Category Archives: flooding

Flood-prevention co-operatives

Contour farming in the China mountains. We could use the same techniques to protect lowland areas from flash flooding.

An income-earner for upland farms could be for protecting the lowlands from flash-flooding.  For flood prevention in the lowlands, an up-land flood-prevention co-op could deliver what the country needs, right now.  This can be done by a reverse-franchise set up which is less restrictive than a legal co-operative.

In a reverse franchise, a limited company is set up as the franchisor and it makes the rules.  Each farmer-franchisee gets one share (however big or small they are) in the franchisor and hence the name “reverse franchise”. The franchisor then forms a relationship with the Environment Agency to manage an upper catchment area including the mechanisms of (i) raising soil organic matter levels  using composted urban wastes from the lowlands, (ii) planting tree belts on contours to create flow barriers, and (iii) setting up sacrifice areas to hold water under extreme conditions to allow slow release.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd. 12 November 2017

Water in farming

 

Does the rainbow promise better weather, wetter weather, both or more extreme weather? What can we actually do about it?

 

On 24 August 2017m the Water Resources Institute published a piece on their website looking at “7 Reasons We’re Facing a Global Water Crisis” in a piece written by Leah Schleifer.  With credit to them, I try here to relate those lessons to British farming and maybe farming elsewhere in developed counties that do not really think water may be a significant economic problem sooner rather than later.

 

Reason 1. We’re Changing the Climate, Making Dry Areas Drier and Precipitation More Variable and Extreme.

Without mentioning any particular name, one who denies climate change must either be demented or have some ulterior motive. In most farming areas, water will in general get shorter in areas where it is already short and rain, when it does happen, at higher rates and with more wind. In general terms, most climatologists agree, this trend will continue.  However, there is some evidence that we may have already started to switch off, or otherwise change, the Gulf Stream. If that turns out to be the case, the western areas of the UK may get colder, not warmer, especially in winter.

The effects of these changes will affect everything in farming including field drainage, soil organic matter, the way we control weeds in crops.  We had better be ready to respond to these pressures.  One thing is for sure – it will not stay the same.

There is one rule to watch; mostly, where rain is already short in the eastern areas, we will get less and when it happens it will be in heavy weather.  Cereal crop lodging before harvest will be an increasing risk.  All areas may experience flash flooding.

Conservation farming action;

  1. Add organic matter and reduce cultivations to reduce oxidation of organic matter.
  2. Subsoil at intervals.
  3. Maintain ditches and field drainage.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd.,  September 17

Farm land and contraception

 

We are loosing thousands of ha of farm land. every year. Setting up wetlands is very nice but “we have a problem, Huston”.

 

If I have remembered it rightly, the BBC in their Western News program on BBC1, 27 June 17, reported that the Environment Agency had, with assistance, spent £20 million deliberately flooded this area of Steart Marshes which had previously been farm land. The Wildlife and Wetlands Trust claim, “Hundreds of hectares of saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands buffer homes and businesses from rising sea levels ….”

Put on one side for a moment that a few generations of farmers had spent their lives winning the area from the sea and produced food. Also put aside the fact that most of the global population does not have enough to eat. Now look at the following report.

 

A satellite survey by a research team at the University of Leicester (UofL) found that between 2006 and 2012, 22,000 hectares (54,ooo acres) of green space was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland concreted ……..to make way for urban sprawl. That’s a landscape twice the size of Liverpool, transformed forever, in just six years.

 

Now add in that because of recent news, many people might think twice about living in a tower block.

 

There is a real crisis here about land, wild life and people.  We really do have to choose before nature does it for us.  The choice is simple.  Build sea walls. Stop people breeding. Think about it.

 

Bill Butterworth

Land Research Ltd

27 June 2017

HMIP, NRA and LA’s

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In its day 30 years ago, the NRA managed flood risk substantially and successfully. Where is the NRA now?

Some of us are old enough to remember that until the grandness of the Environment Agency was created as a monument in Whitehall, there were a number of smaller bodies.

HMIP, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution, was widely respected as doing a pretty good job. The NRA, National Rivers Authority, similarly and after being beefed up after the 1954 floods, did a really good job in managing water supply and preventing floods. The LA’s, Local Authorities, took care of wastes at a local level – officers patrolled their local patch and if there was a complaint they sorted it. (Anybody heard of “localism?)

Why is it that the Civil Service thinks it has the management skills to run big, centralised organisations? Mostly, centralisation doubles costs and halves effects. Why not just go back to HMIP, NRA and LA waste management?

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 2 Nov 16

Flash-flooding and survival

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Flash flooding will happen more often because of population density increases, consequential building and hard-surface increases and global warming.

Composts will absorb and hold between 5 and 16 times their own weight of water.  That might be useful in creating jobs in upland composting in Cumbria, Lancashire, and anywhere in the upland catchment areas for any of our rivers running through urban areas, including London.

“Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” by Bill Butterworth, published by Land Research, has just been released and is available in paperback from good bookshops or Amazon on the web as paperback (at around £10) or electronic version (at only £2.46) for computer or Kindle.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 10 July 2016

Flood risk, composting urban wastes and Vermuyden

 

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Flooding has enormous cost but much can be avoided.

The current issue of “The Furrow”, the John Deere journal of April 16, prompted me to think again of my own work on top soil reservoirs and what is beginning to be called bio-engineering in flood control.  Sands will hold about their own weight of water, clay two times, and peat 16 times.  Composts made from urban wastes, including a wide range of industrial wastes, will hold 5 to 15 times their own weight.  Put that into context of the Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden, who, in the 1650’s drained the flats of East Anglia. He knew that there had to be not only big, straight dykes but also sacrifice flood zones which were adequately boundaried and with enough capacity to take the worst water emission flow rates from the higher land.  Now increase the organic matter levels of all the soils in the catchment area.  Finally, plant grass, herbs, shrubs and preferably trees and do so at all levels right up to the highest.  The cohesive effect of roots and the evaporation by active plants will buy time to even out the flow to what the lower water courses, adequately dredged, can cope with. As global warming increases extremes, we need to match that, preferably before the event, with buffers that even out flow rates.

Bill Butterworth  13 April 2016

Also see, “How to make on-farm composting work”, by Bill Butterworth, published by MX Publishng, London.

 

Uplands farming and lowland floods

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There is an opportunity in the uplands to help flood control lower down.

Few in the UK can be unaware of the flooding in many parts but dramatically in the North West. What follows are discussions of why and who to blame, mixed with theories which are often held passionately as the silver bullet to cure it in future. The truth is that the solutions are complex and a belief in a single solution indicates a lack of understanding of the natural environment.

No doubt, the dredging of water escape routes, of the building of “sacrifice” areas, building of new extra drains, and all the other construction possibilities are part of the defence for future urban protection.  The holding of water in the uplands in order to give slower release is the subject of what follows here.

Firstly, the farming of the area is the key to the management of the uplands, not the cause of lowland problems.  More specifically, if any change is not economic for the farmers involved, then either the taxpayers come up with the cash, or it will not happen at all.  So, finding a development which slows run-off and is financially attractive for farming to produce food is the only acceptable way forward that has a chance of working. There is a way to do this and it has already been done.

We already know that high organic matter soils hold water better.  To put figures on it; sand will hold its own weight of water, clay twice its own weight but composts will hold 5 to 16 times their own weight. We also know that bare soil (without an established crop on it) erodes easily.  So, enabling farmers to develop high organic matter soils and grow crops with a minimum of bare soil will improve matters in the lowlands.  We already know much about composting urban wastes and about forestry and other crops which can reduce erosion. Composting wastes can be very profitable but there is always an assumption that compost from wastes will be spread on food-producing land.  There is always a lot of paperwork, some of which may be a bit counter-productive.  Suppose a group of farmers were to get together with the Environment Agency and develop an area plan to maximise the volume and type of “wastes” which could be composted and spread and, instead of lots of individual applications to spread, a Code of Practice for food and forestry land?

Bill Butterworth

30 December 2015

Also see

Book cover