Reducing Yorkshire flood risks: How all of us can help

Volunteers from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust at work on a river management project on a cold winter's day.

Volunteers from the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust at work on a river management project on a cold winter's day.

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As yet, there have been no hit movies about river management - unless you count the classic 1972 thriller Deliverance set in the flooded Cahulawassee River valley starring Burt Reynolds.

Perhaps there ought to be, however.

The latest estimates show that one in six homes in England and Wales are at risk of flooding, with the potential to cause billions in damage without better flood and water management. * (source: JBA Consulting).

Rather than throwing vast sums of money at the problem from on high, however, the solution might lie in our own hands and may not cost the earth.

The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust is one of several environmental groups in the UK who believe the most effective approach is for all of us to think and act smarter.

From using natural or ‘semi-permeable’ surfaces in our own gardens to how we wash our cars, preventing floods and improving rivers in the future may mean all of us - residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and councils - doing the little things better.

Senior projects officer Dan Turner, who joined YDRT four years ago after studying environmental science at University of Leeds, says natural problems require natural solutions.

Dan, 24, said: “We think it’s important to spread information about why rivers are important and how they benefit communities.

“People have lost contact and control over their own rivers. Improving them brings possibilities for leisure activities as well as reducing the flood risk."

Dan, a farmer’s son who was inspired to take up his career after doing voluntary work as a 16-year-old with the Eden Rivers Trust in Cumbria, spends a significant part of his time at the YDRT spreading the word through school visits and field trips.

Never mind building houses on flood plains, mankind’s behaviour at the simplest level, whether for good or bad, has tended to interfere with the natural course and behaviour of rivers.

The end result has often been to make rivers even more vulnerable to flooding.

A small but active charity group whose president is Lord Masham, most of the YDRT’s work attempts to solve problems raised by the Water Framework Directive, an EU initiative to improve the quality of every river in Europe for the ecological good of us all.

Away from the forest of jargon part and parcel of doing anything in the modern world, the achievements of this small band of full-time workers and its army of unpaid volunteers are practical and visible.

Dan said: It’s very rewarding to see the improvements in a river a couple of years after a project has been finished.

“I love working with farmers and schoolchildren and seeing them inspired to care about rivers and the natural environment.”

Reducing flood risks

Top 5 tips for the public

1 Take care washing your car

The best thing to do when washing your car is to do it on a gravel area away from any drains so the soapy suds are filtered into the ground rather than into the river eventually.

2. Gardens: keep your grass!

The fashion these days in residential areas is to replace grassy gardens with decking and hard surfaces. These prevent water being soaked up. It also means excess rainfall flows quickly into the nearest river.

3. Volunteer to improve rivers

Get your hands dirty with some hands-on work at rivers by taking part in in Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust volunteer days or help with ‘walkover surveys’ which identify where there are particular issues or problems. Bedale is just one of the river sites currently being assessed in this way

4. Become a member of The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust

There are three types of membership open: annual, corporate or estate and lifetime with the fees going to the YDRT, a charity.

5. Donate

The YDRT is a charity and welcome corporate sponsorship, individual donations and bequests and legacies.