Green to keep the blues at bay
Photo by the author.
UK cities faced surging flood waters over the winter. The answer to future resilience lies largely with green infrastructure. That’s according to Matthew Jones, regional director, AECOM, and Michael Henderson, associate director of sustainability, AECOM, in recent articles for Water Briefing and Civil Service World, respectively.
“While the flooding has taken place over an unusually long duration this year, it is part of an apparently increasing trend of events oscillating between periods of inundation and periods of water shortage in some parts of the country,” said Jones. He pointed out that “While emergency response plans and flood defences are an important part of protecting life, infrastructure and farmland, it is clear that to manage flood risk effectively and to reduce water shortages in the summer, water needs to be treated less as a national annoyance and more as a precious resource. A more holistic approach is required where land practices contributing to flooding, such as deforestation, land drainage and urban creep, are gradually and proactively reversed.”
We need our natural spaces for practical reasons, in other words. It’s not just ecology; it’s ecological infrastructure, as critical to society as engineered infrastructure. Within developed areas, even small green interventions make a functional difference. When water passes through planted soil, some pollutants picked up from city streets are filtered out. This is the principle behind the practice variously called water sensitive urban design, sustainable urban drainage, and low-impact development.
Henderson said, “For a start, the cleaner the water is, the lower the energy cost of treating it for local reuse or discharge into our rivers. Moreover, if the UK can clean up its waterways, it will be liable for fewer fines under the EU Water Framework Directive, bringing another financial incentive to pursue this strategy. In addition, there is evidence to show that productivity increases when people look out over a green area, and other benefits like improved health and wellbeing are also detected. Finally, property prices tend to be stronger in more aesthetically pleasing surroundings, giving a helpful stimulus to the local economy.”