Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Sitting here in my warm house with dry feet it may be a bit cruel to pick holes in other people's moans. However, ordinary people, vox popped on local news programmes complaining about the speed at which warnings were issued for the current flooding, need to understand that you can't, as far as I'm aware, relocate a water treatment works in seven days.

And you can't pour more money at a metre of water. In fact you can probably only redirect money once contingency funds are exhausted. But you do have to wait for the levels to go down.

If these flood levels are the worst since records began (and records began at various times in various places and some authorities started official records quite late) then should we build our infrastructure to withstand 100 year highs, 500 year highs, 1000 year highs...?

As I write, my friend David Wickens, to my surprise, has just become a bit more famous than he probably wanted as he has been interviewed on the Today programme. He is now the guy at Severn Trent Water responsible for getting things sorted. He did well considering he probably hasn't slept much recently. For many years he used to tell people he looked down drains for a living, as a pollution control engineer. Earning his salary this week I reckon.

But to continue, a building with a 100 year life needs to be weighed against an occurrence that happens once every five buildings or every ten. It is possible that one day here it may rain more than it has just now? Yes. Should we live on stilts? Well no. Realistic disaster management anticipation sacrifices some houses from time to time.

I'm sorry if your tele is floating at the moment. I know people will do their best to warn you if it is going to happen again, but if you live on a flood plain it might. It just might. And you probably ain't gonna get a levee big enough to stop it unless taxes, or water bills, go up substantially. Oh yes, and since our water companies were privatised we will probably have to pay for some of the clean up operation.

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