Learning the lessons from being flooded out by storms

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One of the roles of Wetherby and District U3A is to create opportunities for wider community learning from all Groups’ studies, debate and research.

The Green Group has been in existence for three years. Its main aim is to understand the consequences of climate change in terms of extreme weather events. However. its approach is more hands on than academic, hence this meeting which is the second open meeting that the group has organized.

Boxing Day last year was an extraordinary day, as I’m sure you all remember. Apart from thinking that we were living in a seaside town, we are lucky that Wetherby was built on the limestone ridge which the Wharfe has cut through. If Wetherby ever gets flooded it’s time to build the ark again.

Many other places did not come off as lightly, as we know. In fact the floods in Yorkshire in December broke all records to date in terms of extreme weather conditions.

This created major challenges for the speakers’ organisations and they played a major role in helping the public and companies in the flood damaged areas.

Thus the purpose of the meeting was to hear about how the floods were addressed and what is being planned by local agencies to avoid a similar disaster in the future.

Two speakers had been invited to the event on May 23, entitled Flooded out. They were Amanda Crossfield, Lead Advisor for Climate Change Adaptation for Yorkshire Water, and Mark Fuller, Asset Engineer, Wharfe Catchment, with the Environment Agency.

The enthusiastic audience were provided with figures about Yorkshire Water Services which took my breath away.

While all our utility services deliver in an effective manner, none of us have had to think too deeply about what goes on behind the scenes when we turn on the tap or flush the toilet, however, as Amanda started to talk about Yorkshire Water, it highlighted the role the company plays in all our lives.

Here are some figures. Yorkshire Water has 5 million customers, 120 reservoirs plus and 29,000 hectares of land, which makes it the largest landowner in Yorkshire.

Every day Yorkshire Water treats 1 billion litres of waste water (sewage to you and me) and produces 1.3 billion litres of drinking water.

Changes in our climate are key to what happened in 2015, and there seems no doubt at all from what Mark Fuller was saying, that climate change is being caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide.

Following the Climate Change Conference of 2015 in Paris, an Agreement was reached to be implemented by May 2016 to reduce global emissions by 1.5 per cent by 2020.

What about the future? We heard from Amanda about the Blueprint for Yorkshire regarding Climate Change Strategy.

Plans for land management and environmental resilience mean that 40 per cent of our water supply in the future will come from the uplands, which currently has peat in its colour.

To be able to use upland water in the future, it requires healthy, well-functioning peat bog, which will deliver environmental and Climate Change requirements.

Projections for this county are for changing rainfall patterns, increase in rainfall intensity, short sharp showers, sea level rise, gradual warming, more variable and more extreme weather.

Other challenges are from population increase, urban creep, affordability and tightening environmental standards.

The key for both the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water is continuing to work together on flood risk, both in rural and larger urban areas, with powers to carry out work on main rivers, utilise extensive telemetry systems to issue flood warnings and use strategic methods of flood control applied to other rivers.

While the U3A is not a pressure group, they do pass on their findings to the wider community who may have an interest. This was a most informative, discursive and important event.

The Green Group was founded by Eric Cowin after he retired from his job as Group Planner on Leeds City Council working on Aire Valley Regeneration.

The Group organises field trips over the summer and meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at 2pm at Kirk Deighton Village Hall. It welcomes new members.

If you would like to find out more about the Wetherby & District U3A please visit the website www.wetherbyu3a.org.uk