North East children have helped to kick off a brand new community initiative aimed at reducing the risk of flooding.
Pupils from Mickley First School have become the first to take part in a proactive scheme by Northumbrian Water which will address potential future flood risk and help build resilience to climate change.
The scheme will involve working more closely with communities across the region to reduce the amount of surface water that enters the sewer network. This will help to increase its capacity, which is particularly important during heavy rainfall.
The new initiative, which is part of the company’s wider surface water management programme, Rainwise, is industry-leading in progressing proactive community-led flood reduction solutions in locations that have not suffered flooding in the past, while providing additional benefit to those that have.
It also seeks to raise awareness about how people of the North East can get involved by managing surface water around their home and reduce the risk of flooding in their community as a whole.
Working in partnership with contractors Esh-MWH, Northumbrian Water has created a sustainable drainage system at the school near Prudhoe, by installing planters and a water butt.
Rainwater from the roof will also be diverted via a swale (grassy ditch) into a wildlife pond. These measures will help to prevent surface water from entering the sewer network.
At the launch of the initiative, pupils learnt about the causes of flooding, how to manage surface water, and the differences and impact of permeable and impermeable surfaces.
Richard Warneford, Wastewater Director at Northumbrian Water, said: "We need to be prepared for the future as population growth, an increase in the amount of impermeable surfaces and more rainfall means that our sewerage network is under increasing pressure.
"By taking a proactive approach and working with communities, we hope to better understand local surface water issues and will work to identify the right solutions to minimise flood risk.
"Partnership working is also vital to tackle flooding in a holistic and cost effective way and we will work with local authorities’ and organisations like the Environment Agency whenever we can."
As well as installing new pipes to transfer surface water away from the sewer network and new tanks to store storm water, Northumbrian Water will use sustainable drainage solutions where possible.
These may include rainwater gardens, ponds or grassed-detention basins and have wider social and environmental benefits, including providing a green space in urban areas and creating valuable wildlife habitats.
Mr Warneford added: "We are encouraging people to get involved with this initiative, accessing our online community portal and providing us with the local knowledge in the areas we’re working in.
"The scheme will also help provide understanding of how small changes around the home can make a positive difference to managing surface water."
Head teacher of Mickley First School, Andy Hudson, said: "We were delighted to be asked to take part in this new scheme and the children had a fantastic morning getting their hands dirty. With the support of Northumbrian Water employees they made rain gauges, explored permeability of materials and planted flowers in our new planters.
"As a result the children understand they can have an impact, however small, on their local area and we hope that through being involved in this project it will perhaps encourage others to take their own actions to help reduce the impact of flooding."
Broomhaugh, Stocksfield and Mickley County Councillor Anne Dale, said: "It’s a wonderful opportunity for Northumbrian Water to come and work in partnership with the school and the community and raise awareness about what they can do to help to reduce the risk of flooding."
For more information about Rainwise, see www.nwl.co.uk/rainwise and to find out if Northumbrian Water is working in your area and to have your say, visit www.nwlcommunityportal.co.uk.
For more information, contact Janine Scott on 0191 301 6713.