Muddy floods on the South Downs, southern England: problems and response

2003 January 24

Boardman, J., Evans, R., and Ford, J. (2003). Journal of Environmental Science and Policy 6(1), 69-83. Find PDF.

In the years 1976–2001, 138 incidents of damage to property by muddy runoff from farmers’ fields occurred on the eastern South Downs. At several sites flooding occurred in more than 1 year and at some there have been multiple cases of flooding in the same years. The great majority of cases occur in the wetter autumns and are the result of runoff from winter cereal fields which are bare at that time. The short-term, emergency, response to flooding has been to build earth dams and diversion trenches. Medium and long-term responses have also relied on engineering approaches but, notably at two sites, land use change in combination with small dams has been effective in eliminating the risk of flooding. A mapping and modelling approach is shown to be a useful tool for predicting sites at risk. Future climate change will greatly increase the risk of flooding and property damage unless targeted land use change based on risk prediction maps is used to reduce runoff at vulnerable sites.

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