Flooding: Be prepared

Communities across the Chiltern Hills should be prepared for groundwater flooding, warns Buckinghamshire Council.

Residents can check their risk on the government website. The council says that if people are in an area not covered by the Environment Agency’s groundwater flood alerts but have previously experienced groundwater flooding, they should prepare for groundwater flooding during the coming weeks.

Groundwater flooding is currently occurring in areas across the Berkshire Downs and is starting to appear in Bucks. Groundwater levels are high in the Wycombe area and are being monitored. The council have produced groundwater flood maps of the likely locations for groundwater flooding, where it is most likely to emerge and what locations it will impact. These are available for Chesham, Marlow, Hambleden, Wycombe and West Wycombe.

Those experiencing flooding can call Floodline for advice on 0345 9881188. Flooding should be reported to the council.

If it is an emergency and flooding is causing a risk to life, call 999.

Groundwater can infiltrate the sewage system. People who have problems flushing their toilet, or seeing sewage is emerging, should contact Thames Water on 0800 316 9800.

Groundwater flooding occurs when water gathers beneath the ground’s surface, causing the water table to rise and eventually reach the surface.

This type of flooding has some key characteristics that differ from other sources:

* Flooding will usually occur days or even weeks after heavy rainfall;
* Flooding may persist for a long time, often lasting for weeks;
* Water may emerge on hillsides;
* Water may rise up through floors, rather than entering through doors;

Due to these characteristics, and the fact that groundwater flooding is a less common source of flooding, people are often caught unprepared.

Furthermore, while local organisations are prepared to support people, no measures are available to lower the water table during a groundwater flood.

Therefore, residents and businesses must be prepared that groundwater levels will remain high and should undertake measures to protect their property until the water table naturally falls.

The most important thing to do to prepare for groundwater flooding is to have a personal flood plan. Flood Mary’s website has many resources for creating a plan, including a template to fill in.

If residents and businesses already have flood plans, this is the time to review them and act hows they can. The council advises planning for the worst-case scenario of groundwater flooding lasting for weeks.

This can be difficult, as homes, roads, and community spaces can all be affected for long periods of time.

The National Flood Forum is a charity to help, support and represent people at risk of flooding. It can be contacted on 01299 403 055.

Jilly Jordan, the council’s deputy cabinet member for climate change and environment, said: ‘Groundwater flooding can have devastating impacts on those affected. One of the best ways to reduce that impact is to be prepared.

‘Ensure you have your flood plan ready and speak to your community to ensure everyone knows of the risk.

‘Groundwater has long been the forgotten form of flooding, and communities at risk do not get the same level of advice and support as they do with other forms of flooding. We are working to change that with Project Groundwater, and we will continue to share our learning to benefit all who experience groundwater flooding.’

Project Groundwater supports communities to be more resilient to groundwater flooding. The project aims to increase contact with communities in order to help build understanding and awareness of groundwater flooding.

The council is working to:

* Improve monitoring of when and where groundwater emerges;
* Develop a better groundwater flood warning service that will support residents to take action;
* Investigate what nature-based solutions could be used to reduce groundwater flood risk.

This project is funded by Defra as part of the £200 million Flood and Coastal Innovation Programmes, managed by the Environment Agency.

* For more information, visit: www.projectgroundwater.co.uk
* Follow the project on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
* For more information, visit: www.projectgroundwater.co.uk