Anyone would be very hard pressed to tell that the photo leading this blog is not taken in the UK. It is one of Northern Germany’s drainage ditches in the district of Dithmarschen which I visited last week and everything seemed so similar – ditches, banks, pumping stations, and the wonderfully positive spirit of the people proudly looking after these assets. And the pride rubbed off on all the local communities and businesses benefiting from these services to show a well-integrated social, economic and environmental geography of the area.
Britain demonstrates exactly the same characteristics in similar areas of low-lying land, but we seem to have a higher risk of our politicians focusing on other priorities rather than remaining concerned with the basic foundations of our society which is good quality, sustainable, water and food.
I am very concerned that none of the party manifestos give anything more than a cursory few words to address flood risk and I have not yet found one manifesto that recognises the significant national risk if we encounter a serious drought. We must do better to get these themes on the table of a new government and if you are reading this, please have a think about how best to engage with your local parliamentary candidates ahead of the election and whoever is elected after the 8th June, to press home ADA’s 7-point drainage, water level and flood risk management manifesto.
Now the other element of the visit to Germany that was different was the notable presence of renewable energy and, along with others, I was there to discuss the connection between water and energy and how we do better in managing the two together. Many of you with pumps will know that your energy bills form a significant part of your annual budget. The Germans have faced this issue head-on through green energy production, technology improvements to pumping controls, adopting fully automated level controls and pumping triggers across catchments and, of course, using high quality machinery which is very well maintained. Dithmarschen district was covered in a considerable number of wind turbines, some standing over 200m tall and the acceptance by the local population of the prosperity that this power generation has brought them has outweighed the disadvantages ( notably visual ).
I also visited a family-run pump manufacturer who took pleasure in showing me the casting moulds from a 1950’s product which they made and could today provide a full set of spare parts for. Even more impressive was the ability of the same manufacturer to make new, more efficient parts to fit into older casings, simply because they had all the design drawings, the know-how and even their own casting foundry to start things from scratch.
The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. We discovered that regulation seems more onerous than it is here, especially on matters of water quality and environment. Refreshingly, our German colleagues were not battling with that position but understanding how best to work with it and take the local businesses, communities and people with them on the journey.
We worked together last year to produce a jointly agreed declaration on opportunities to make better use of the Water Framework Directive and it is hoped that Germany’s Federal Government can take this to the EU Commission and that our own Government will also consider the options. It is entirely possible that Britain could lead the way on this by taking the initiative ahead of the EU Commission, and ADA would welcome that.
It would be remiss of me not to mention my great pleasure at seeing another successful FLOODEX take place in Peterborough last week. Our thanks have been passed widely to all who supported and attended the event and I would especially like to pay tribute to my team who have been working extremely hard behind the scenes since Christmas to make it the event that it was. We once again had over 1000 visitors over the two days and the best bit about the whole event was seeing the various interactions between you all, the people that make our industry so special.
Finally, from myself and the rest of the team at ADA, I wish Ian and his future wife Alison the very best wishes for a long, healthy and happy life together when they tie the knot next week ! “Lang may yer lum reek” as they say north of the border !