Sunday, 3 January 2016

Flooding in Newton Stewart Dec 2015

I recently stayed in the beautiful town of Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway. Unfortunately it was during the recent severe flooding over Xmas and New Year 2015. The High Street premises and many of the homes in and around Newton Stewart were rendered uninhabitable by the floodwaters of the river Cree as it burst it's banks. There are some pictures here demonstrating the height and impact of those floods.
The collective determination and resilience of all those I met who had been affected was awe inspiring. The community pulled together like a well rehearsed and experienced sporting team, though I doubt this reaction was rehearsed. It was a natural reaction, to a natural disaster that triggered a closely knit community to react in orderly and collective manner to mitigate the impacts of an event that many had not foreseen or planned for. It was a reactive approach.
I wonder if our approach to "Flood Defence" is missing the point somewhat. Our general tack is one of defence to protect us during the event. Should we be thinking a little further ahead?
In local planning we have talked for years about SUDS or Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems. These are drainage plans that attempt to revert the impact of concreting over our green and open spaces and the impact this has on the ability of the land to absorb, slow and reduce the flow of rainfall out in to the larger natural water ways. What if we began to think about doing the same upstream of our major rivers. If we could increase or enhance the natural ability of land upstream to absorb more of the rainfall would we be able to reduce the potential for flooding further downstream. This SRDS might be in the form of upstream storage lagoons or reservoir's, or increasing the uplands natural absorption rates or maybe even diverting tributaries. It would be interesting to know how many m3 of storage we would need for the river Cree (the example here) to reduce the chance of flooding that damages property and threatens life in Newton Stewart. Could we explore and find, or create and provide, temporary storage for 24/48 hours worth of storm water rain fall, which in turn would alleviate the risk for many of those affected by flooding downstream? We are often reactive in the face of Mother Nature and rarely proactive.

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