Whilst we cannot stop flooding from happening and we know the costs involved are going to increase, we can reduce how damaging they are. Through restoring our landscapes and building our towns and cities to work with nature, rather than against it, we can better manage flood waters in our environment.
A lot of progress has been made in the UK in managing flood risk over the decades, reducing the impacts of flooding greatly. However, many people, communities, and businesses are still affected by flooding each year. Climate change is moving the goalposts away from us, making flood-causing events bigger and more frequent. The Environment Agency predicts that just to maintain our current standard of protection there would need to be an additional investment of £1bn every year – this is on a scale of a project like High Speed Rail 2.
While it is understood that flooding cannot be completely prevented, Risk Management Authorities, including the Environment Agency and your local council, will continue to work hard to reduce the risks as much as possible – but there is more we can do as individuals and communities to increase our own resilience to flooding.
Our 360 video, Inundation Street, was designed to introduce people to the idea of flood resilience, showing you some simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe before, during, and after flooding. For the best experience access the video via the YouTube App on a smartphone. As this is a 360 video, you can drag your mouse or move your device to change your view. If you have a cardboard virtual reality headset this will give you the full Virtual Reality experience!
To face climate change head on we need to reconsider how we approach flooding. In the past, we have tried to fight flooding, building walls to keep it out of our towns and cities and risking devastation when a flood comes that is just too big. We could continue down this road, building ever bigger walls and cutting ourselves off from the natural environment around us, always risking that one day the walls we hide behind will be overtopped.
Alternatively, we could build together a future where people and places are able to adapt to flooding. Towns and cities would work with natural processes, allowing water into some areas during floods but keeping it away from homes and businesses where possible. Where it cannot be kept away, buildings will be adapted to keep water out, or to recover quickly when it does enter. It means that we will have to accept that floods will happen, but at their worst, they will be disruptive and not damaging.
Building this future will be difficult but it is within reach. It is something that is worth doing as the benefits extend far beyond just reducing flood risk. It will mean greener, safer, and healthier cities, with better connected communities that are engaged with the wellbeing of their neighbours and their local environment.