Thursday, 28 July 2011

Falling In The Water

In the South East we have had a long dry spell, the water companies are putting in meters as fast as they can and there is talk of water stress. These are in the very districts where Lord Prescott and his friends wanted to double the number of housing units.

Being a contrarian, this is the time to discuss flood risks, notably in London. There have been programmes in the past that have raised this question. Unluckily, they have been hyped up with raging torrents, tsunami type waves, life rafts on the High Street in Hampstead and huddled masses starving on Shooters Hill.

The reality is likely to be not more than a few inches (sorry, centimetres) gently overflowing the walls and going into all the underground and low level facilities. The overall level might not even be enough to flood The Strand. Even so the damage and disruption would be huge and very costly. It would take months, even years to sort out.

Whenever there is a heavy rainfall at present there are already overflows of the drains into The Thames sending Marylebone’s sewage down to Margate and beyond. There is a project to install a new Big Sewer to deal with it, but this will take some time to complete. Down river where walls and defences end there will be larger problems.

We know what it would take. A season of high tides, a stiff Nor’ Easter and a period of steady, sometimes heavy rain that goes on a lot longer than anticipated. We have seen some bad floods in recent years; it takes only an unlucky combination. The experts tell us that these events only happen statistically at rare intervals. Earth, sadly takes little notice of the long range forecasts.

We are not yet rushing to the Outdoor Activity shop to buy our Sou’ Westers or rehearsing our Tribute Fisherman’s Friends routine, but only guessing what could happen when. If anything, it is more difficult than forecasting the Atlantic Hurricanes. There is enough debate on this year’s Hurricane season to put any shaman off his entrails.

Just out of interest and looking at the tables and patterns, clearly there are several options of “windows” in the next decade and it is possible that none of them will see anything like this. But it is intriguing to play the guessing games. There are dates that are all too possible if one applies the law that if things can go wrong then they will go wrong.

My first date on the list is Spring 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Flood defence is based on cost against risk, but unfortunately the future risk of flooding is impossible to calculate with any precision. Live on high ground is the only answer.