Out now: The Environment June 2023

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Flooding: we need to talk

Next month, on 06 - 08 June, delegates gather in Telford for the annual Flood & Coast conference and exhibition, owned by CIWEM and co-hosted this year with partners The Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust and the Association of SuDS Authorities (ASA).

Flood & Coast reunites flood planners, protectors and practitioners. The Climate-Change Committee says flooding is the UK’s most pressing climate challenge. But every year, at some point, discussion turns to how we talk to people about risk.

Most people know our coasts are shrinking, that our riverbanks burst more often with climate change. But how many outside the flood family understand their personal climate risk?

A sobering report from British Red Cross found that four out of five of us have no idea where to find flood-risk information or what to do when flooding strikes. Three-quarters of us don’t understand our community’s own flood risk. One in seven has no home or contents flood insurance. Half of those households blame the cost-of-living crisis.

That’s disturbing. We already live with flood risk. British Red Cross says 1.9 million people live in UK areas prone to flooding – and climate change will double this in the next 30 years.

It’s something CIWEM’s flood family must address at this month’s conference. We need to talk more clearly about risk. We need to support people. To empower everyone, whatever their resources, to protect the people and places they love.

How? By making flood-risk data and mapping easier to understand. By offering extra support for the people and places most exposed to risk. By tailoring flood messages to target communities. And by helping people to access the cover and the practical advice they need.

That includes property-flood resilience – ways to adapt buildings to repel floods and recover faster afterwards.

Campaigner Mary Long-Dhonau is driving her flood mobile to Telford, to show how we can adapt our homes. The Scottish Flood Forum expects to get its own flood mobile soon. Rumour has it England is to roll out more flood mobiles, “if the business case allows”. Flood mobiles show communities how to manage and adapt to climate risk.

But none of us can do it alone. Agencies and businesses, charities and community groups, flood-protection experts and climate modellers must work together to spread the word.

See you in Telford.

Karen Thomas

Editor, The Environment


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