Adopting Ecosystem Approach Could Help to Reduce Flooding; after a Year That Has Seen Devastating Floods Hit Several Parts of Wales, Delegates from a Series of Organisations Met This Week to Look at the Best Way to Tackle the Scourge. Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, Discusses a New Approach to Dealing with Flooding

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2 012 was a year unlike any other in terms of flooding across Wales. In early spring we were concerned about drought.

While this was mostly in parts of England, river levels in Wales were generally low - so low that it was beginning to have an impact on water quality and on wildlife.

Within the space of a few weeks, the situation had changed completely.

Torrential showers hit parts of mid and north Wales and we saw the dramatic images of areas being flooded and people being airlifted to safety from rapidly rising flood water.

Heavy rain continued throughout the summer as more and more floods hit parts of Wales and the rest of the UK.

The summer rainfall meant that as we moved into the autumn and winter months, the ground was heavily saturated and unable to absorb more rainwater.

The result of this was the widespread flooding we witnessed during November and December, particularly in and around Ruthin and St Asaph, as well as other more localised events across Wales as the rains continued.

Hundreds of homes were affected, thousands of people lost possessions, and the cost of the damage ran into the millions of pounds. It damaged vital infrastructure with roads and rail causing travel chaos leaving people stranded.

The effects continue today as communities and households endeavour to rebuild their homes following the devastating impact of the flood waters.

Natural Resources Wales will assume the responsibilities of Environment Agency Wales in tackling flood risk on 1 April 2013.

As a new organisation, we recognise that dealing with flooding will be one of the biggest challenges facing us.

Climate change predictions indicate that flooding could become a more regular occurrence in the future with more extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels.

This is a very real and tangible threat to communities and it is important that Natural Resources Wales is prepared for this challenge.

As an organisation, we will continue and build on the excellent work of Environment Agency Wales to provide flood warnings and manage flood risk.

Over 100,000 homes are registered for the free flood warning service, a doubling in the last two years.

After registering, warnings are sent directly by phone about potential flooding incidents in local areas.

The service will be hosted on the new Natural Resources Wales website from April 1. We will continue to operate and maintain the 2,000 miles of flood defences and the 5,000 sluices, outfalls and culverts which we will inherit and which protect many thousands of homes.

Environment Agency Wales has reduced the risk to over 16,000 homes in Wales in the last four years, taking them out of the highest risk category. Natural Resources Wales is committed to continuing with this essential work.

A major scheme funded by Welsh Government to protect over 400 homes and businesses in vulnerable parts of Newport has recently been completed. …