Guest blog by Samuel Townsend
Overview and Expectations
Hi, my name is Sam Townsend and I have been volunteering with Slow The Flow for nearly five years. I am a Masters by Research Student at the University of Huddersfield, investigating (with Slow The Flow and the National Trust) the influence of Natural Flood Management (NFM) – Wood Structures On Biogeochemical Processes In Headwater Streams.
I was invited to represent Slow The Flow at The Flood Expo 2022, which is considered to be the UK’s and Europe’s largest leading flood management event. I was asked to explore the latest techniques, technologies, infrastructure and educational tools to help mitigate flood risk. When planning for The Flood Expo one of the key areas I knew I wanted to visit in detail was The Community Flood Zone. Whilst the Calder Valley is already well known for its strong community flood resilience, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn and exchange best practices.
Some of the key exhibitors in The Community Flood Zone included:
- Communities Prepared, who provide educational resources to support the local community and businesses on how to prepare, respond and recover from a flood event;
- Mary Dhonau (OBE), who advises on practical flood preparation using her Flood Mobile;
- Flood Re, who facilitate affordable insurance options for properties which have been flooded and offer a ‘build back better’ scheme.
I was also very interested to see the latest developments in Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) – which is building new, or retrofitting existing, infrastructure to help slow the flow of water entering the drainage system in urban areas (and subsequently, the river system).
(You can learn more about SuDS from one of our Trustees at Slow The Flow, Amanda McDermott, a Chartered Landscape Architect with a particular interest in SuDS, on the ‘You Can Slow The Flow’ pages of the STF website.)
Community Flood Zone
After two early morning trains from Halifax, I arrived at Birmingham NEC and was the first one through the doors when they opened. As commented before, I was very interested in speaking with the exhibitors from The Community Flood Zone. I spoke to Richard Hood, Senior Project Officer from Communities Prepared; he explained the importance of educating individuals, communities and industries and enabling them to become more resilient by being self-reliant so they can respond quickly in a flood event. There are resources on the Communities Prepared website if you would like to find out more on how you can be better prepared.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Dhonau (OBE), I would highly recommend taking a virtual tour of her Flood Mobile. I was personally toured around all of the latest flood protection measures on the market, to help mitigate the risk of your house flooding. Including, kitchen units made from metal/marine ply/plastic, on legs concealed by removable kickboards, and tiled floors, with waterproof adhesive and waterproof grout.
However, Mary also recognises that with the cost of living crisis, not everybody can afford to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on flood protection equipment. Whilst it is always recommended to use tested and approved equipment to help protect your home; this may not always be possible during this current economic climate. To do everything you can to protect your home from a flood event, you can use everyday household items, for example using gaffer tape for sealing airbricks or a deflated kids’ ball as a toilet bung.
I also spoke to Kelly Ostler-Coyle, who is head of communications for Flood Re. Flood Re is an insurance scheme which aims to make flood cover more widely available and affordable for households who are at the highest risk of flooding. If the household qualifies for Flood Re and the insurer is part of the scheme, that’s all the consumer needs to worry about. Flood Re works behind the scenes directly with insurance companies by reimbursing the insurer for any flood costs claimed by the policy holder.
Also during the panel on Community Flood Resilience – How to be prepared, both Kelly (Flood Re) and Mary (Flood Mobile) discussed the Build Back Better Scheme, for eligible households which have been flooded. They can apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to rebuild and retrofit their homes to make them more resilient against flooding.
It was remarkable to see all of the latest advancements in flood technologies and protection. For example;
- new Augmented Reality (AR) software to map flood risk.
- Resilico – a mobile app to create a personalised flood plan, innovative flood barriers, flood storage tanks, and the latest rescue equipment.
- SuDS innovations such as smart green roofs, with sensors and AI technology which uses Met Office and hydrological data to detect how much water the roof can store and when to discharge.
The keynote presentation at The Flood Expo was presented by Laura Tobin (GMB Weather Presenter) & Professor Liz Bentley (Chief Executive at the Royal Meteorological Society), and titled Rain, Rain, Go Away. It is very difficult to picture why we would want less rainfall, when we have experienced the hottest meteorological day on record this year, and water companies are declaring that we have had a drought and issuing hose pipe bans. However, it is, in part, the short and intense rainfall events the Calder Valley catchment is susceptible to, combined with a hard dry landscape, that make the area prone to flashy flood events – which can happen within a very short period of time and with little warning. It was great to see that Natural Flood Management, amongst many other strategies, was mentioned to help strengthen community flood resilience and protection. Although, with climate change, the 2050 projections suggest that these extremes will become the norm, and we will likely have wetter winters and drier summers with rainfall events of extreme intensity becoming more normal. Therefore, to tackle climate change, Laura discussed how everybody could make small changes to our lifestyle, which could significantly impact global temperatures long term.
What would I like to see at the Flood Expo 2023?
The Flood Expo was an incredible experience, particularly the keynote speakers. However, something I would like to see more of next year is Natural Flood Management schemes; whilst I appreciate the Flood Expo exists to convene many different industry sectors, with the aim of selling their products and services, as well as networking. Across the UK, there are several civil engineering and landscape architecture firms working on NFM (and flood alleviation) schemes. It would have been fantastic to see examples of projects to encourage other organisations and government bodies to understand and embrace nature-based solutions (NBS), as this is becoming a growing market with more government funding being allocated for these types of schemes.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and built some very useful contacts, and I am looking to visit next year; thank you for taking the time to read my blog.