What price for protecting homes, business and watercourses?

Drainage expert and Motion Director, Richard Bettridge, reflects on recent debates about the role of water companies and tries to seek meaning beyond the short-term media headlines.

The campaigns to stop water companies discharging the contents of combined sewers into watercourses are commendable.  However, to date there appear to be no concrete proposals put forward for more effective management of combined sewer overflows (CSOs).  This will become even more critical with the likely increase in extreme weather events.

Delivering effective and affordable answers

Motion is currently working with industry leaders to research effective and affordable ways of managing this growing challenge for water companies, property developers and other key stakeholders.  Demands for CSOs to be closed up do not take account of the consequences.

Motion Director Richard BettridgeHistorically, the dilemma water companies faced was to discharge into rivers or risk flooding private property.  Innovative new designs, however, can provide a third way.

Water companies need to harness all their skills and capabilities to imaginatively tackle this issue.  Here, as in so many other aspects of our response to the climate emergency, the civil engineering profession is well poised to rise to the clarion call.

Three propositions seem to me to be worth closer investigation:

  1. Designing sewer separation schemes to split surface water from foul sewers, enabling surface water to be properly channelled to rivers, with foul sewage quickly conveyed to treatment works
  2. Curbing the ingress of ground and surface water into combined sewers, for instance with sleeving to reduce infiltration through cracks and open joints caused by damage to the pipes
  3. Collecting storm surge overflows from combined sewers and storing in tanks, to be released back slowly once extreme weather conditions have subsided

In any approach, water companies need to provide adequate land and financial resources.  In this context, infrastructure improvements need to be given the urgent priority they deserve.

Motion’s infrastructure design team provides pragmatic advice to help a wide range of clients manage the complex interrelation of property development, drainage and flood risk.  Call 01483 531300 to speak to an expert.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 edition of Insight.

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