Oxford flooding

Geoff passed on to me an Oxford status update from his brother, dated Wednesday morning:

I have just heard that Botley Rd is passable at the moment but won’t be for long. A big surge is predicted for today as the the river drains the floodplains and water-meadows further up the Thames Valley. Kidlington, despite being between the Oxford Canal and the Cherwell River, is OK at the moment, at least in our area. There’s a possibility that the Osney substation could go off, though, in which case most of central Oxford will be without electricity. The Bishop of Carlisle has helpfully suggested that it is all a punishment from God for our wicked ways.

There are some impressive videos on the BBC website.

Leaving aside the notion of a vengeful God who tortures sanitary engineers above all other men[1] the videos which Geoff cites really are rather good – including the one of Port Meadow doing the job for which it was designed.

Then I think of all the recent discussion in the press about building-up the East End of London, on marshland alongside the Thames, and I think of:

  1. The houses there which will likely repeatedly be flooded out.
  2. The houses elsewhere which will flood due to the lack of drainage from the stuff that has been built-over.
  3. The costs of repairing an area the size of East London for the sort of damage that happens every few years in Upton.

…and I conclude it’d be a really bad idea to invest in the reinsurance business any time now.


[1] If I were God, omnipotent, and and wanted to punish mankind for wickedness, I would be a lot more creative than flooding, which has a been-there-done-that quality. How about making the entire population of the planet impotent for a year and a day – a nicely biblical timespan? Make it complete erectile dysfunction. The frustration[2] would start wars, death, the suffering would be a thing of delight – oh, wait, God doesn’t delight in suffering, oh, wait, yes he does the Bishop says so…

[2] Come to think of it, some of my lesbian friends[3] would probably think it a great idea.

[3] The self-proclaimed “Army of Dykeness”, I kid you not.

5 Replies to “Oxford flooding”

  1. What all the news reports on the news, and all the pundits, fail to understand (or maybe fail to want to postulate) is that the way that the wider flood plains come into existance are a seriies of these “unusual” flood events.

    Yes, they are infrequent on the human timescale, but in the larger scheme of things “every couple of hundred years” is quite frequent and enough to build them up.

    The problem comes when engineers are told to ignore these events because “the probablility of them happening is too low to justify the expendature.” Anyone who knows about probablility also knows that the very improbable can happen either a long time in the future or now, it’s just the general, overall frequency is low over an infinite timescale.

    The other problem I’ve been having with the reports on building upon floodplains is that no-one seems to have thought about the obvious way to mitigate the effects to the residents of these new homes… design the houses to be able to cope with these events.. the cheapest way of doing this would be to build the houses on piles, raised above the highest flood level recorded. Other mitigating technologies.. one-way valves on drains into houses to stop the houses being flooded via the sewer system, water-tight membranes under the houses to prevent inundation through ground water seepage. All of these are relatively cheap to implement in new buildings.

    True, this doesn’t help with run-off but it does help mitigate the effects.

    As for the silly ideas being espoused about making bigger storm drains… They just havent been thought through. Firstly, bigger storm drains merely move the problem elsewhere quicker (for a time) and secondly they won’t do any good if the water-level from the whole drainage system is above them as they will just be flooded themselves.

    Silly humans!

  2. @steve:

    >water-tight membranes under the houses to
    >prevent inundation through ground water seepage.

    …doesn’t that also mean the houses cannot dry out totally?

    I like the idea of building on piles, though.

  3. Not really, if the membrane is part of the damp-course.

    Houses these days generally do have a sheet of plastic in this place already, but it’s flimsy and often punctured by the builders as it’s not seen as important.

  4. Loved your insight!! For once someone got everything correct!! Would you mind if I put a blogroll link back to your post? 🙂

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