Helping to prevent flooding
There are different types of flooding that can affect our customers - sewer flooding and flooding due to excess rainfall
Sewer flooding is the most unpleasant thing our customers can experience and we make responding to it our top priority. Thankfully incidents are dropping as we invest to combat the problem.
We're currently spending £39 million to resolve sewer flooding at 386 properties and outdoor flooding at 88 locations before 2010. But we won't stop there - we intend to spend an additional £55 million before 2015.
The second type of flooding that can occur is when our pipes and works become inundated due to heavy rainfall.
In June 2007, an unprecedented level of rainfall fell in a very shot duration affecting the whole of Yorkshire, with Hull and south Yorkshire the worst affected. June 2007 was Yorkshire's wettest month since 1882 and two months of rainfall was recorded in a single day at our treatment works at Saltend.
The storms had a huge impact on us. Over 35 waste water treatment works were inundated and over 100 pumping stations were flooded causing an estimated £70 million of damage to our water and waste water infrastructure.
Despite this, no drinking water supplies were interrupted for customers and we worked closely with the Environment Agency throughout the event to prevent environmental damage.
In South Yorkshire, high levels of rainfall led to river flooding. Our waste water treatment works tend to be located next to rivers so, as the Rivers Don, Rother and Dearne overtopped, many of our treatment works were over-whelmed. Our Blackburn Meadows treatment works near Sheffield was under 10ft of water.
In rural east Yorkshire and Hull the rainfall caused land drains to overtop and urban drainage systems to be over-whelmed. In Hull, our emergency procedures were followed and our major pumping stations worked throughout the storms pumping the equivalent of the river Hull every second out of the city.
Want to know more about the floods and what we've been doing since June 2007? Click on the play button below to watch our video.
We've taken action
We're using flood maps to identify the vulnerable sites so that we can best direct investment and are working with the Environment Agency on weather forecasting and flood warning so that we can put protection measures in place.
In Hull, we're investing over £16 million to upgrade and improve our pumping infrastructure in the city. The storms were extreme, but there is the potential for it to happen again. We want to be ready, so work is underway to ensure our stations are more resilient and have more standby capacity -
find out more about our investments in Hull.
At a national level, we've contributed to the Pitt Review which is tasked with looking at the impact of the floods and providing recommendations. We've also worked closely with a number of local review bodies.
The flooding has posed a number of questions for the future including the need to protect our key infrastructure and to take a fresh look at the all in one combined public sewerage system and how we can manage these huge storm water flows in future. Water companies can't do this alone, nor can water customers be expected to pick up the bill for all of the improvements which may be required.
Agencies will need to work more closely than in the past to develop more sustainable integrated urban drainage systems if we're to see more weather events of this nature. We're determined to play our part with other agencies to adapt our systems where necessary and develop sustainable integrated urban drainage solutions.
The Pitt Review
The interim recommendations of the national Pitt Review and the EFRA Select Committee into flooding highlighted the following points which we support.
- The experience of 2007 highlighted the need for the longer term adaptation and improvement of urban surface water drainage, which is the responsibility of various agencies.
- A multi agency approach is required to look at urban design, design standards and sustainable urban drainage.
- With a number of local authorities we've agreed to participate in a high level steering group to begin this kind of work and to develop a strategy for integrated urban drainage.
- We'll work with our regulator Ofwat to develop a consistent and coherent framework for assessing the vulnerability of our assets to flooding and power loss and include in our business plans measures to improve their resilience.
- We'll use the very latest scientific techniques to identify the impacts of climate change on our operations and build these into our plans for the future.
- We support the proposal in the Pitt Review to take away the automatic right to connect surface water to the sewerage system.
- There's a need to look again at the arrangements for draining rainfall from urban areas into a combined sewerage system. In Hull for example, almost all of the local watercourses and land drains connect into the piped combined sewerage system.
- In Hull when the drainage system is full to capacity, there are few natural watercourses for the water to drain to, as is the case with most combined drainage systems in the UK