After returning from a walk this afternoon across Leyton Marshes and onto the Lower Lea it is quite apparent how much it has rained in England this winter. Last Friday the Lea was at its highest level I have witnessed in many years, today it was still very high but had dropped about a metre, the marsh was flooded but that is usual for this time of year. The simple truth is global warming has changed the British weather and this is going to affect our rivers especially if our current selection of politicians make the final environmental decisions.
I did promise to myself not to get political here so I will refrain but I will say one thing, our stand-in Flood Minister Eric Pickles is a misinformed fool and I fear that he will cause so much environmental damage to our rivers that it could take a generation before they are rectified, long after Mr Pickles has left his post. ‘Dredging’ is a word that has been thrown about over the last couple of months as the answer to the flooding problems, is it? I’m really not convinced and nor are the true experts out there, dredging seems a nice quick solution and makes the government look like they are doing something, great but I believe it is the wrong action to take?
Now the science bit. I’m no expert but using the River Parrett as an example, if you dredge the whole length the silt would equate to 2-3% in volume of the amount of standing water in the locally affected area, so you would still have 97-98% of the water left. So dredging must be more about flow and not volume? If this is the case then the entire length of the river (37miles) would have to be dredged to avoid bottle necks down stream and the potential flooding of towns like Bridgewater and Dunball. I imagine dredging 37 miles of river would cost millions and be devastating to the landscape. Finally, would this not cause a fast flowing and dangerous relief channel?
As I said at the start, there are dark days ahead for our rivers and their inhabitants which will last long after the current rabble of politicians have gone. It is a very depressing thought and I can’t see dredging is the answer unless someone can explain to me the science rather than simply expressing the frustration.
In the meantime a flooded landscape in its splendour…
Update: Thanks to a certain Mole I came across this and discovered two things, one there appears to be a hydrological community and two, they seem to know what they are talking about, see here
Tench Dreamer said:
Was over the filter beds at lea bridge rd my self couple of Sundays ago . It looked fierce ,but impressive . In a way it looked better for the water. But ……what oh what will it do for the fishing ? I shall be back in the summer with me ledger rod . You ok Nick
The tuesday swim said:
The fishing will be fine so long as the water is not polluted by ‘run-off’ from the roads and some domestic waste pipes up near Tottenham. I’m hoping for a pike in a particular spot before the season finishes, the spot in question is really difficult to get to though!
It’s odd how the fact we’ve had the wettest January for 250+ years barely gets a mention in all the news reports. Why is it flooding? Tory, Labour, RSPB, EA……… They’ve all had the blame. Maybe the fact it’s been raining for 6 weeks on saturated land might have something to do with it?
The trouble is the entire poplulation now think of themselves as experts in flood defence because they’ve seen a few news reports of desperate and devasted locals screaming for dredging. The reporters haven’t been much better. I’m no expert either. But it’s funny how the government are quick to point out that fracking is safe because the scientists say so but that flood experts are wrong because the government says so. You can’t have it both ways. Either you accept expert, reasoned opinion or you just listen to the people who shout the loudest.
But, the Somerset Levels are odd. It’s a special case. Maybe the locals are right. I honestly don’t know. Something has gone ‘wrong’ somewhere. Either it’s natural phenomena (rain) or it is “man-made”. The land does have to be managed, drained, pumped and maintained or else it just becomes a marsh again. It’s not a “normal/natural” environment.
And it is managed. I’ve been there and seen what used to be the bottom of the river bed piled up along the banks in the last few years. They are dredged in parts. You see a hell of a lot more EA activity there than others areas in the region. Maybe they’ve been doing the wrong work in the wrong areas but this idea that they’ve abandonned for 20 years is completely wrong.
I’ve fished a bit on the Parrett. It’s very slow moving, almost drain-like rather than a river but the land it so flat it’s not surprising. The banks are built up, higher and steeper than ‘normal’ rivers. Its unnatural and canalised. Because of the built up banks once you have water in the fields it can’t get into the river. It’s just sitting there. Hence all the pumping. But all the pumping is doing is moving water from one area to another. It’s not removing it. It looks more like a PR exercise…………..
The tuesday swim said:
Thanks for you reply Noel, your point about built up sides and water not being able to drain back into the river is quite interesting, another point for discussion in the dredging debate.
‘expert’ def: former drip under pressure?
Hi Nick, great to read this post and I totally agree with you. Interesting enough I’ve just been in Holland this week where it has been raining. Like our landscape much of it is sodden, furrows in the fields full of water but there seems little flooding. What there is to aid the flat landscape are the network of dykes – surely this could be an answer rather than dredging and damaging the natural habitat of our waterways. For sure the EA could do more but I’ve been witness to the concrete culvert that carries the water of Beverley Brook and this isn’t the ideal solution either. Silting of rivers as detailed in Charles Rangely-Wilson’s book The Silt Road a casing point.
Creating and managing flood defences need to be put in place in the lowlands and along rivers such as the Thames. However we are witnessing an unprecedented level of continued rain and the storms of the the South West are possibly one of those phenomena that will possibly not be seen again for 50 years. Clearly the jet stream has dropped and that is a factor that no one has pointed out, this alone is a great contributor to the current climatic conditions over the UK. Will be interesting to hear more views.