UK must adapt for weather extremes, says Environment Agency

 
Gnome in flood water Some river levels fluctuated between their highest and lowest levels within the space of four months

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Britain must become more resilient to both drought and flooding, Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith has said.

New figures from the agency show that one in every five days saw flooding in 2012, but one in four days saw drought.

Rivers such as the Tyne, Ouse and Tone fell to their lowest and rose to their highest flows since records began, within a four-month period of the year.

Lord Smith said urgent action was vital to help "prepare and adapt" many aspects of Britain for such extremes.

Meteorologists fear that extremes of weather may increase as global temperatures slowly rise.

Met Office analysis has suggested that the UK could experience a severe short-term drought, similar to the drought experienced in 1976, once a decade.

Transferring water

With the population of the water-stressed south-east of England projected to grow by almost a quarter by 2035, Lord Smith argued that the number of smaller reservoirs needed to be increased immediately and that new ways of transferring water from areas where it is plentiful to areas where it is scarce must be established.

Lord Smith, whose agency covers England and Wales, insisted the reservoirs would be needed not just by farmers, but also by commercial turf growers, golf clubs, sport stadiums and race courses.

There are currently about 1,700 small-scale storage reservoirs across England and Wales, supplying 30% of total irrigation needs.

He also said more homes would need to be protected from flooding.

Lord Smith said: "The extremes of weather that we saw last year highlight the urgent need to plan for a changing climate.

"In 2012 we saw environmental damage caused by rivers with significantly reduced flows, hosepipe bans affecting millions and farmers and businesses left unable to take water from rivers.

"But we also saw the wettest year on record in England, with around 8,000 homes flooded. Interestingly 2007, which saw some of the most severe flooding in recent memory, also started the year with hosepipe bans.

"More of this extreme weather will exacerbate many of the problems that we already deal with including flooding and water scarcity, so taking action today to prepare and adapt homes, businesses, agricultural practices and infrastructure is vital."

Chart showing the lows and highs of river levels
Boggy land

He pointed out that modelling suggests that a changing climate could reduce some river flows by up to 80% during the summer in the next 40 years.

Part of the UK’s flooding problem is due to previous policies.

For decades, farmers were paid to drain boggy land in order to improve it for grazing. This caused water to rush off the fields into rivers, whereas previously it would have been held in the bogs to smooth out the flow into rivers throughout the year.

In addition, many flood plains have been built on.

Follow Roger Harrabin on Twitter @rharrabin

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 695.

    Many of the comments here are right when the say that the whole thing is about making better use of what water we have.
    I'm sure most people know that the amount of water in the world remains constant, thus, there is the same amount of water in 2013 as there was in 1913,

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 694.

    Making the statement CO2 leads to positive feedback is a statement of fact that like so many other statements of fact in AGW have no backing in observation or experiment and has produced no accurate predictions

    You may as well assert that heavier objects fall faster than light ones like Aristotle did and many others believed till Galileo showed them the meaning of honesty in science by testing it

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 693.

    680.
    ThePhysicistRidesAgain
    20 Minutes ago

    679.Drunken Hobo

    Are you saying a duvet does generate energy? If so, what is the mechanism?

    //////

    I guess it all depends on who is under the duvet with you. lol

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 692.

    689.Peter Buck

    The Maldives' government's response to the imminent threat of CO2 induced sea level rise was to build another international airport, and upgrade their regional airports, in order to increase tourism. You couldn't make it up.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 691.

    I'm not saying that the envinroment is not an important, it is,
    but, taking the optimistic view here, since its effects are not likely to happen for 40 or if we believe other sources 60 years. Is it as high a prority as future care for the elderly/ disabled will be in half that period of time when some of us won't be alive while others will at varioys stsges of old or very old age?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 690.

    Billy, no they are not, when governments use false information to raise taxes, it becomes one. But whilst gullible soles believe the unproved rantings of a few, the rest of us will have to pay for it.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 689.

    There is a lot of hype going on about sea levels and there must be a political angle because it seems to be a load of twaddle.
    For instance, Aden airport is still the same height above water as it was in the sixties therefore the Indian Ocean is not rising, however, the Maldives claim they are going to be swamped???

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 688.

    @Trout Mask Replica

    I see you've knocked down a few straw men though I don't care much for your battle cry of " Next Myth debunked", anyway to each his own

    Face it, climate science has failed to distinguish between GH effect of H2O and CO2 in the atmosphere.

    This is a crucial part to the theory and it is ridiculous to even discuss anything else until this is resolved

    No Intellectual honesty?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 687.

    We had much better weather under a Labour Government!

  • Comment number 686.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 685.

    "684.Psycho-Si

    The real issue is that "they" will tell you what "they" want you to believe, so they can tax you more..."
    Don't confuse the issue of tax (governments will look for any excuse for a tax) with the debate on climate science, they are two separate topics.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 684.

    The real issue is that "they" will tell you what "they" want you to believe, so they can tax you more. Relatively speaking making cars move produces far less co2 than making them, so IF you believe that co2 is the problem, ( which it isn't) you would be driving a land rover which will last you 50 years, not a Prius, with its Batteries and total lifespan of 7 years!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 683.

    Just one problem. Climate change models predict dryer summers and lower summer flows ? fact - summer flows and floods show a small statistical increase in the last 15 years . Climate models predict wetter winters. Fact-. Dry winters were the cause of the weakly developed 2011 drought Ergo- Our water supply is showing an inverse response .to the perceived climate change science . Discuss !. .

  • Comment number 682.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 681.

    So my views my view may not be the most popular but if by was said by the head of Adult Care for Social Services in the county in which I live ( Gloucestershire) said at meeting ehat I went two last year at which she was guest speaker, the former is the case so an the latter will also be increasing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 680.

    679.Drunken Hobo

    Are you saying a duvet does generate energy? If so, what is the mechanism?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 679.

    655 politicsofenvy - By your logic, duvets don't work because they don't generate energy.
    656 Psycho-Si - Source please. You're suggesting that over 110ppm of CO2 was added by a single eruption of a single volcano. Considering pre-industrial levels were at about 280ppm, and CO2 is persistent in the atmosphere, I am sceptical of your claim.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 678.

    674 mappamundiman
    Crops are grown on areas of land which used to flood because it is often more fertile. The Nile floods were the only thing that meant the Egyptians could grow crops. Rice grows in paddy fields. The Fens are fertile because they were drowned forests and vegetation - so what do they plan for the Fens? Wind and solar farms!X

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 677.

    664.Trout Mask Replica

    You would do well to read just a little of what the Greeks wrote about logical reasoning and argument. I haven't been keeping a tally but, subjectively, I reckon you have transgressed most of the rules they formulated.

  • Comment number 676.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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