Autumn leaves, blocked drains and flooding

Blog Post by Christina Worsley 22 October 2014

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What we should all be doing to prevent flash flooding in our local area

When most people think of flooding they have images of rivers bursting their banks, torrents of water surging down valley sides or tidal surges battering a coastline. Many people don’t consider autumn leaves blocking surface water drains outside their property as a major cause of flood risk. Do you?

The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo has just swept across the UK causing leaf fall to step up a gear and many surface water drains to be blocked.  This increases the risk of surface water or pluvial flooding.  If residents and business owners spend a little time clearing the leaves from outside their properties, they could reduce the likelihood of flooding in their local area.

Pluvial flooding is mainly caused by the urban infrastructure. Towns and cities are packed full of impermeable surfaces that increase water runoff at times of heavy rainfall.  Our drainage network is designed to quickly transport this water to nearby rivers and streams. If there’s a blockage of the drainage system, this can cause localised flash flooding.

In the UK there’s an attitude that local authorities are responsible for keeping drains clear and yes, Drainage Departments do regularly clear drains and gulleys. But in reality, a cleared drain or gulley could be covered with leaves again within a couple of hours. If everybody took a little time to clear leaves during the autumn season, it would be a massive benefit to the local area.

Climate change predictions are pointing towards more extreme weather events and the overwhelming of our urban drainage systems is not just probable, but likely.  That’s why it’s so important for all of us to keep these networks clear from dead leaves or other rubbish.

Will you monitor your local drains now?

Free Ebook for communities: How to prepare for flooding and other emergencies.


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