Downstream Thinking & Sustainable Drainage

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Downstream Thinking is taking a new approach to tackling flooding from sewers.

Across the world there are examples of better ways of managing storm water in towns and cities: engineered but natural features that store water close to where it falls and then re-use this water to make homes for wildlife and enhance our green spaces. There are also better ways all the agencies that deal with flooding can work together - by sharing aspirations and priorities and pooling resources. This is all part of the Downstream Thinking approach.

What's the problem?

Our sewer network is in most places a 'combined system' where rainwater from roads, roofs, driveways and in some cases fields enters the sewer network. As more green spaces are paved over, ever more surface water is entering the sewer network and overloading it with stormwater when it rains hard. This has the effect of triggering overflows or causing spills of diluted untreated sewage, polluting the environment. Traditional ways of containing stormwater - building bigger sewers and concrete tanks - are simply not keeping pace with the rate of increase in surface water. Every new driveway, patio, hardstanding or extension is adding to the impermeable areas in our towns and cities, while climate change is producing ever more intense downpours.

Why is a new approach needed? Storm tanks simply hold water at the bottom of the catchment - and when they are full they overflow. Pumping so much water around the sewerage network is energy-intensive and costly. We need to reduce both the cost of pumping and the amount of carbon we use as part of our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

A more sustainable solution The Watershed programme aims to reduce sewer flooding using Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and partnership working. SuDS aim to mimic natural drainage processes by managing rain water on the surface. See examples of sustainable drainage in gardens here

We are planning projects across our region, many of them in partnership with the Environment Agency and local councils.

How we can help

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