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Living with Water

Looking at the wider picture

The positives outweigh the negatives: water is essential to all life; it refreshes body and soul; it is essential for agriculture, parks and and gardens; it helps clean the environment, people and property; it brings pleasure; it offers a wide variety of recreational use, from sailing and rowing to swimming, angling and walking; it contributes to wellbeing… of course it can also be lethal, can cause damage and be a nuisance when there is too much of it in the wrong place… and it is a challenge when there is too little of it in the right place or if it is polluted.

Pollution of rivers has become a major concern across the nation: the focus has been on the authorised releases of raw sewage into rivers, as well as unauthorised discharges by the water industry. These have been allowed historically to cope with the risk of houses flooding with sewage when the capacity of the sewers is exceeded. Attention has been on “CSO’s” (combined sewer outfalls) where rainwater is combined with foul water in the same drainage system. However, some discharges can be due to blockages in the system – such as from ‘fatburgers’ (typically caused by wet wipes and congealing fat neither of which should be flushed down drains) or even cement and other builder’s materials.
However, rivers are also polluted by misconnected drains, run-off from farmland and roads, as well as the quality of the treated water released by Sewage Treatment Works which may contain high levels of various chemicals and pharmaceuticals, some of which may be harmful to wildlife.

Modifications: much of our drainage system is still of basic Victorian design, and although upgraded in many ways, it now has to cope with substantially greater population and density of urbanisation, as well as materials which did not exist then – including pharmaceuticals and plastics.
The Victorians associated stagnant water with disease and were keen to drain wherever possible. Surface water was used to flush the drainage system and flood water was rushed to the sea – with water courses widened, deepened by dredging, straightened to speed the passage of water and contained within embankments to limit damage. Engineered solutions were relied upon.
So successful was the industry that people relaxed, assuming that safe, fresh drinking water would be on tap in such quantities it could be used to water gardens and wash cars. Waste water could simply be flushed away, often with other items such as wet wipes, cotton buds, cooking oils. Out of sight – out of mind. ‘They’ took care of everything.

Flooding? Move the water on with increased dredging and ‘hard engineered solutions’ (such as the two direct channels to the Thames which since the 1920’s have largely protected Barnes from the Beverley Brook – but the cost of such engineered solutions, and especially those protecting against coastal erosion, are increasingly recognised to be unsustainable.
Our approach to water management needs re-examining and attitudes and behaviours need to be re-set, which calls for greatly increased engagement by the Community. More sustainable solutions exist in Integrated Water Management (Looking at all aspects of water management in an integrated way, not placing water delivery and drainage in separate silos); Natural Flood Management (to begin with, flooding is good and even beneficial when it happens in the right place), Nature Based Solutions (such as using wetlands , re-naturalising rivers, harvesting water for growing and other uses or simply improving infiltration to retain more moisture in the ground..) and SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems – which can be as simple as a water butt or more complex systems such as those that enable new developments to cause no more run-off than a green field site.)

Catchments: part of Integrated Water Management is to look at water on the basis of whole catchment areas – rather than splitting these up into regional or local authority areas – or as drainage areas according to the location of sewage drainage systems. Part of the purpose of this is to recognise the consequences of actions on others living further downstream within the catchment.

Working with the Water industry: in 2023 most water companies will be publishing their latest 25 year strategies and plans for both Drainage and Wastewater Management (DWMP) and Water Resources Management(WRMS). These propose significant new investment, much of it in ‘greening’ their infrastructure to cope with population demand, carbon emissions, climate change and need for improved biodiversity and wellbeing. Reducing flood risk and improving the environment, including water quality in our rivers, are part of these plans, while seeking to ensure an adequate supply of water for all of us. The Community needs to engage with these plans, to look for opportunities for mutual gain, and identify where we can help rather than exacerbate the challenges.

5 specific ideas where we can help:

  1. Leaks absorb far too high a proportion of our processed drinking water. 5 years ago it was close to one quarter – report leaks and make sure they are attended to – and tackle any leaking taps or loos in your home!
  2. Stop paving over – encourage rainwater to infiltrate your garden if you have one
  3. Harvest rainwater – with water butts, a ‘rain garden’ rather than connecting downpipes to drains
  4. In heavy rainstorms use less water – running washing machines, dishwashers, showers to reduce the pressure on the drainage system
  5. Volunteer: Have fun joining with the volunteers who help us manage sections of the Beverley Brook, Leg-o-Mutton Reservoir and other ponds, scrapes, swales – with water quality and other surveys, river safaris for misconnections, litter and invasive species removal, habitat improvements…

Living with Water

Looking at the wider picture

The positives outweigh the negatives: water is essential to all life; it refreshes body and soul; it is essential for agriculture, parks and and gardens; it helps clean the environment, people and property; it brings pleasure; it offers a wide variety of recreational use, from sailing and rowing to swimming, angling and walking; it contributes to wellbeing… of course it can also be lethal, can cause damage and be a nuisance when there is too much of it in the wrong place… and it is a challenge when there is too little of it in the right place or if it is polluted.

Pollution of rivers has become a major concern across the nation: the focus has been on the authorised releases of raw sewage into rivers, as well as unauthorised discharges by the water industry. These have been allowed historically to cope with the risk of houses flooding with sewage when the capacity of the sewers is exceeded. Attention has been on “CSO’s” (combined sewer outfalls) where rainwater is combined with foul water in the same drainage system. However, some discharges can be due to blockages in the system – such as from ‘fatburgers’ (typically caused by wet wipes and congealing fat neither of which should be flushed down drains) or even cement and other builder’s materials.
However, rivers are also polluted by misconnected drains, run-off from farmland and roads, as well as the quality of the treated water released by Sewage Treatment Works which may contain high levels of various chemicals and pharmaceuticals, some of which may be harmful to wildlife.

Modifications: much of our drainage system is still of basic Victorian design, and although upgraded in many ways, it now has to cope with substantially greater population and density of urbanisation, as well as materials which did not exist then – including pharmaceuticals and plastics.
The Victorians associated stagnant water with disease and were keen to drain wherever possible. Surface water was used to flush the drainage system and flood water was rushed to the sea – with water courses widened, deepened by dredging, straightened to speed the passage of water and contained within embankments to limit damage. Engineered solutions were relied upon.
So successful was the industry that people relaxed, assuming that safe, fresh drinking water would be on tap in such quantities it could be used to water gardens and wash cars. Waste water could simply be flushed away, often with other items such as wet wipes, cotton buds, cooking oils. Out of sight – out of mind. ‘They’ took care of everything.

Flooding? Move the water on with increased dredging and ‘hard engineered solutions’ (such as the two direct channels to the Thames which since the 1920’s have largely protected Barnes from the Beverley Brook – but the cost of such engineered solutions, and especially those protecting against coastal erosion, are increasingly recognised to be unsustainable.
Our approach to water management needs re-examining and attitudes and behaviours need to be re-set, which calls for greatly increased engagement by the Community. More sustainable solutions exist in Integrated Water Management (Looking at all aspects of water management in an integrated way, not placing water delivery and drainage in separate silos); Natural Flood Management (to begin with, flooding is good and even beneficial when it happens in the right place), Nature Based Solutions (such as using wetlands , re-naturalising rivers, harvesting water for growing and other uses or simply improving infiltration to retain more moisture in the ground..) and SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems – which can be as simple as a water butt or more complex systems such as those that enable new developments to cause no more run-off than a green field site.)

Catchments: part of Integrated Water Management is to look at water on the basis of whole catchment areas – rather than splitting these up into regional or local authority areas – or as drainage areas according to the location of sewage drainage systems. Part of the purpose of this is to recognise the consequences of actions on others living further downstream within the catchment.

Working with the Water industry: in 2023 most water companies will be publishing their latest 25 year strategies and plans for both Drainage and Wastewater Management (DWMP) and Water Resources Management(WRMS). These propose significant new investment, much of it in ‘greening’ their infrastructure to cope with population demand, carbon emissions, climate change and need for improved biodiversity and wellbeing. Reducing flood risk and improving the environment, including water quality in our rivers, are part of these plans, while seeking to ensure an adequate supply of water for all of us. The Community needs to engage with these plans, to look for opportunities for mutual gain, and identify where we can help rather than exacerbate the challenges.

5 specific ideas where we can help:

  1. Leaks absorb far too high a proportion of our processed drinking water. 5 years ago it was close to one quarter – report leaks and make sure they are attended to – and tackle any leaking taps or loos in your home!
  2. Stop paving over – encourage rainwater to infiltrate your garden if you have one
  3. Harvest rainwater – with water butts, a ‘rain garden’ rather than connecting downpipes to drains
  4. In heavy rainstorms use less water – running washing machines, dishwashers, showers to reduce the pressure on the drainage system
  5. Volunteer: Have fun joining with the volunteers who help us manage sections of the Beverley Brook, Leg-o-Mutton Reservoir and other ponds, scrapes, swales – with water quality and other surveys, river safaris for misconnections, litter and invasive species removal, habitat improvements…

Related links

Community BlueScapes

Flood Risks in Barnes

The Expected Effects of Climate Change