By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
Up to 14,000 Bristol homes could be at risk of flooding by the year 2100, causing £66 million worth of damage.
That is according to a report on flood risk by Bristol City Council that aims to find out how bad the problem is now and will become in the future.
Twelve schools, 11 health centres, three hospitals, three police stations a fire station and 58 electrical substations could also be struck.
The projections for 2100 are dramatically higher than the existing estimates for flood risk in the city.
Three years ago around 2,300 properties were identified as being at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in Bristol.
Bristol and Avonmouth’s existing level of protection is below the national standard for flood risk.
The city is at risk of flooding once every 25 years and Avonmouth once every 10 years.
The danger of flooding from surface water is even more dramatic, as Bristol is in the top five worst areas in the country. Current estimates put 31,600 properties at risk.
Without further work to prevent flooding, Avonmouth will be at risk every year from 2060 onwards.
Bristol includes several areas that are flood-prone, including areas around the Severn estuary, the River Frome, the lower Avon, and the city docks.
The Severn estuary has the highest tidal range in the country – the second highest in the world – which includes the River Avon past Hanham locks.
Because of these large tidal ranges the level of the River Avon can during spring tides be higher than the low lying parts of the city.
Storms in the Atlantic and high spring tides in the past have caused serious flooding.
The last major flood to hit Bristol was in 1968, more than 40 years ago.
The Chew Magna reservoir overflowed, the Malago stream burst its banks pouring water into Bedminster.
Ashton Gate, Greville Smythe Park and Eastville Stadium were all flooded, along with countless numbers of homes and business premises.
The city council became the lead local flood authority for the area in the last year, following a number of major floods in the South West in the last decade.
Between May and July 2007, more than 55,000 homes and businesses around the country were flooded when the UK experienced the wettest weather for that period in more than 200 years. Although Bristol only experienced minor flooding at the time, nearby Gloucester was badly struck.
This gave the authority a number of new responsibilities but also more powers. In particular the council now has to organise the management of flood risk from surface water, groundwater and watercourses.
The main rivers are dealt with by the Environment Agency.
The council also has to produce a strategy for local flood risk management.
A working group was set up to work on the strategy, and a draft report which sets out the potential is due to be discussed by a committee tonight.
Councillors Siobhan Kennedy- Hall, Fabian Breckels and David Willingham were all involved in the working group, and provided a joint statement for the report. They said: “We learnt that it is not always possible to prevent flooding. It can have multiple causes and not all of them are predictable but as we saw in 2007 the results can have a devastating impact on homes, businesses and infrastructure.
“What the council and its partners must do, therefore, is plan and manage the risk of flooding so that we are best prepared for any emergencies that may occur.”
Other requirements for the council include producing flood hazard and flood risk maps by December, 2013, and an asset register of all structures which have a significant effect on flood risk.
DEFRA and the Environment Agency have funded three studies into local flood risk at a cost of £500,000.
These are the surface water management plan, a flood risk assessment for Dundry Hill and south Bristol, and another for the centre of the city.
The report concludes that the council must work more closely with Wessex Water and the Environment Agency to tackle the growing problem.
The councillors have given a list of 14 recommendations, including the production of the strategy and making the public more aware of the potential risk.
But there is no attempt to explain how much this will all cost, and little mention of any potential infrastructure changes or physical flood defences.
One recommendation suggests contributions from property developers when new planning applications are approved could help fund potential schemes.
Their report states: “Expenditure on preventing floods and minimising the impact of flooding is highly cost effective when compared to the cost of responding to incidents and repairing damage. It has been estimated that benefits of improved flood defence and mitigation measures outweigh the cost of such works by a factor of at least £9 to £1.
“For the short term any investment in this area will have a very high return as the high risk areas will be looked at first.
“In the medium to long term the larger more complex works will arise and although cost beneficial the management of the risk to properties will became more difficult.
“Where it is not cost effective to manage the risk to residents a communication plan is to be put in place to inform and assist such residents to reduce the risks to themselves and their properties.”
The report is due to be discussed by the sustainable development and transport scrutiny commission tonight at 6pm, before going to full council on January 17.
Thunder, lightning and fear: The Bristol floods of 1968
The date was Wednesday, July 10, 1968. From the skies above Bristol and its surrounding area, the worst storm in half a century erupted.
Thunder and lightning were constant. The sky was dark and eerie. People were frightened – and they had good cause to be as more than five inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours.
And with this deluge came a devastation no one could have anticipated. Areas of Bristol along with the towns and villages through the adjacent Chew Valley were wrecked.
The countryside, already sodden as a result of a wet spring, experienced a sheet run-off of water.
Fields, covered by up to six inches of water, washed trees, earth and stones into the river Chew, causing a build-up of debris at bridges and weirs. Then, at Chew Magna, the huge reservoir overflowed. As a consequence one of the numerous ancient bridges on the river gave way and a torrent of water rushed down the valley, producing a devastating domino effect in its path.
Keynsham and Pensford suffered badly but the floods were hitting Bristol, too.
The Malago stream burst its banks along Hartcliffe Way and Bedminster.
The City Engineer’s Department were receiving calls for help at the rate of one every 15 seconds.
Production at cigarette maker WD & HO Wills factory in East Street was brought to a standstill by the 3ft-high waters and dozens of nearby shops were flooded out.
Several families, evacuated from their homes, were sent to emergency centres offering food in Luckwell Road and Parson Street schools.
Mattresses, bedding, clothing and food were also distributed.
Also flooded was Ashton Gate, Greville Smythe Park, Ashton Trading Estate and numerous houses.
The Malago stream, which rises on Dundry, burst its banks flooding shops and houses.
In Hartcliffe Way, a 33-year-old man was washed away by the fierce current while helping two women who were trapped. They were eventually rescued, but his body was later recovered from water almost 10 feet deep.
In Brislington, the main road, the square and Hollywood Road became flooded.
The late bus from Bristol to Bath, with 18 people on board, became stuck in waters so deep that the occupants stepped easily from the top deck emergency door into the waiting rescue boats.
At Westbury-on-Trym two people in a car had a lucky escape when the parapet of a bridge over the river Trym was washed away.
Bristol Rovers’ old ground, Eastville Stadium, was flooded, as were several shops and homes.
A week later, some five million gallons of water was pumped out of the ground.