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COMMENT | ada gazette SPRING 2014 Since the last issue of the ADA


HENRY CATOR Chairman





Gazette we have seen extreme weather events in the North, East, South and West of the Country which have tested our resources to the full. I offer our deepest sympathy for all those fl ooded families and communities. The common response from anyone who is fl ooded is ‘please do not let this happen again’. Throughout the country, rainfall up to 2¼ times the December to February norm, with high winds and tides, have caused much coastal and fl uvial fl ooding and many challenges for the affected communities. We have not been alone in experiencing extreme weather. Freezing conditions in North America, drought in


systems to cope with the increasing risk and occurrence of exceptional weather events we need to have a policy of maintenance that is fi t to meet that challenge. The money spent nationally on maintenance has been reduced over many years. This policy is now unsustainable and must be changed. In many cases we also need to


recalibrate the balance between the ability of a watercourse to convey water and the increased tendency to interpret legislation to stop operations that are necessary to enable a channel to perform its proper drainage function. That is not to say that the environment is not important: it is to reiterate that


The money spent nationally on maintenance has been reduced over many years. This policy is now unsustainable and must be changed.


California, 800mm of rain in a month in northern Italy. The list goes on. It is not yet clear whether the


effects of change in the jet stream have abated. Without doubt the cost and time spent in recovery will be huge. It is for us with other partner organisations, including the Local Authorities and the Environment Agency, to work together to help and assist with the work to repair homes, businesses and communities. When that is completed we then need to address the ever more pressing backlog of maintenance on our rivers and channels. If we expect our


I wholeheartedly join Henry in our sympathy for victims of this winter’s fl ooding. The follow-up and lessons learnt will be wide- ranging, but one is the need to have our own large pumps in our own depots, and not be reliant on the wise Dutch and the fact that they did not need them for their own emergency response. I am proud of the extremely


hard-working staff of all ADA’s members in IDBs, the Environment Agency and Local Authorities in responding to the last three months’ events. We are pleased to have been able to offer help, both national and local, including the provision of equipment and workforce to heavily affected areas from those less affected. But they also need the funding, backing and physical resources to do the job. A substantial part of ADA’s time in the last few weeks has been in helping the media and general public understand the


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the primary function of artifi cial or heavily modifi ed watercourses is to drain water away. Those of us who live and work in the fl at lands at or below sea level understand and know that you can have rich biodiversity alongside a maintained and managed water course. The way to deliver this on the ground is through an integrated catchment approach. Each catchment is different throughout the country and the people who best understand how it should be managed are the people who live and work there. I have just returned from


rainfall and fl ooding events, and the challenges they have presented. This has been through a combination of media appearances and briefi ngs to a wide range of journalists, both still continuing. My hope is that they have not only helped to explain some key aspects but infl uenced the response. I am sure there will be much to do to support members and governments both national and local once the water levels recede signifi cantly.





a deeply depressing visit to the Somerset Levels where 22,500 hectares is under water, in places to a depth of 5½m. The homes, businesses, farms, animals, wildlife and people whose lives have been devastated by this fl ood water on a scale that I have never witnessed before. This is a real wake up call to the whole country. Unless we look after our catchment drainage it will only increase the risk and chances of it happening again. There are many things which we can do to help mitigate the effects and chances of fl ooding. Let us start with the Drainage Boards who have the local knowledge and expertise to work alongside the Local Authorities and the Environment Agency to return to a regime of proper maintenance of our rivers and channels, working alongside other organisations to achieve an integrated catchment approach which can help meet the challenges


of fl ood and drought. We need to learn to work with nature but not abandon everything to natural processes. Abandonment and despair are not an option. If we want to have economic prosperity we have to manage our systems a lot better than at present. Anybody who suffered the effects of fl ooding this year will agree. We face a huge challenge but it is amazing what can be achieved when people come together to help one another. Thank you so much to all those on the ground who make things happen.


on 19 March, and about which members have been written to separately. Changes to the Branch structure have also been agreed at a meeting in January, so we hope all is set for this signifi cant change in ADA’s structure and standing. Finally, two dates for your


diary: The Local Authority Seminar takes place on Thursday 20 March in Peterborough. Places are still available, and more details are available at www.ada.org.uk/local_ authority_seminar.html.


JEAN VENABLES Chief Executive


I am proud of the extremely hard-working staff of all ADA’s members in IDBs, the Environment Agency and Local Authorities in responding to the last three months’ events.


Our normal work with our committees and ADA events has of course continued alongside these events, as has our progress towards incorporation. This is due to happen on 1 April, subject to formal decision of members at a meeting to be held before the Executive Committee meeting


And we have fi xed the date and venue for this year’s Annual Conference – Wednesday 12 November at the same venue as the last two years, One Great George Street in Westminster. Do please put the date in your diary now; details will be circulated in good time beforehand.





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