The story reads like a list of superlatives:
“The UK is enduring the worst series of winter storms in more than 20 years, weather experts have said, as Devon prepares for even more flooding.” Says the Torquay Herald Express.
“Early December tidal surge worst since 1953.”
“Wettest January in SW since 1910.”

Flooded garden in Totnes - photo copyright Malcolm Pemberton

Flooded garden in Totnes – photo copyright Malcolm Pemberton

Of course everyone is doing the best they can with limited funds. The Environment Agency oversees national issues and has a particular brief to saves lives first. Local councils are doing what they can to minimise risks in their areas. But it’s all a matter of priorities and different interest groups. Farmers would like their land protected from flooding, home-owners would like their properties safeguarded. Road and rail agencies would like their operations to run without breaks.

Flooded footpath in Totnes - phot copyright Malcolm Pemberton

Flooded footpath in Totnes – photo copyright Malcolm Pemberton

The reality is that there is not enough money to go round, and when heavy rain on high ground swells the mountain streams and fills the lower rivers, which then meet a tidal surge coming up the river from the sea, the result is inevitable. There are many ways to combat the problems, but each way causes its own knock-on effects. Rivers can be dredged to increase their capacity, dams can be built to control how much water empties downstream at one time, flood defences can be built where rivers meet the sea (like the Thames Barrier). Everything though, has an impact on the whole chain.

Projects can often get delayed as a rare bug is found living in an area due for dredging, another project would affect wading birds and another would affect fishing – and it’s all true. However, on a local level much can be done to protect individual properties, but more thought needs to be given to building them in the first place. It may indeed be idyllic to have your back lawn sloping gently down to the river, but maybe a stout wall at the water’s edge (with pumps installed behind it to deal with ground water seepage) may be more practical. Or, perhaps, if you build your home in a flood-risk area, it should be able to float 😉