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Perspectives on Urban Flood Resilience - Blog

last modified Feb 12, 2020 03:27 PM
Dick Fenner has compiled and edited a special themed edition of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions A Journal on urban flood resilience, published in February 2020.

Details can be found at doi:  10.1098/rsta/375/2168. The edition brings together the work of the UKs  urban flood resilience consortium  with contributions describing similar initiatives in other countries including the Netherlands, China, Australia, New Zealand and India. The challenges and goals in these countries are similar, requiring the  restoration of  the benefits of pre-development hydrology in rapidly growing urban centres using Blue-Green Infrastructure solutions to manage flood risk. So the need to develop ways of adapting to the increasing number, frequency and magnitude of  damaging flood events in ways that are resilient and sustainable is the underlying premise behind this themed issue.

The papers in this edition challenge both the notion of “drainage” AND the negative perception that this constitutes a “risk”. Instead solutions are preferred which use natural and green solutions to deal with the water at source where it initially falls during a storm.

These approaches can provide multi-functional assets which create a range of other benefits, contribute to wider practices of urban greening, and present real opportunities for enhancement of urban environments.

The papers have been contributed by authors from a wide range of disciplines including engineering, geography, planning, social science, hydrology, economics as well as architecture. Whilst each reflects the norms and understanding of flood problems from the perspective of these different backgrounds, it is clear that solutions need to embrace all these various dimensions and never has the need for such a multi-disciplinary approach been so apparent.

Dick says a paradigm shift is needed in flood management, whereby the solution is framed as an opportunity rather than seeing the problem as a risk. If approached from this perspective stormwater can be treated as a huge potential resource which can be used in some contexts for energy  generation as well as providing an essential source of future water supplies. Using it in this way makes perfect sense rather than merely draining it “away”.  Beyond that, the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater provides a range of other important benefits from enhancing urban biodiversity through creation of new habitats, sequestering carbon and trapping air pollutants, as well as  providing recreation and amenity opportunities for local communities.

Currently, urban flood risk management can present many messy problems where parts of both the problem and potential solutions are owned by a diverse range of stakeholders ranging from water utility companies, regulators, planners, and property owners leading to complex and often fragmented responsibilities.  Moreover for flood schemes to be resilient they have to be acceptable to the local communities in whose locale they are situated. Thus solving urban flooding is no longer a solely technical problem, where solutions are imposed by specialist engineers and scientists responsible for understanding the physical responses of the systems. Instead,   responses  must be framed within a wide socio-technical system where many actors interact in often muddled ways.  Hence the papers included in this special edition attempt to deal with all these critical aspects of urban flood resilience ranging from modelling and evaluating the performance attributes of flood resilient solutions, to perspectives from planning, governance and even the social psychology of the public’s awareness of the solutions available.

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