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Why are we suffering so many floods – and what can we do about it?
Record-breaking rainfall and a series of severe storms led to catastrophic flooding across many parts of the UK in the winter of 2015/16.
But it was only the latest in a sequence of floods in recent years. In fact one in seven UK businesses are now estimated to be at risk from flooding. This could be risk to business premises or even risk to fleet vehicles due to damaged roads - the list is endless.
What is causing these disasters – and what can be done to alleviate them?
Firstly, the Met Office believes that global warming is making heavy downpours more and more likely. But it isn't just the fault of the changing climate. Our use of land is making us much more exposed to flood risks.
Houses being built on flood plains are the most obvious example. But more generally, the growth of urban areas and the vast increase of non-absorbent surfaces mean water often has nowhere to soak away. Even the increase in people paving over their gardens or building driveways is having an effect. In London alone, gardens equivalent to seven Hyde Parks have been paved over in the last ten years. Concrete surfaces like these are impenetrable to water. Rainwater gushes off and overwhelms our drains instead.
Meanwhile, in the countryside, woodlands have been cleared and marshes drained, with serious consequences for the water systems. Budget cuts mean drainage maintenance has been neglected. Just one blocked storm drain can flood a wide area.
Is there anything we can do to reduce the flood risk?
Well it wouldn’t be a huge expense to implement a program of simple environmental work - like dredging rivers to let water flow away quickly, creating urban water basins to contain floods and building barriers and dams at vital points. Temporary flood defences erected by the Environment Agency during flood emergencies have proved remarkably effective.
In the long term, planting more trees is vital. Open farmland is much more likely to flood than woodland. Other sustainable natural flood defences include small barriers in ditches and fields, or notches cut into embankments, to divert floodwater onto open land.
After the recent floods, Environment Agency deputy chief executive David Rooke called for better waterproofing of homes and improved warning systems while the government promised to spend £2.3bn on flood defences.
What about tackling climate change itself?
Many commercial transport operations are keen to help reduce their carbon footprints as part of the effort to reverse climate change. Allstar’s contribution is the Ecopoint Scheme. To date more than 850,000 trees have been planted thanks to this carbon-offsetting programme. Read more on Ecopoint.