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Does everyone have a role in helping to manage flood risk?

You may be aware of the different Risk Management Authorities involved in managing flood risk and you may even know what their responsibilities are. But what about the things that we can do ourselves to help reduce flood risk in our communities?

Having visited many properties, it’s surprising just how many domestic gullies, channel drains and old clay fowl drains etc. could benefit from a good clean, as grass clippings, food waste and a general lack of maintenance can mean that drains are not performing as they should. Did you know the maintenance for private drainage is the responsibility of the householder up to the point of connection to the public sewer?

Are you aware of the location or condition of the highway gullies in your neighbourhood? Gullies can easily become blocked by leaves, grass cuttings or fill up with litter, silt and fine run off from the surrounding area. Grass and leaves may easily be swept away from the lid of a gully, but when they are filled with compacted silt and rubbish they need to be reported. Highway roads, footpaths, drains and gullies are the responsibility of the local highway authority which will be either the County Council or the Unitary Authority. Lancashire County Council for example, maintain over 300,000 gullies throughout the county. This means that regular maintenance isn’t possible and if they’re blocked or damaged, they should be reported (this is usually done on council websites).

If you are a riparian owner (own property which has a watercourse within or adjacent to the boundaries of your property) you have certain responsibilities to ‘let water flow naturally’. This includes removing / reporting blockages if they increase flood risk or if they change the flow of the watercourse to neighbouring properties. Perhaps, take more of an interest in the condition of the watercourses in your area and report any concerns to the Environment Agency (main rivers) or the Lead Local Flood Authority (ordinary watercourse). Things to look out for may include fly tipping or grass trimmings and garden waste which is commonly dumped over garden fences. All have the potential to impact on the flow of a watercourse or block trash screens and cause flooding.

In the kitchen – fats, oils and grease should be disposed of correctly, either by allowing to them solidify and putting them into the waste bin, or using a paper towel to wipe up the grease and then disposing of that in the bin. Crumbs and food remnants from plates should be scraped into the bin too and not rinsed down the sink.

It’s the same with the things we flush down our toilets too. Only the 3P’s (you may guess what these are) should be going down there. Just because something is small enough to flush down the toilet doesn’t mean you should. The sewers are not designed for rubbish disposal and flushing non-biodegradable items such as wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products etc mixes them in with all the other unsavoury items in the sewer. This can lead to blockages as the grease, fat, wet wipes and other debris saponify (a chemical reaction which turns the mixture into soap), which can result in blockages or even fatbergs. These large, hard masses can cause serious problems in the sewer as they have to be broken down manually in difficult conditions. United Utilities look after over 77,000km of sewers in the north west so you can see the scale of the task to keep them all flowing.

So, the emphasis here is to be more mindful of our surroundings and the potentially large impacts which can be avoided through small changes by everyone.

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