Keeping business afloat

Posted by Nicole Shamier, Senior Environmental Economist on 22 May 2014

On 1 May we hosted the ‘Keeping Business Afloat’ event at our Marble Arch offices in London. We had a good turnout of representatives from the risk management, food and drink, information technology, finance and public sectors, many of whom were able to join us to network over a glass of wine at the end of the session. We had an ambitious agenda which aimed to fully address commercial flood risk assessment and management.

The seminar began with Jonathan Day, Deputy Head of Investment and Funding at the Environment Agency, who talked us through the costs of the recent flood events and the grant in aid funding allocation going forward. Jonathan explained the Environment Agency’s four pronged approach to flood risk management investments; understanding the risk, avoiding inappropriate developments, building defences and forecasting, warning and informing. He stated that more funding will be required for flood risk investments from the private sector going forward and outlined examples from Cockermouth and Sandwich to show where this has been done already.

Pedr Jones, the Asset Strategy and Flood Risk Technical Consultant from Waterco, then provided a short non-technical introduction to hydraulic modelling in order to show the available sophistication of flood risk assessment. Pedr presented examples from his work with utilities and localities; Dwr Cymru - Welsh Water, the National Grid, Hull City Council and Colchester City Council.

After we had heard about the science of risk management, we turned to the solutions. Paul O’Hare from Manchester Metropolitan University discussed some outputs of the SMARTesT project. He stated that sand bags were not a very effective tool for flood risk management and illustrated some of the innovative property level resistance products available on the market. Paul noted that bouncing back from a flood was not good enough; organisations need to bounce forward by integrating resistance and resilience measures during the clean up to avoid excessive damages going forward.

Aaron Burton, Senior Consultant, and Matthew Hardwick, Principal Consultant, from Ricardo Energy & Environment, considered a solution which tackled the cause of flooding rather than the effect. They demonstrated how Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) can slow the travel of water to watercourses; reduce the risk of flash flooding and drought while providing many other benefits such as cooling, heating and carbon sequestration. Green roofs and walls, street trees, rain gardens, swales, detention basins and wetlands are also highly attractive and will enhance property value. Matthew outlined the policy drivers backing sustainable urban drainage measures and provided an example of implementation in Camborne.

I finished off the event with an overview of the next steps organisations and businesses could take to improve their flood resilience. This included the stages of risk assessment, identification of management options and estimation of costs and benefits. Although costs and benefits differ from site to site, investments in resilience, resistance and urban greening tend to provide a payback after the first or second flood. Meanwhile a contribution to a public flood defence scheme provides similar long term cost savings while providing additional benefits protecting customers and employees.

To see some examples of Ricardo Energy & Environment’s risk assessment work in the food and drink sector and partnership funding examples across England, along with all of the presentations from the seminar, you can view our ‘Keeping Business Afloat’ webcast via our download page.

You May also be interested in:

'Why "Flood Re" means there are more reasons to install property level flood protection'

'Flooding and the funding seesaw'

'Catchmet and water sensitive approaches for Chaohu Lake'

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