The UK’s current network of river barriers and defences is preventing £1.1 billion a year of flood damage, according to new research.
The results, the first time the financial contribution of river water defences has been quantified in this way, were unveiled yesterday at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) property insurance conference.
The modelling, based on thousands of simulations of weather events with and without defences, was commissioned by Flood Re and conducted by Risk Management Solutions.
It emphasises the value to UK homes and businesses of defence spending and the importance of ongoing public investment, particularly for flood-prone locations such as Cumbria, Yorkshire, Somerset and the Welsh Valleys.
The research shows that inland flooding would, on average, cost almost three times more on an annual basis without the defences—a bill of £1.8 billion rather than £700 million across the whole of the UK.
In England, the government currently spends around £600 million each year on building and maintaining defences, with the Environment Agency recently recommending an annual spend of £1 billion on all risk management.
Despite the lack of severe flooding in recent years, speculation that this June could be the wettest on record is also a timely reminder that any long-term government spending allocations need to reflect the importance of ongoing funding for flood management.
James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “The human cost of flooding is immeasurable, putting lives at risk, causing families great trauma and pushing some businesses to the brink. Flood defences are an essential part of the protection system which prevents and minimises the trauma caused by flooding as much as possible.”
“Faced with the growing threat of climate change, there is a clear financial argument for investing in flood defences. The barriers, walls and natural defences that currently prevent greater damage being done by the UK’s rivers during times of extreme weather make economic sense, but they must keep pace with the threat if they are to continue being effective. It’s essential the UK government sticks to its ambitions on flood defence spending and doesn’t let the lack of severe flooding in recent years lull the country into a false sense of security.”
Dermot Kehoe, director of communications and transition at Flood Re, added: “Since our launch, almost 250,000 properties at risk of flooding have benefitted from the peace of mind provided by Flood Re. However, Flood Re will only be around for the next 20 years. This research shows just how vital it is that investment in flood defences is maintained in the future so that householders will not need to live in fear of flooding after Flood Re has gone.”