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Mapping flood risks
By Matt Precey
BBC Look East has been given exclusive access to the latest generation of maps which for the first time identify those areas at risk from flash flooding.
The maps are being distributed to the emergency services, utilities and local authorities across the UK to help them prioritise their response when an extreme level of rainfall is predicted for a given area.
Using precision laser mapping techniques to provide a highly-detailed topographical picture, these maps identify those areas naturally vulnerable to surface water flooding, where rainwater is likely to collect.
The Environment Agency has also set up the Flood Forecasting Centre with the Met Office to provide emergency responders early warnings of predicted extreme rainfall. The maps will be used to target where to act.
Risk areas are shaded blue, indicating where the water is likely to collect. The size of these risk areas is based on the occurrence of a 1-in-200-year torrent of rain in which an extreme amount of water would fall very quicky, overwhelming the sewerage system.
It follows the recommendations of the Pitt Review, set up in the wake of major flooding in Hull and Gloucestershire in the summer of 2007, when 55,000 properties were flooded, costing insurers an estimated £3 billion - described as the country’s biggest peacetime emergency since World War II.
According to Pitt the impact of climate change means that "the probability of events on a similar scale happening in the future is increasing”.
These surface water flood maps were compiled by JBA Consulting, who have licensed them to the Environment Agency to be distributed to councils, emergency services, and utility companies in line with the Pitt recommendations.
The maps do not take into account the built environment, flood defence measures or even sewerage capacity but simply identify the areas of a city or county which may be naturally susceptible to flooding.
Look East can also reveal that this flood mapping data has also been sold to at least one property search company for use in Home Information Packs where flood risk assessments are requested.
Commenting on the Flood Forecasting Centre, Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith told Look East: "I think this is a first anywhere in the world, where we've brought the forecasting and the hydrologists together, so that we can actually provide the best possible service to the public."
last updated: 02/04/2009 at 14:50