Setting the record straight: Monbiot on Internal Drainage Boards

Setting the record straight: Monbiot on Internal Drainage Boards

This letter has been sent to The Guardian newspaper in response to an article by George Monbiot about flooding.


Dear Editor,

I refer to your Opinion article on Flooding by Mr Monbiot published on 11 February and was very disappointed at the wrongly informed description Mr Monbiot used in describing the vital role and work of our Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) in managing water when it reaches the lowest parts of our catchments.

Contrary to what the article claims, IDBs generally operate at the bottom end of our river catchment areas and very much support better upper catchment management and natural flood management measures to reduce run-off to lower parts of the catchment which they help manage. That management focuses on the correct and indivisible balance of the needs of the environment, local economy and people, with added emphasis on reducing flood risk and carefully providing water to agricultural areas in times of its scarcity.

Mr Monbiot is also wrong to claim that that IDBs don’t appear to be answerable to any government department. IDBs are defined as a Risk Management Authority under the Flood & Water Management Act 2010. Effectively acting as small local authorities, they are accountable bodies which undertake their flood risk management functions in line with England’s National Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, and are scrutinised by local authority committees, as well as being overseen and reporting annually to Defra. Yes, the predecessors of IDBs were originally formed by groups of landowners interested in managing water for their interests and benefit as far back as the 13th Century, but today IDBs are highly efficient and democratic, operating for the wider public benefit of an area set out in legislation.

Indeed, as a result of the work they carry out and their environmental stewardship of our water corridors, people are demanding that IDBs be allowed to increase their area of activities where other authorities are unable to justify looking after our rivers. As I said previously, IDBs support the concepts of NFM at the top ends of our river catchments but lower down the catchment where there is the complex interface between people and economic activity, infrastructure, etc, our rivers and waterways need careful management using a variety of water management tools and they are very well placed, skilled and equipped to do that.

Our IDBs are proud of the work they do for the wider public and environmental good and they are greatly energised by the general levels of increasing support being demonstrated for the vital role they play in the community.

Yours faithfully,

J Innes Thomson BSc CEng FICE

ADA Chief Executive