EDITORIAL: Were the floods preventable?

The recent unprecedented flooding in the North of England could have been far less severe if certain simple measures were taken.

The 2000 European Water Framework Directive, a law handed down to the UK government from the EU, officially deems dredging rivers as environmentally unfriendly as it encroaches upon the “undisturbed natural conditions” of rivers.

The River Derwent, which used to be frequently dredged to allow for a higher water capacity, experienced heavy flooding in December.

The current Environment Secretary Liz Truss said global warming may be responsible for the floods.

Whilst it is true that a warmer climate increases the volume of water clouds can hold before precipitating this tends to affect long-term climate patterns, especially summer rainfall, and has little impact on the intensity of storms.

The state of flood defences in the North of England has also received a lot of media attention.

Flood defences themselves are very expensive and often just push the water down to the next town or village which is less well protected; the success of the Thames barrier is the exception to the rule.

The North of England used to have very good flood defences in the form of riverside trees which soaked up excess moisture however, for a variety of reasons, many of them have recently been chopped down, adding pressure to rivers.

As the above demonstrates, extreme weather events rarely have only one cause and it is important to be mindful of all the factors involved when preparing for the next one.

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