Those floods: It’s only going to get worse

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Over half the homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are at significant risk of flooding from heavy rainfall or their coastal or riverside location and this is only going to get worse as a result of climate change.

That’s according to Department of Regional Development (DRD) researcher, Des McKibbin, who has cited major flooding in Claudy, Limavady, Strand Road, Foyle Road, Bogside and Creggan areas in July, among many examples of heavy inundations that have occurred throughout Northern Ireland this year and throughout most of the last decade.

Mr McKibbin recently compiled a briefing paper to inform the Water and Sewerage Services Bill, which is currently going through the motions at Stormont, principally to punt water charges down the road to 2017 at the earliest.

But the paper makes stark warnings on the potential impact of climate change, here in Northern Ireland, as well.

Mr McKibbin points out that 2010 has been the only year, since 2007, not to experience a serious local flooding event.

He says: “There is concern that the frequency of these events will increase in the future.”

He warns that 46,000 of the 83,000 properties here are at risk of flooding due to their coastal or riparian location and a further 20,000 properties are sited in an area at risk of flooding from a significant rainfall event.

And the risk of flooding here is made worse by the fact that 70 per cent of our sewer system is ‘combined’ and has to cope with both foul waste and storm water.

Mr McKibbin refers to the heavy summer flooding here, warning: “The traditional method of managing surface water is to funnel it away quickly into the sewer system from where it is released in local water courses.

“However, this approach often means the problem is simply transferred to another part of the catchment and during periods of intense rainfall flooding can and does occur.

“The type of weather events (heavy/prolonged rainfall) that cause flooding are expected to become more common as a result of climate change. This will significantly increase both the volume and flow rate of storm water produced and conveyed directly to watercourses. Indeed, these events are already commonplace; since 2007, only 2010 did not have a serious local flooding incident.”