have greater capacity to slow run-off than industrially created grassland monocultures.

  2. Totally agree and add that each person that can plant trees, could plant trees in and around where they feel they can and where it might help. All this waiting for “Someone” to do it. Maybe via guerrilla gardening. For who is going to notice, object and stop them?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: