Rising threat of heavy rainfall sparks calls for £1bn flood defences

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With the recent heatwave making headlines across Europe, it’s easy to forget that June saw people being evacuated from their homes due to heavy downpours here in the UK. The town of Wainfleet in Lincolnshire endured the equivalent of two months’ rain in just two days.

Sometimes we ask ourselves if the risk of flooding is genuinely increasing year on year or whether it’s a case of our memories playing tricks on us and it’s always been like this. But the Met Office’s data suggests the former. Since 1910,17 record-breaking rainfall months have been recorded; nine of them since 2000.

Given the accelerating threat of flooding, the Environment Agency (EA) has called for £1 billion per year to be spent on strengthening England’s flood and coast defences.

"We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond,” said EA chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd in a statement.

In England, the Government currently spends around £600m each year on building and maintaining flood defences.

Flood damage costs firms £800m a year

While it’s understandable that the EA would put an emphasis on residential properties, the commercial world arguably stand to lose the most – monetarily, at least – from water damage.

Water leakage is now the costliest and most common claim made by commercial customers, This Week in FM reports, with a total loss in the UK alone approaching £800 million.

This figure could be much worse if it wasn’t for the UK’s current network of river barriers and defences, which is estimated to prevent some £1.1 billion a year of flood damage, according to a report commissioned by Flood Re (of which MS Amlin is a member).

For businesses, the costs of flooding are more than just repairing damage. With every minute that a business is interrupted, meaning it can’t operate to its usual capacity, it’s losing money. Data centre outages, for example, are estimated to cost an average of £12,000 per minute.

Preparing for the worst

Speaking to Wired, Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist and physical geographer at the University of Reading, says that ultimately “we need to learn to live with flooding”. In other words, it’s impossible to protect commercial properties entirely from the harshest of Mother Nature’s elements, so we need to come up with damage-limitation strategies.

All that businesses can do is ensure that they’re prepared for the worst and have solutions in place that are geared towards continuity in the face of potential interruption.

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