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The future of flooding: An overview

Following some of the worst storms and flooding the country has seen in 20 years, the government announced  plans to invest money in flood defences over the next two decades. Originally these plans indicated a reduction in the amount spent in real terms, although this may now change given recent events. What will the impact be on the country and particularly those currently affected by flooding? At Anderselite, we wanted to take a closer look…

The future of flooding
Predications for the future have highlighted that the levels of coastal erosion and the amount of flooding that will occur will increase. This will be caused by the likely effects of climate change and the government is looking at how their money will be best spent to deal with the impact of this. They are considering their plans for the next 25 years and how they should target the funds to reduce the damage caused by severe weather. This has all come on the back of the recent spell of bad weather: December 2013 was recorded as the sixth wettest since 1910.

Flooding could be the greatest single issue we face because of climate change. Official figures indicate that not enough is being spent to maintain the current defences against the increased risk posed by future developments.
According to figures from the Environment Agency (EA), we need to be investing £1 billion every year by 2035 just to protect our current flood defences and meet new requirements. This is nearly twice the current level. The forecast for 2015/2016 spending is that £546 million will be allocated to flood defences, which compares with £646 million that was spent in 2010/2011.

Government plans for the level of spending that will take place from 2015 to 2021, show that a total of £2.3 billion has been set aside for work on flood defences. This will be combined with money from other sources, largely local authorities and private businesses. They help to increase the funds available for flood work in individual areas. Currently, there has been £148 million put forward to last until 2015.

The impact of spending cuts
A recent report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Select Committee asked tough questions regarding the impact that cuts to Defra's budget would have on flood defences. One of the biggest issues the department will face is how it will afford to respond to future flooding problems and the help and support it can provide to residents who are affected. Those working in the water industry are looking at a variety of initiatives.

In the middle of the flooding at the end of 2013 and the start of this year, the government had announced significant cuts to Defra's budget and workforce. It was set to lose one third of its funding and another 1,700 jobs would have been gone by October. This would mean that the number of positions in the department were reduced by 23% since 2009. In recent days however there have been pledges to increase spending and this may mean changes in these original plans.

The problem of flooding
We will never be able to completely eliminate the risk of flooding, as damage caused by the weather is always unpredictable. However, there are ways in which we can reduce the incidences of it and limit the impact that it has on people and properties.

There are currently more than 5.5 million properties in England and Wales that are perceived to be at risk of flooding. With projections showing that sea levels will rise and that the storms we suffer from will become more intense and regular, this number could rise significantly.

As the risk of flooding increases, but the amount of investment to spend on infrastructure is debated, we will simply have to wait and see how a future balance is found.

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