A free, practical guide to help rural communities protect themselves from flooding has been launched by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England).
The Community Guide to Your Water Environment has been produced in partnership with FWAG (Farming Wildlife Advisory Group), the NFU (National Farmers Union) and the CCRI (Countryside and Community Research Institute).
Supported by Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and the Catchment Based Approach, the ACRE guide aims to help communities understand the importance of water in their local area – and especially the impact of extreme weather.
It offers guidance on how communities can work with everyone from farmers and the Environment Agency to local authorities and drainage boards to reduce the risks of flooding and drought through a simple process called integrated local delivery. It also explains how to protect water quality and biodiversity by taking action locally. It features a step-by-step guide to developing a community project to manage your water, details of resources that will help you, and case studies of communities who have got stuck in to care for water environments across England.
There’s also advice on getting your own house in order, including saving water, keeping a healthy septic tank, avoiding pollution, use of garden chemicals and blocked drains.
ACRE’s Head of Rural Insight Nick Chase said: “The floods of recent years got many local communities thinking about how they could protect their villages from the worst of the weather.
“However, people are confused by the number of individuals, agencies and authorities involved in managing the water environment. There’s a genuine lack of knowledge about how to take local action to map ditches, rivers, meadows and streams to see how they might be better managed to work within their natural ecosystem.
“This new guide sets out to put communities on the right path to working with others to be more prepared for extreme events, such as flooding and droughts, while protecting the purity and biodiversity of local waterways.
“The process of mapping the water flow explains why areas are flooding – often due to blocked or re-routed drains. Residents of all ages have a part to play. Older people often have local knowledge that goes back to before flooding was an issue, while younger people can get involved in clearing streams and ditches.
“The guide features the stories of communities who have ‘been there and done that’ and shows how they have reaped the benefits of getting together to solve problems.”
Jenny Phelps, of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, said: “Land management is key to helping find solutions to the water environment to build resilience and preparedness for communities.
“Farmers often have essential knowledge and resource to help manage the local environment and are an essential part of the team. Communities need to value and work with the farming community from the start so plans can be drawn up in partnership for the benefit of both farm businesses, the community and the water environment.”
The ACRE guide, sponsored by environmental consultant Enzygo Limited, is available to download free from www.acre.org.uk.