Buckinghamshire Council have introduced a project which will provide support to nine areas of the Chiltern Hills and Berkshire Downs, including Colnbrook with Poyle in Slough, at high risk of groundwater flooding.
The establishment of ‘Project Groundwater’ by Buckinghamshire Council will develop modelling techniques and a flood warning service for groundwater flooding. The Council will work in close collaboration with the community to help protect their homes and businesses. The Council also works in partnership with five other local authorities and partner organisations that provide expertise in engineering, community engagement, flood risk management, evaluation, and research.
These initiatives will take four years to be established and will be funded by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of the £200 million, six-year Flood and Coastal Innovation Programme. This is managed by the Environment Agency and aims to test innovative and practical actions to increase our resilience and ability to adapt to climate change.
What is groundwater flooding?
Groundwater flooding happens when too much water gathers beneath the ground, causing the water table to rise upwards and eventually reach the ground surface. The flooding can cause damage to property, buildings and roads and frequently overwhelms drainage and sewer networks, contaminating water and making toilets and showers unusable for long periods. This form of flooding can last up to three months.
In the Chiltern Hills and Berkshire Downs, people can experience groundwater flooding from water held in the chalk and gravel aquifers. Almost 200 communities and 70,000 properties may be at risk of flooding from groundwater in this area alone.
The need for Buckinghamshire Council’s ‘Project Groundwater’
Groundwater flooding can be devastating but the lack of information and management techniques available often leaves communities with little support. Without effective mapping and modelling, groundwater flooding can seem to come out of nowhere, with communities and management authorities not understanding how to prepare and respond. Findings from the project could therefore benefit hundreds of communities and thousands of properties at risk of groundwater flooding across the region. The project’s findings will also support a national understanding of how to manage groundwater flooding.
To ensure that the project responds to the community’s needs, a recent survey explored the levels of current understanding and concern regarding flooding in the nine pilot communities. 89% of people surveyed wanted additional support to manage flooding locally. The survey highlighted that residents need more information about the options available to help them adapt to flooding, how their community might be affected, and the cost-effective solutions they can apply.
When asked about their concern for groundwater flooding, 94% of people responded that they felt some level of concern, with over a quarter of residents reporting themselves as being very concerned.
Mary Long-Dhonau OBE, also known as ‘FloodMary’ is an expert in property flood resilience. She asserted that on average, when flooding occurs, householders are displaced on average for 9 months while the property is dried and repaired. In regards to Buckinghamshire Council’s Groundwater Project, Mary stated that “anything that can be done to both raise awareness and to support those who live at risk gets a huge FloodMary seal of approval!”
Overall, Buckinghamshire Council’s project appears to be aiming for positive change and will particularly benefit small rural communities where there are limited support networks, along with a lack of funding. As the UK continues to feel the impacts of climate change it is vital that societal resilience to environmental disruptions is prioritised, particularly in areas, both inland and coastal, at risk of disasters such as flooding.