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england flooding

£150m for trials of experimental anti-flooding technology

Image credit: reuters

The Department for Environment, Food, and rural Affairs (Defra) has announced £150m funding for the Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme, which aims to develop and test improved approaches to preventing and protecting against flooding.

The funding will go towards 25 projects across England to tackle coastal erosion and mainland flooding. The programme will be managed by the Environment Agency. The projects will be largely nature-led – for instance, one project aims to restore sub-tidal habitats such as kelp beds and sea grass to mitigate coastal erosion – although many also propose deploying technology in novel applications.

Some will aim to provide granular advanced flood warnings. For instance: a Staffordshire-based project will develop new technologies to forecast and map flood events, potentially using CCTV monitoring; a Gateshead-based project will trial a groundwater flood warning service to inform the case for developing a similar national service; and an East Sussex scheme will develop a real-time flood monitoring platform for the Eastbourne catchment.

In Slough, the experimental Chinese 'sponge city' concept – an approach to water management that prioritises harvesting rainwater – will be trialled in order to address the challenges of surface water and river flooding in an urban environment. This will include permeable road surfacing, green roofs, and natural vegetation for improving rainwater drainage. Another project, based in Buckinghamshire, proposes developing an app for warning about the threat of groundwater.

“We’re investing a record £5.2 billion in 2,000 new flood and coastal defences over the next six years, but with the effects of climate change already being felt it’s vital that we combine this with long-term approaches to improve communities’ resilience,” said the environment minister Rebecca Pow. “These 25 projects will not only help to inform future approaches to prepare communities for flooding and coastal change across the country, but also help reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation and new technology as we build back better.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said the project could be replicated on a larger scale around the world if successful: “The innovation programme is extremely exciting as it begins to put new aspects of the national flood and coastal erosion risk strategy to the test. What we learn will inform our approach to the climate crisis in the coming decades and it’s something to tell our international partners about at COP26.”

“I’m particularly interested in the projects that test the ability of nature-based projects to generate revenue. If successful, these could be scaled up by private finance around the world, helping to prepare for climate shocks, restore nature and create jobs.”

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