Do right thing on our rivers

First published in Letters

Sir – Your edition on January 22 contained several letters about the flooding situation.

The Witney Anti-Flood Group is suggesting “desilting”, which I presume means dredging.

Indeed, calls for dredging are being heard all over the country.

While it may be appropriate in some areas where low-lying marshlands have been artificially drained, dredging is not appropriate for the River Windrush.

I do have great sympathy for people whose homes have been flooded. It must be a truly awful experience and understandably leads to calls that “something must be done”.

But we must avoid the trap of moving on to “dredging is something and therefore dredging must be done”. Apart from the massive environmental damage that dredging causes; it only passes the problem on to the next pinch point.

Readers should also bear in mind that in this area, most of our domestic water is taken from our rivers. Sluicing winter rainfall downstream leads to shortages in summer – remember the hosepipe ban in 2012? Harry Watts’s suggestion of finding ways to store winter rainfall is sensible.

So, if not dredging, then what? The answer is to retain water further upstream and release it slowly, sustaining summer river flows.

Elsewhere in the country this has been achieved by tree planting (soil under trees absorbs water at 67 times the rate of that of soil under grass), blocking field drains and creating soakaway ponds.

Combine these measures with the creation of flood storage areas away from human settlement and we can solve the problem, rather than just passing it on.

The Cotswolds Rivers Trust agrees that pressure for responsible water management and flood control should be brought to bear but let’s ensure that we are all pressing for something that will really work and avoid knee-jerk reactions.

Trevor Cramphorn, Chairman, Cotswolds Rivers Trust, Shipton-under-Wychwood

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