As winter brings flood risks, Britain takes action

New investments to manage climate crises and protect the strategic infrastructure of the United Kingdom.

One hundred and sixty flood warnings have been issued in recent days by the British government. In many regions of the country, storms turned from snowfall during the coldest hours to pouring rain. Dorset, Somerset, and the Midlands are the most affected areas (where alarms have been concentrated), but all of England is concerned about the intensification of rains as the new looming danger, especially regarding the stability of water infrastructures.

In the past weeks, floods have also jeopardized the regular operation of railway lines. Trains connecting Edinburgh with Newcastle have been slowed down due to the effects of heavy rains, as well as those departing from the Bristol station.

The recent alarms revive memories of the atmospheric crisis about a month ago when in some areas of Scotland and central England, hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes due to damages caused by intense rains.

It is essential to intervene in water infrastructures, crucial for managing climate repercussions effectively and preventing negative impacts on national mobility networks, from trains to highways, and even to metro lines.

Investments in infrastructure: the government's response

The British government has responded to the alarm by launching a plan worth £1.6 billion (2 billion dollars) in recent months. These funds are intended to be invested in improving the quality of water infrastructures.

The goal of the plan, coordinated by the British government with Ofwat (The Water Services Regulation Authority, the country’s water authority), is to modernize English water infrastructures. This includes building facilities for managing wastewater that ends up in rivers, as well as infrastructure capable of withstanding the impact of floods or mitigating the impact of drought through intelligent water resource management.

“These new schemes will help accelerate the delivery of the urgent improvements we need to protect our environment,” said British Water Minister, Rebecca Pow. “The investment set out here will also provide an important boost for regional jobs, businesses and local communities.”

Overall, these investments focus on specific projects, such as securing the water network where hundreds of thousands of leaks are recorded daily.

“Substantial investment is needed to address the challenges to our water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality, and drought resilience,” said David Black, Chief Executive of Ofwat.

Thames Barrier: Protecting London from Floods

In the face of climate change and its impact on water crises, London has taken proactive measures by constructing a sophisticated system of barriers that functions as a real barrier against floods coming from the North Sea.

The “Thames Barrier” has been operational since 1982 and still stands as a symbol of the virtuous impact that infrastructural interventions can have on water management. The structure is located at the northern and southern extremes of the Thames, in the Newham and Royal Borough of Greenwich districts, respectively.

Its existence is crucial for the city of London, which has faced violent floods since ancient Roman times. The most recent major flood occurred in 1953, causing severe damage to the city. The planning for the “Thames Barrier” began in 1969 after this flood, and construction started in 1974, concluding in 1982.

Since its inauguration, the infrastructure has been a true safeguard for the English capital, preventing 209 floods to date. One of these, on November 9, 2007, would have been as violent as the one that crippled the metropolis in 1953. Thus, from then until now, London is thankful for the incredible infrastructure protecting it from the violence of the sea.