Weatherwatch: floods can be controlled by natural means

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Flooding has become a big issue after large parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire were left underwater after huge rainfall totals in the last week.

There have been calls for more flood defences but flood walls, gates and ditches tend to push flood waters from one place to another. Instead, there is a growing recognition that floods can also be controlled by natural means.

Upland peat bogs help slow water flow by soaking up heavy rainfalls like a sponge and releasing the water gradually, so long as the bogs are kept in good condition and not drained and developed. Encouraging peatlands also helps to capture and store huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, far more efficiently than woodlands.

Local authorities can play their part by using parks, playing fields and other open land as temporary overflows for storing rainwater. Even householders can help. About 5 million gardens in Britain are completely paved over, increasing the runoff of rainwater into overloaded drains. But gardens with soil and plants hold up the water, and in North America the Depave movement campaigns to rip up concrete and asphalt in local neighbourhoods and turn the hard surfaces into gardens to soak up rainwater and help prevent flooding.

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