UPDATE: Satellite images added.
UPDATE2: Upon further inspection of satellite images and flood maps I’ve concluded that while what this commenter had to say about the history is indeed true, the impact in this situation is not particularly relevant. I was going on the idea that all of the flood control channels in Somerset levels were interconnected, so that there would be multiple paths of egress (directable by small dams). It turns out they are not, and the Huntspill sluice, even if full open, wouldn’t have drained any water where it was most needed. The real issue has to do with the lack of flow capacity in the Kings Sedgemoor Drain, (gravity drain, not pumped) due to silting and vegetation encroachment, as well as similar issues in the River Parrett where a campaign was launched in 2013 to get it dredged, to no avail. Thus I’ve changed the top photo and the title to reflect this new information about lack of management, putting wildlife over people. – Anthony
UPDATE3/4: This before and after photo shows the problem of silting restricting the flow on the River Parrett (originally only two photos, now 3 together which tells the story better.
h/t to Richard North at EU Referendum for the original two on the left, with thanks to WUWT commenters ‘Peter’ and ‘Jones’ and ‘Jabba the Cat’
This article at The Telegraph is the source: How Somerset Levels river flooded after it was not dredged for decades
We’ve previously covered the absurd claims that “global warming” was the cause of flooding in Somerset, UK here and here, with yesterday, even a senior scientist at the Met Office disagreeing with the spinmistress in charge, Julio Slingo’s claim about an AGW connection. Now we learn the real reason. Lack of management.
The ROF pumping station was turned off in 2008 and nothing was done to replace it, while at the same time the Huntspill sluice gates to drain water to the sea seemed to be improperly managed by the EA.
I’m repeating the comment here to give wide distribution.
Bishop Hill writes: Commenter “Corporal Jones’ Ghost’ left this comment on one of the flooding threads. It looks to be quite important. (see my notes above in update 2, this claim while historically true, is no longer credible as a reason for flooding – Anthony)
I want to tell you what really has happened on the Somerset Levels.
I am remaining anonymous for good reason, I think you’ll understand why.
You have to go back to 1939, when the MOD decided that they needed a new Munitions factory for HDX explosives, HDX uses a lot of water, all munitions manufacture does, but HDX is greedy.
The levels had too much water and so we built one on the Levels, ROF37 or ROF Bridgewater or ROF Woolavington, it’s all the same place.
To ensure that there was enough water even on the waterlogged Levels, we built the Huntspill River, we then connected it to the River Brue to the North and the Kings Sedgemoor Drain via a pipe to the South, we also widened the River Sowy to get water to our factory.
We would use >5 thousand million litres every year, rain or shine.
We then disposed of it into the sea, we had to do this regardless of the tidal conditions and we had steam pumps that did this remarkable task, they pumped out at the Huntspill sluice 3 thousand million ltrs a year, the rest was either evaporated, too contaminated and shipped off-site or left the factory in the product!
Part of the legacy f the fall of Communism was that we didn’t need quite so much ordnance to practice killing the deadly foe.
In the mid 1990s the decision was made and we ran down the ROFs.
By 2000 ROF37 was given an execution date of 2008 and like all state executions, it was carried out on time.
We all knew that the ‘run-on’ from our departure would be that the EA/Levels Boards needed to take over pumping, they couldn’t afford our old system as it was very old and on restricted land.
I should explain at this point that the ONLY pumping done was ours, we could and did pump no matter the tides, we’d taken over the responsibility/control in 1940 for all high volume pumping on the Levels.
We advised that the Huntspill be automated and the Kings Sedgemoor Drain be pumped and made strong representation to that effect.
But every meeting with the EA ended in frustration as they never sent a single seriously knowledgeable Drainage Engineer to any meeting. The Levels Boards understood the issues and tried to get the pumps installed.
It didn’t happen.
One of the problems with draining the Levels is silting, we used to pump in such a way as to utilise ‘scour’ of all the rhynes and ditches and pipelines to keep them clear, when we shut down in the 50s due to a slight mishap and explosion on site in just 15 days of reduced use we found the lines lost about 1% of their ‘flow sympathy’ meaning we had to suck about 1% harder to get the same amount of water through the top metering point.
We all hoped that the 2007 flood would wake the EA up and get them to re-think their stance on the KSD pumps, they would not even agree to a meeting! We were pumping furiously on a limited facility in that year or that flood would have been horrific.
Today, looking at the flood charts and pictures it is obvious that the connection to the Huntspill is blocked, silted up.
So the water can’t be ‘smeared’ over all the levels as in the past, that is why ‘record’ levels are being recorded in certain areas whilst others are barely affected.
The poor chap who has built an Island out of his home has my sympathies, he the KSD pumps been in place for the last 6 years he’d not be in the predicament he is in, nor for that matter would most of the others on the levels, the water won’t be going anywhere soon.
This is the reality of the situation, if you wish to check for yourself, you can go to even the Wiki pages and read about it (until they get edited no doubt!) but all that I’ve written is a matter of public record and can be verified elsewhere.
I enclose a single link to the fact that we did our best to convince the EA that the matter was serious.
Quote from above…
Floodwater is removed from many of the moors of the Somerset Levels by pumping stations, which were originally steam-powered. These were superseded by diesel engines, and more recently by electric pumps. The King’s Sedgemoor Drain is unusual in that it operates entirely by gravity. Consideration was given to replacing Dunball clyse with a pumping station in 2002, which would have allowed water to be discharged into the estuary at all states of the tide, but this course of action was not followed. Management of the Drain is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, whereas the numerous rhynes or drainage ditches which feed into the Drain are the responsibility of several Internal Drainage Boards, who work together as the Parrett Consortium of Drainage Boards.
The reference point… ^ The Parrett Catchment Water Management Strategy Action Plan. Environment Agency. 2002. ISBN 1-85705-788-0. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
I thought someone ought to know the real truth behind this fiasco.
Also in the reference in Wikipedia is this story which backs up the commenter’s claim:
As part of the war effort, an explosives factory, ROF Bridgwater, was built at Puriton. The Catchment Board needed to be able to guarantee that 4.5 million gallons (20.5 Megalitres) of process water would be available to the factory every day. To this end, the Huntspill River was constructed, a little further to the north, which was essentially a revival of a plan by J. Aubrey Clark in 1853, to provide better drainage for the Brue valley. King’s Sedgemoor drain was deemed to be a backup source for water, should the Huntspill scheme fail, and so all of the work which had been planned before the war started was completed, to ensure that the volume of water needed was always available. Greylake sluice was built by the Somerset Rivers Catchment Board in 1942, and used guillotine gates to control water levels. The original plaque commemorating its completion was incorporated into the new structure when the sluice was rebuilt in 2006.
To help readers visualize, here is a couple of map items from Google Earth that I annotated. First, the ROF37 munitions factory, Huntspill River, the Huntspill Sluice (gates) and their proximity to the town of Bridgwater:
It looks like they keep the Huntspill River artificially high, even in good weather. The voles must be happy:
It seems the writing was on the wall in January 2014, as shown in this video:
Here are some photos from that same day:
But no, it MUST be AGW because water mismanagement by the Environmental Authority is out of the question.
Of course, this EA map says otherwise, click to enlarge:
This is from a policy document from 2008 which referred to the possibility – so-called option 6 – of allowing parts of the Levels to flood:
Policy Unit 8- Somerset Levels and Moors
Policy option 6 – Take action to increase the frequency of flooding to deliver benefits locally or elsewhere, which may constitute an overall flood risk reduction.
Note: This policy option involves a strategic increase in flooding in allocated areas, but is not intended to affect the risk to individual properties.
Satellite image from Feb 8th, click to enlarge:
Same area seen today from MODIS, the brown floodwaters are obvious, though reduced: