OPINION: Why we are helping communities 'reclaim the rain'

Floodwater in the Waveney Valley between Beccles and Bungay.Photo: Bill DarnellCopy: For: EDPArc

Floodwater in the Waveney Valley between Beccles and Bungay - Credit: Archant

You might be surprised to learn that Suffolk is one of the driest parts of the UK; which for a heavily agricultural county means that water is one of the most precious resources we have, so it’s essential we make the most of every drop that falls here.

In addition to the work we do with partners to minimise flood risk and better manage the water which does fall, Norfolk and Suffolk County Council’s Flood and Water Management Teams were recently successful in winning £6.4million as a joint bid to implement innovative sustainable water management projects across both counties.

Both councils were awarded the grant as part of Defra’s six-year Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme and were one of 25 successful projects chosen to take part.

The project which has been named ‘Reclaim the Rain’ is of great importance to both counties, as we both face considerable local flood risk, as well as water resource scarcity.

Suffolk County Council's Reclaim the Rain initiative

Suffolk County Council's Reclaim the Rain initiative - Credit: Suffolk Council Council

The project sets out to improve flood and drought resilience in six small rural communities across the counties to find more sustainable ways of managing our water.

We have named the project Reclaim the Rain because our goal isn’t just to reduce flooding, we also want to capture that excess water and put it to good use.

The project will deliver beneficial flood water reuse by agriculture, industry, communities, and the environment combined with nature-based flood management solutions. Ultimately the objective of this project is to find better uses for problematic flood water and identify new ways of working that can be learnt from and evidenced to inform and influence future policy, approaches to, and investments in how flood risk is managed nationally in the years to come.

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I am delighted that we have now chosen the three successful community case studies here in Suffolk, which are:

  • Boxford – this community displayed a strong interest in sustainable water management and ways in which the community could be more involved with water management.
  • Little Blakenham – identified some excellent opportunities to work with upstream landowners, allowing them to have a more proactive approach in managing flood water running off their land
  • Friston – who are exploring innovative ways of resolving long-standing hard-to-resolve flood issues.

The selection process was based on various factors, including each community’s vulnerability to surface water flooding, water resource needs, rurality and the likelihood of attracting funding outside of our project.

The project will involve both partner organisations and communities in the development of suitable flood water reuse schemes.

Further reuse of rainwater is a part of the plans

Further reuse of rainwater is a part of the plans - Credit: Archant

The schemes will address the community’s needs in terms of flood risk and water resource requirements, and could result in provision of:

  • Habitat creation and restoration.
  • Natural Flood Management.
  • Rain Gardens.
  • Rainwater Capture and Reuse for community or business use.
  • Retrofitted SuDS.
  • Smart Leaky Water Butts and more.

These three case studies will be specific to the communities that they serve, designed to increase flood and drought resilience, as well as incorporating wider environmental and social benefits too. We look forward to working with Boxford, Little Blakenham and Friston to develop their individual projects in the coming months and years.

To find out more about the project and to follow the journeys of our successful communities, you can visit our website www.reclaimtherain.org, or follow us on Twitter @ReclaimTheRain.

- Councillor Paul West is Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Ipswich, operational highways and flooding.