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Hydro International, a supplier of sustainable drainage systems and a long-time pioneer of SUDS, is warning that local authorities could end up being insufficiently informed about flood risks.

New powers, announced by the government, for local authorities to assess and manage local flood risk from all sources and champion sustainable drainage schemes will be ineffective unless they are given sufficient funds and knowledge of Source Control and Sustainable Drainage (SUDS) principles.

‘Our fear is that GBP15m announced by environment secretary Hillary Benn will just not be enough to allow each local authority to build up the necessary expertise and resources required to replace all the knowledge lost over the last two or three decades,’ said Alex Stephenson, director Stormwater Division of Hydro International and chair of British Water SUDS group.

The government’s response to Michael Pitt’s comprehensive review into the 2007 flooding is a precursor to the draft Water and Floods Bill in Spring 2009.

The response concentrated heavily on how to improve the way the UK deals with floods once they have happened.

The bill must have a more practical emphasis on how the UK is realistically going to improve the surface water drainage infrastructure by the implementation of realistic SUDS measures and mitigate flood risk.

The problem is the depth of misunderstanding of the scope of SUDS techniques and a tendency to pigeonhole SUDS as ‘natural’ measures such as swales and ponds, rather than a comprehensive ‘toolbox’ of both engineered and natural measures.

To succeed, local authorities will need to adopt a ‘best management’ approach based on a proper understanding of the full range of SUDS measures.

The government’s report this week showcases the Elvetham Heath, Hampshire housing development as a shining SUDS example, with its soakaways, detention basins, ponds and swales.

It actually fails to point out that the scheme was only made possible with the engineered technology of 18 Hydro-Brake attenuation devices; in fact, a mixed engineered and natural approach is an excellent way forward.

It will be vital for the local authority drainage boards to recognise that SUDS principles apply to all urban and rural environments and not just on new developments that can accommodate village ponds.

Otherwise these natural solutions will impose space and economic restrictions, which could curtail the full implementation of SUDS in many locations.

The SUDS toolbox should also encompass storage and infiltration tanks, attenuation devices and even rainwater harvesting to combat flood risks.

It’s 15 years since Hydro published ‘Urban Drainage – The Natural Way’ to highlight the importance of Source Control and Sustainable Drainage (SUDS).

‘Those principles still apply – and we hope that the measures taken to tackle surface water drainage will go back to those first principles,’ added Stephenson.

Hydro International

Hydro International is a market-leading provider of products and solutions to control the quantity and improve the quality of water with minimal maintenance.

Hydro’s business operations are based in the UK, US and Ireland and its products are also used across the globe. Hydro products have won international awards for outstanding contributions and technical innovation in the water industry.

Hydro Stormwater

Hydro International’s Stormwater Division delivers sustainable, efficient and cost-effective solutions for water management with minimal land-take. All Stormwater products have no moving parts, no power requirements, a small footprint and low maintenance requirements.

Hydro Wastewater

Hydro International’s Wastewater Division provides products and designs solutions for the effective treatment of effluent and potable water. It is also a trusted partner for spares, service and maintenance agreements to water asset managers.

Hydro’s treatment systems cover an extensive range of water and wastewater management solutions including grit removal, sludge scraper systems, primary and washwater clarification, aeration, sand filtration, sludge screening and transportation and Combined Sewer Overflows.

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