Pumlumon offers a natural solution to flooding problem
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust is highlighting the need for more natural solutions to flood control following the recent extreme weather conditions which have devastated communities across the country.
Wales is ideally placed to reduce flooding thanks to its blanket bogs, which if restored would hold up to twenty times their own weight in water or the equivalent of two Elan Valleys reservoirs.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust is one of six Wildlife Trusts in Wales and manages the Pumlumon Living Landscape Project. The aim is to store 41.9 billion litres of water by appropriately managing 3,730 hectares of land.
Clive Faulkner of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, says:
"Vegetation acts as a sponge, soaking up water, storing it for dry periods and releasing it gradually. This can reduce the height, effects and ultimately the cost of floodwater. Sustainable land management practices can increase the water retention capacity of the environment, alleviating the effects of both droughts and floods."
"We know that the land management drastically affects the quantity of water that runs through the landscape into our towns and cities. The removal of vegetation such as wetlands, peat lands, floodplains, hedgerows and woodlands makes the countryside less absorbent. Furthermore, large compacted or drained fields, dredged riverbeds, concrete roads and car parks all increase the rate that water flows through the landscape and into people’s homes and businesses."
The building and maintaining of flood defences in Wales is expensive, running to hundreds of millions of pounds and can only do so much. Aggressive flood-defence engineering, acting as concrete straightjackets around rivers, only moves the problem downstream.
Different habitats play significant roles to alleviate flooding, such as:
- broad leaved woodland serves both as a natural umbrella and a sponge
- wet pasture, wetlands and water meadows soak up and store rainwater
With good design it is possible to plan ahead to accommodate for future weather patterns. There are many opportunities to design wetlands and open water in urban areas. Weaving water-holding wildlife habitats together has the potential to reduce flooding and deliver multiple benefits to people in terms of biodiversity, climate change resilience, increased wellbeing, tourism and reduced insurance costs in the future.
Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in urban areas are widely seen as the way forward. These allow for the storage of flood waters whilst providing wildlife havens. For example, Severn Farm Pond Nature Reserve, managed by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust is designed to accommodate excess water from the Welshpool bypass and the surrounding industrial estate. It is now an urban nature reserve, full of damselflies, dragonflies, frogs, newts and toads and boardwalks. Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust uses the site as an outreach centre for local youths and people with mental health issues. It also provides an open-air classroom for local schools and a canvas for local artists.
Wildlife Trusts Wales is certain that conserving nature and restoring ecosystems will reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. Nature conservation and restoration is a major, cost-efficient ally in our fight against the effects of climate change. The organisation estimates that it would cost in the region of £13 million to restore all the major upland peat bog habitats in Wales. This would have a positive impact on almost every river that flooded in Wales last year.
21 February 2014