How Hydrology Affects Flood Management

Author: Megan Lindeman

The unprecedented flooding that hit Cumbria in December 2015 has brought the issue of flood management to the forefront of people’s minds. A definite shift in focus from hard engineering solutions at the most flood prone locations upstream towards the catchment as a whole has been witnessed. Scrutiny of our land management practices is an issue face for many landowners. Ultimately, the water must go somewhere, and you can only build the flood defence walls so high. Hydrology may hold the key to unlocking a flood resistant future

Hydrology can be defined as “the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water”. Monitoring changes in water quality and quantity is a crucial part of any environmental supervision role, and is normally carried out as part of our Environmental Clerk of Works service on the majority of our construction sites.

Methods of flood management including ditch blocking on upland bogs, reinstating meanders into river channels, tree planting, and even the release of keystone species such as beaver have become the centre of the discussion. Personally, I think this shift in thinking can only be a positive thing. Dealing with the problem in a proactive method way rather than reactive.

Currently I am in the fortunate position to be on a part-time MSc in Sustainable Water Management at Lancaster University kindly sponsored by Nevis. Although I am still in the early stages, the shift towards a more integrated approach to water management has become immediately apparent. Whilst it has long been known in the scientific community that water environments are highly connected and therefore need to be managed at a catchment scale, this approach is now increasingly being adopted at a wider planning level. There has also been a shift towards “softer” management techniques; working with nature to allow it to do the majority of the work, with minimal maintenance or input from hard engineering measures.

I look forward to learning more about it over the coming two years, and ultimately being able to put some of these new methods into practice as part of Nevis’s service offering.