London made headlines for all the wrong reasons mid-2021 when a flash flood all but halted the city’s operations. Areas of the capital were submerged underwater for a variety of reasons. Drainage specialists in London said that the flooding was almost inevitable. Affected homes and businesses sought out expert drainage services in London for advice and to help address the damage.
As heavy rains fell and thunderstorms raged, London struggled with flash floods. Streets were submerged, and emergency services were called in to help motorists caught in the incident. Nearly 100 inpatients at Whipps Cross Hospital had to be moved to a different location because of the flooding, with the NHS declaring it to be a ‘major incident’.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) responded to more than 1,000 calls related to flooding in a 24-hour period, attending emergencies in Worcester Park, South Woodford, Leytonstone, and Stratford.
A spokesperson from the LFB told motorists to avoid flooded streets at all costs in the wake of an incident where a family of five became stuck in three feet of water in Worcester Park. The fire brigade added that in times like these, people must stay alert and keep updated with flood warnings issued in their areas.
While the Met Office had issued a yellow warning, this only covered parts of the Southeast and excluded London. They warned that sudden flooding and lightning could result in delays and cancellations of buses and trains, with a possibility of damage to buildings by floodwaters and lightning.
After the incident, experts sought to explain why flooding had so seriously affected the capital. Dr Veronica Edmonds-Brown, a Senior Lecturer in Aquatic Ecology at the University of Hertfordshire, cited three main reasons which contributed to the incident, noting that such events will recur in future if these causal factors are not addressed.
The first factor is the location of London’s floodplains – it’s estimated that over 1.5 million people live and work in the floodplains of River Thames and its tributaries. Second is the fast spread of urbanisation across the capital. The third is the ageing nature of London’s drainage systems.
London is already a built-up and densely populated area, and with the rapid expansion of house-building programmes, yet more impervious surfaces are being installed, leading to surface water pooling and building up. This puts additional pressure on London’s drainage systems which date back to the Victorian era and are not designed to handle the current amount of water it has to deal with.
Local authorities claim they cannot do anything to improve drainage systems because of budget limitations. To combat all these factors, Dr Edmonds-Brown believes a sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS) should be funded and installed.
London’s authorities agree that the city is outgrowing its drains and sewers. The sewer system was built over 150 years ago by Joseph Bazalgette and has thus far served the capital well.
But with the growing population, changing land use, and the effects of climate change, the sewers need to be changed to adapt and to lessen the risk of severe flooding.
London needs to make the most effective use of its existing and planned drainage infrastructure, which can only be done by changing the way it operates. It shouldn’t regard rainwater as a waste product, but as a valuable asset that should be managed accordingly.
The city should steer away from installing yet more impermeable surfaces and replace them with sustainable drainage systems instead that are designed to copy the way nature collects and manages rainwater.
Sustainable urban drainage has been widely recognised as the best way forward in the international community and is firmly embedded in the UK’s national and local planning systems, not least the Mayor’s London Plan.
The London Sustainable Drainage Action Plan addresses a specific need to promote the awareness and retrofitting of SuDS across London. These are a series of actions that make drainage systems work in a more natural way and can bring plenty of benefits, including the reduction of flood risk.
Other benefits include reducing pollution in tributary rivers and streams, creating more pleasant landscapes and street settings for the capital’s buildings, providing opportunities to save water, and the education of students in the water cycle.
Currently, the prime goal is to retrofit sustainable drainage to existing buildings and infrastructures. The key to the success of these measures is to identify when and where other planned maintenance, repair, and improvement works are scheduled. Identifying opportunities to retrofit the sustainable drainage as part of these works is much more cost-effective.
If these actions are followed through , the rainwater harvested can be used for large scale supplies for irrigation, vehicle or plant cleaning, and for toilet flushing.
The proposed timeline to carry out all the above is over the next 20 years, but there are 40 actions that can be executed in the next five years alone. These will be carried out by the City Hall, which will issue a yearly progress report. It’s important to spread awareness of rainwater management across the capital so that everyone is able to make a contribution to the vision.
Drainage specialists in London are in a strong position to help in the execution of these plans. The London Fire Brigade is reminding people that while the measures are still being implemented, residents who are likely to suffer flooding should prepare a flood kit or a grab bag; and use sandbags when necessary to prevent water from entering their homes.
When flood warnings are issued, prized possessions should be moved to a higher level to avoid water damage. Vulnerable neighbours should be identified and checked on in poor weather conditions.
And if the worst happens, households drying their homes out after flooding should be wary of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators which can release deadly gases which kill without warning.
If the drainage system in your home is causing problems for any reason, such as a blockage or a broken pipe, and if water is backing up and flooding your home, call a company that provides expert drainage services in London. They can isolate the problem and ensure that it is properly addressed.
We at Environ Drainage Services London are always on standby for any calls. Our drainage specialists in the North London area and beyond specialise in clearing blocked drains quickly and efficiently before water damages the structure of your property or your possessions.
Our professionals are all highly trained, and we use the best tools and equipment to unclog, clean out, and clear any drainage systems, including CCTV drain inspection to find the source for more efficient cleaning. We also help repair damaged drains.