In the aftermath of these events, our specialists at Marshalls are frequently called upon to answer questions on how to prevent flooding, and reduce flood risk. The irony isn’t lost on us; as the UK’s largest hard landscaping supplier we’re experts in managing surface water, but our head office is right next to the Calder Valley in Yorkshire, an area that is at risk of flooding. So what approach do we take to flood mitigation, and how do we reduce the impact a flood could have on our business?
The answer isn’t simple. There’s not one solution that will solve the flooding crisis, but rather a series of approaches which, if employed at the right time and in the right order, create a joined up and effective response – flood mitigation, protection and resilience.
A sensible flood response plan should always consider mitigation – what can be done to stop flooding in the first place?
By catching rainwater where it falls and slowing the rate at which it flows downstream we can reduce demand on sewers and watercourses during heavy rainfall, minimising flood risk. Sustainable Drainage Systems (or SuDS) achieve this goal and come in many different forms which can be integrated into landscapes at any scale. These need to be considered as a matter of course in all landscapes, particularly those on higher ground. Permeable paving, such as Marshalls Priora, is an ideal dual-purpose SuDS method; it’s fully engineered and installed to allow water to soak down through the surface where it can be stored in a specially prepared sub-base.
Our video below explains more about what SuDS are:
However, no amount of SuDS or extensive flood mitigation plan will stop the risk of flooding completely. Rainfall events are becoming more intense, more frequent and longer than we have encountered every before and so we need to look to other techniques to minimise flood damage. Flood protection methods should be considered in areas at risk of flooding lower down catchments – barrier systems which block water and prevent it from entering or damaging property. These can be permanent (such as retaining walls) or temporary, in the form of flood barriers. Temporary measures should be passive, which means they should operate automatically in a flood event and not require someone to activate them. A crucial point to make here is that sand bags shouldn’t be considered as an option for flood protection; once they’ve been used they're contaminated and awkward to dispose of, and besides – they simply don’t work.
Finally, flood resilience measures work by accepting that a property is at risk of flooding and therefore designing it so that it can get back to normal use as quickly as possible after a flood event. This pragmatic approach includes measures such as hard flooring, raised electricity points and stainless steel kitchens – all of which can be quickly sluiced down and disinfected as soon as flood water has disappeared.
Flooding is the biggest environmental threat facing the UK today. It requires joined-up thinking to tackle it successfully, and no single agency is solely responsible. It might be an uncomfortable truth to accept that devastating floods will continue to happen – but perhaps that’s what we need to do to minimise the worst effects when they do.