Our Autumn ADA Gazette is now published and full of news, views and all sorts of useful info and adverts for your consideration! Going into this colourful period of the year, I enjoy embracing our changing seasons which I think brings a freshness to our lives in a variety of different ways. I never tire of the sights and sounds of our wonderful countryside and my header photo of Upper Wharfdale captures some of that magic for me. That positivity has, however, been sadly dented by the loss of two much respected people in our industry, Duncan Huggett and Anthony Morbey, and you cannot ignore the news with the senseless acts of inhumanity that we see in various places on our ever more populated planet.
September was also a real month of destructive natural activity and we have some stories covering those events in the Gazette. We have seen quite a few extremes, particularly across the Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, the Iberian peninsula and, of course, the latest devastating earthquake in Mexico. All of these events have sadly caused much misery and havoc. Less talked about, because it is intangible, invisible, was one of the biggest solar flares on record giving rise to a spectacular Aurora Borealis. I also saw a picture on twitter of the last patch of permanent snow in the Scottish Highlands about to disappear and, on comparison of my recent holiday snaps of Canada’s famous Columbia Icefields this summer with a previous visit I made in 1987, I was shocked to see the hundreds of metres by which the front edge of the glacier had receded. Are we on a one-way ticket or, as some believe, is this part of a bigger cyclical phenomenon ? Yes, it might be cyclical, but will the cycle have reversed before we human beings are deep frozen, fried or all become amphibians?
Blighty seems in a pretty good place then ? We have some of the oldest rocks, the least tectonic activity, the most moderate climates, and we sit at one of the best latitudes but we are still highly susceptible to the ravages of natural extremes. It is no surprise, therefore, that our Government keeps the subjects of flood & drought risk at the top of our country’s national risk register.
We all take water for granted. How we can we instill in our population a sense of value in our water, how we use it, and how we stop abusing it? ADA’s members in one way or another have responsibilities for managing water and what is particularly encouraging is the way in which those members are collaborating together through their approach to water management, to make our country a better place environmentally, socially and economically. The bad examples of water management practices are being consigned to history and the good examples are multiplying in number. Gone also are the days that we can shout for more money as we see all our essential services under huge pressures to do more for less, so we must be innovative in the ways we work with our natural resources.
One of the latest pieces of thinking taking place is the strengthening of links between the water and energy sectors – some call it the water-energy nexus – and ADA is keeping abreast of that thinking not only here in the UK, but also with our European colleagues through EUWMA. Earlier this year, we saw some great examples of local drainage authorities investing in wind turbines in Northern Germany to not only power their own needs, but provide discounted energy to the local communities AND sell the excess back into the national grid. Why can’t we do more of that here in the UK ? …Nimbyism? Protectionism? Lack of enthusi-ism!
Our industry can do more for less too, but we need to embrace innovation, we need to inspire our young people to get involved, we need to convince our businesses to get more involved in investing in water management and we need to think long term. I saw a great example at Flood Expo last week where an entrepreneurial business was showcasing a new piece of equipment with great potential for our industry. They reached out to a couple of our interested Associate Members to help show others what it can do. For the more technical amongst you, it is simply an excavator-mounted cutter-suction head which throws/sprays the silt it hoovers up onto the adjacent banks as the excavator progresses along the bank. For the smaller watercourses, it could be much more environmentally friendly, more efficient and save time and money and I will watch any trials with great interest.
As the EA moves to refresh its Flood & Coastal Risk Management Strategy for the country, now is the time to make a difference and perhaps boldly go where no man has gone before! And our politicians will need some courage to do this with our support, cutting across political divisions. Maybe it is good time to give some of our more influential parliamentary committees such as the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) and the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) and others some more powers?
Finally, we have one of our most unmissable ADA Conferences yet coming up on 16th November with a great line-up of eminent speakers including Environment Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Cllr Derek Antrobus (ex RFCC Chair), Lord Deben, chair of the Committee for Climate Change and Sir James Bevan from the Environment Agency. We will also be saying our fond adieus to Henry Cator as he moves on to new challenges. I say “adieu” because I know that Henry will very much continue to take a highly active interest in matters of water management, especially through his continued chairing of the Water Resources East group and, of course, his continued role with the Broads Internal Drainage Board.