Water, water everywhere…but not a drop to drink!

Water, water everywhere…but not a drop to drink!

It came, created devastation in many areas and to so many people – their homes, businesses, livelihoods – and disappeared, although not as fast as most of us hoped and many have yet to realise.

We were deluged by the detail, the moving pictures, reports and people affected. Then the media departed and it is as if the floods never existed. 

But we know that the devastation will remain for all those affected for a very long time – more than a year in some cases – and they will not forget. Indeed they may never forget.

This life sustaining liquid so essential to our wellbeing is in short supply in many parts of the world. We rely upon the rain to keep us well supplied together with our reservoirs, rivers and the many links built between them.

So how is it that we can experience drought? Surely that is a matter that we should never need to experience.

The answer, of course, lies in the patterns of our weather. The scientists have told us a bit about the jet stream high up in the atmosphere and linked both patterns of heatwaves with storms to where that stream lies at any one time.

So why does it move and how? It seems we need a bit more science before we have the answer to that.

Meanwhile we must prepare for more changes in our weather patterns. But surely our weather is always changing so what is new? A small change in the temperature in our oceans, but we assume that is responsible although so far nobody can tell us the why and the how.

While the need for more and better flood defences is clear much of that should have been unnecessary if only our planners had fought against so much development on flood plains.

Not only are all those people worried about flooding in the future, their homes may be unsaleable should they need to move.

This is the unnoticed dilemma for many in the future and none of us would willingly want to change places with them.

You may have noticed a Dutch engineer appeared on our TV screens a few times. He is the modern version of those who came here centuries ago to show us how to manage water in marshland and they created the drains, dykes and a plan of maintenance necessary for the rivers and all water courses.

The Somerset Levels have been maintained satisfactorily for centuries until the Environment Agency (EA) was formed.

Then there arose a battle between those who wanted flood prevention and others who were much more concerned with our birds – whatever happened our bird populations must have ample water regardless of how much we want and need as individuals.

That change has been driven by the last Labour Government. The disgraced and subsequently jailed minister, Elliot Morley announced in 2005 a policy ‘saving wetland habitats – more money for key sites’.

He went on to state that to comply with EU regulations (that bunch of bureaucratic demands) including a part funded study including RSPB, WWF and the Agency resulted in artificially promoting flooding in the levels because wildlife will benefit.

Dredging had already been stopped by the EA because of yet more EU regulations concerning the disposal of silt which involved exorbitant costs.

Not for the first time I ask myself what has happened to common sense. People have been downgraded as being of less value than birds.

Now all I am waiting for is the first notice of a ban on hose pipes after yet more unreliable forecasts from the Met Office.

By Peter Bray