Innovative technologies to combat flooding in England through £150 million fund

Laura Parnaby, PA
·2-min read

Innovative technologies involving flood alert apps and “sponge” road surfaces will be deployed across England as part of a new project aiming to combat flooding.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced a £150 million funding package to be shared between 25 local schemes aiming to improve waterway defences and coastal resilience.

This is part of the Government’s new Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme – an effort to develop and test new approaches to tackling coastal erosion and mainland flooding – and will be managed by the Environment Agency.

Summer weather – June 28th
Flooding in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A wide range of approaches tailored to local communities will be trialled, including the restoration of sub-tidal habitats like kelp beds, oyster reefs and sea grass near South Tyneside, and an app to warn residents about the threat of groundwater in Buckinghamshire.

Artificial intelligence and new sensor technology to detect rising water levels will be used in Northumberland, and in Cornwall sand dunes will be protected and saltmarshes restored.

In Slough, the Chinese “sponge city” concept will be deployed, which is the use of permeable roads to soak up surface water, along with natural vegetation to improve drainage.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the Government has pledged to invest £5.2 billion in 2,000 new flood and coastal defences over the next six years, adding that “long-term approaches to improve communities’ resilience” is vital in the face of climate change.

She said: “These 25 projects will not only help to inform future approaches to prepare communities for flooding and coastal change across the country, but also help reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation and new technology as we build back better.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said the project is “extremely exciting” and could be replicated on a larger scale around the world if successful.

She said: “The innovation programme is extremely exciting as it begins to put new aspects of the national flood and coastal erosion risk strategy to the test.

“What we learn will inform our approach to the climate crisis in the coming decades and it’s something to tell our international partners about at Cop26.

“I’m particularly interested in the projects that test the ability of nature-based projects to generate revenue.

“If successful, these could be scaled up by private finance around the world, helping to prepare for climate shocks, restore nature and create jobs.”