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Association of Drainage Authorities Chief Executive calls for greater emphasis on flood defence maintenance and removing obstacles to allowing on farm reservoirs

‘We don’t recognise the value of water’ is the message from a leading drainage figure who is calling for greater emphasis on maintaining flood defences as well as storage.

Farm reservoirs could provide the answer to not only reducing the rising costs faced by councils and Internal Drainage Boards along with securing our food supplies during droughts says Innes Thomson, chief executive of the Association of Drainage Authorities.

He is now calling on the Government to accelerate its consideration for this idea and to reduce blockages such as the need for planning to help push forward with this proposal.

The River Welland is once spilling through the hole in the bank of Cowbit and Crowland Wash PHOTO: Rich Decamps
The River Welland is once spilling through the hole in the bank of Cowbit and Crowland Wash PHOTO: Rich Decamps

South Holland District Council is among 31 authorities across the country which are fighting for a more sustainable funding solution for drainage boards due to the pressures faced by struggling public finances.

Mr Thomson said: “The Italians are seriously considering supporting the construction of about 10,000 on farm reservoirs to try to store smallish quantities of water.

“I know thought is being given in this country and my honest opinion is that we need to accelerate that thinking. We need to support the farming sector to allow them to be able to develop on farm water storage.

Swans at Cowbit Wash PHOTO: MARTIN BROWNE
Swans at Cowbit Wash PHOTO: MARTIN BROWNE

“During winter when water is kicking about farmers should be able to lift water from their drains to fill their reservoirs to full capacity so when we come out of winter all the different farm reservoirs are full to brimming.

“There needs to be a particular agreement with the farming sector so they don’t have to jump through all the administrative hurdles such as planning. As long as it is not physically affecting a lot of people.

“Would it not be more beneficial to allow farmers to extract water to their reservoirs and save on pumping costs for IDBs?

“We need to be more hasty on this.”

Mr Thomson is also calling for greater emphasis to be placed on maintaining our flood defences so the area is resilient and able to adapt to the pressures of climate change.

He said: “We don’t recognise the value of water properly. The value and damage it can cause. You need to manage it carefully or it can wreck havoc but the biggest danger is when you have too little.

“We are not really used to the significant or serious drought or the economic and environmental impacts.

“All the economists are saying that when you build a new flood defence structure, you are getting £5 back for every £1 spent. If you maintain what you have got then that is £11 back for every £1 spent.

“If you have a new car, you don’t thrash it until the brakes fail. You take to the garage and look after it. It is the same for our flood defences. The time has now come to put more focus on maintaining the flood defences we have got across the country.”

Mr Innes also said that the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had made a pledge a £75million pledge at the last National Farmers Union conference to fund flood recovery along with the replacing ageing equipment.

Changing our perception of water is a sentiment that is also echoed by Coun Paul Redgate, who is leading a special interest group of councils asking the Government to find a sustainable funding solution for IDBs.

He said: “We have become a society where water is easy, we don’t think about it as a sustainable resource as it always going to be there when we turn on the tap.

“We need to look at things a bit smarter and we need to do something.”

What do you think? Tell us your views in the comments below…

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