HELEN Compson’s Talking Point ( Courant , December 18) on the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s (CIWEM) view of recent flood events was a superb analysis of the factors at play and the difficulties we face in tackling them.

Whatever the consequences of the COP21 Paris declaration, it seems reasonable to assume that carbon emissions will increase before they decrease, and that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity as a result. If the consequences of this are to be addressed the solution must be an integrated approach at a catchment scale.

Unfortunately, at present there are two schools of thought, and they could not be more polarised. One advocates getting the water to the sea as quickly as possible by increasing river capacity through deepening the channel (dredging) and raising its height (building up flood banks). The other advocates ‘slowing the flow’ by keeping water in the headwaters for as long as possible so that downstream peaks are significantly lower than if the water arrives at pinch points over a short period of time.

At Tyne Rivers Trust, we support wholeheartedly the CIWEM view that building higher flood banks and dredging will not create the capacity needed to contain flows as large as those we have experienced recently (and are likely to see more often in the future). We must embrace solutions which look to ‘slow the flow’: grip blocking on the moors, vegetation in fields and margins, increased tree cover and natural flood risk management techniques.

Tyne Rivers Trust and others are already delivering these kinds of projects, but to have a large-scale impact they need to be embraced and deployed more widely. Defra’s Catchment-Based Approach is the right way to achieve this, but the initiative needs to be properly funded and supported as a long-term strategy. At the same time, flood risk management can and should be fully integrated with other policy objectives relating to water quality, biodiversity and the wider environment. This is not as difficult as it might first appear – it simply needs the right attitude and appropriate investment.



Tyne Rivers Trust.