Water water everywhere

Most people now know that climate change is increasing the risk of more extreme weather.

Although unexpected things may happen, East Anglia is expected to have wetter winters and drier summers.  As an important Cambridge University study commissioned by the Combined Authority on Climate Risk made clear, the Cambridge and Peterborough area is at particular risk of intense rainstorms and flash flooding and this is likely to get worse.

Current risk of Surface Water flooding.

This means that we need to be prepared, and currently its very clear that we’re not.

The most obvious thing for most Cambridge residents, is the massive puddles accumulating along every road.

These hang around for weeks, even where they are on top of a drain. Many years ago these drains would have been cleaned out regularly, but now they’re blocked with a combination of plant matter, litter, grit from roads and sand from careless builders.

If drains can’t do their job and drain water away, it’s inconvenient, dangerous, or catastrophic; pedestrians get wet feet and get drenched by cars; potholes become invisible to both drivers and cyclists; traffic gets held up. Most seriously, in intense rainstorms, homes and businesses risk horrible flooding, and this could strike almost anywhere.

Blocked drain

The county council is the responsible body and we urgently need them to get on with the job of keeping the highway and street drains clear.

Some flooding is invisible, but even nastier than surface flooding. 

In some areas of Fenland, the water table has risen so much that its now only around 70cm below the surface. This is causing major problems for the sewage networks. 

These sewers should ideally be separate from the surface water drains. However, in some areas ground water is now pushing its way inside the sewers, through tiny little cracks that wouldn’t normally be big enough to cause a leak. This in turn means that the sewage pipes become completely overwhelmed, and a mixture of fresh water and sewage then bubbles out of lower lying manholes and drains.    One poor woman in March even had dilute sewage coming out of her kitchen waste drain.

Even in places where the water table is lower, there’s still a big problem with rainwater getting into the sewers, overwhelming them and washing dilute sewage out into streets and rivers.

To reduce the risk of this happening in our own neighbourhoods, we should be surrounding our homes with porous surfaces to catch rain and let it soak gently and safely back into the ground. Rain Gardens (as used on Histon Road) are also a good nature-based solution. These are small gardens, carefully designed using gravel and planting to catch and treat the polluted water running off the road and then let it drain safely back into the ground.

Rain Garden, Histon Road

Lets have more of them.