IET
Decrease font size
Increase font size
Topic Title: Lessons learned in managing the winter floods - the engineering response
Topic Summary:
Created On: 06 February 2014 03:32 PM
Status: Post and Reply
Linear : Threading : Single : Branch
Search Topic Search Topic
Topic Tools Topic Tools
View similar topics View similar topics
View topic in raw text format. Print this topic.
 06 February 2014 03:32 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jarathoon

Posts: 1040
Joined: 05 September 2004

Event on the 25 February 2014 at the Royal Academy of Engineering

"Lessons learned in managing the winter floods - the engineering response"

https://www.raeng.org.uk/events/details.htm?Event=522

The lessons are still being learned as we speak. Given the title of this talk the Environment Agency may well have parted company with Lord Chris Smith by then.

["Lessons Learned" is a euphemism for "Mistakes Made"].

I personally think there are structural problems with the Environment Agency that have taken years to build up and that this talk, scheduled in the midst of the current flooding crisis, is likely to skim the surface of the problem, without really getting to the heart of what has gone wrong at the Agency.

Never mind I shall go along anyway to listen to why the Environment Agency has been drowning in its own paperwork, just as large parts of the country are drowning in the floods.

-------------------------
James Arathoon
 06 February 2014 07:19 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

The problem for the EA is that they are required to cover a quite a lot and for which they are significantly under resourced.

Regards.
 06 February 2014 07:35 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jarathoon

Posts: 1040
Joined: 05 September 2004

Every department of government has to find ways of cutting back office costs and increasing frontline productivity.

The UK Environment Agency seems to have significantly more resources than any other equivalent agency in Europe.



-------------------------
James Arathoon
 07 February 2014 12:01 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jarathoon
Every department of government has to find ways of cutting back office costs and increasing frontline productivity.

Where is your evidence to show that the office work being done is not all neccessary and/or that it is taking a significant resource from the 'front line' and which would otherwise provide a solution to the current issues?

You assume that cutting one will solve the other whereas you will likely just have two areas messed up; hardly well thought out!

The UK Environment Agency seems to have significantly more resources than any other equivalent agency in Europe.

What difference does that make? Let's say you run a project and that has enough workload for 20 people and you have 20 people and yet I run a project and I have a workload for 50 people and yet have 40 people. I am struggling because I am 10 people short but your answer would be that I 'seem to have more resources' and which does not address the problem.

I have dealt with the EA and understand a bit about the changes which have come about over the last 25 years or so and what the EA have to cover and whilst they could do a bit better in some areas overall they are under resourced. Other government departments fiddle and f&rt about with things and then make changes which also impact on the EA and require it to have to do certain admin work. The EU makes legislative changes which then have to be implemented in all member states and which then impact on the EA. It's all fine and dandy for brown, blair, clegg and cameron and co who just showcase themselves and agree to just about everything without any real understanding of the workload involved, because by the time it becomes an issue they will either be able to blame it on the last lot or else will have moved on. It's like that boss who says 'I do not care what is involved, just get it done' and then later on when there is a significant failure points the finger at you and says 'well James never told me he needed more resources' even though you probably did several times over.

The EA is headed by an unqualified and inexperienced individual and is underfunded for the work it has to do.

If you want a comparable example let's talk about transport shall we; HS2, billions on the Olympics and yet the roads are full of pot holes and yet only a 3rd of the money raised by car tax is spent on the roads. They are now talking about abandoning some of the roads they are that bad. Tell me James do you hear the transport secretary screaming for more finance or should we just cut the office staff and give them shovels and ask them to fill the pot holes? Do not concern yourself too much though because once it becomes a political issue then the relevant political leaders will talk about it; but without mentioning that they were the ones who allowed it to happen in the first place; or was that the last lot.

The budgets are a mess and inexperienced people are in charge. I think the solution is for engineers and scientists etc., to become MP's. I am voting for you James and then you can head DECC, you seem to know what you are talking about.

Regards.
 07 February 2014 12:30 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message


Avatar for OMS.
OMS

Posts: 19531
Joined: 23 March 2004

["Lessons Learned" is a euphemism for "Mistakes Made"].


I'm not so sure about that - I sense from your post that you seem to believe that we can protect everybody and everything from (in this case flooding ) hazard without thought of risk.

Simply not true - currently, the EA are having to deal with, what is effectively, a total lack of focus from most of goverment and virtually all of the populace - until, of course, a pretty small number of people suffer some non life threatening discomfort - it's the price you often have to pay to live in areas that may be beautiful and benign most of the time but can expose fundamental disadvantages on some occasions.

It can't be easy when EA conclude (after what I would imagine are pretty comprehensive, risk based engineering approaches) that dredging (for example) would have little effect - to then be totally contradicted by a politician in wet weather gear who is getting the rough edge of someones tounge - and forgetting they bought the house in a flood plain.

I think the lesson learned is that we either have a much more cohesive focus on flooding (which is a pretty rare event) that is potentially a sledgehammer to crack a nut and will waste millions if not billions or we all start to grow up a bit and look hard at what can be dealt with and what can't.

For the sake of a few hundred houses in Somerset as an example, it might be cheaper to just abandon them - or at least don't worry about them when they flood every decade or so - there are plenty of pragmatic people who would live there, in those circumstances.

What do you see as so wrong with the EA - and what would you do to put it right ?

Regards


OMS

-------------------------
Failure is always an option
 07 February 2014 04:12 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jarathoon

Posts: 1040
Joined: 05 September 2004

I am going to wait until the above meeting to ask my questions now.

It is extremely difficult to interpret the Environment Agency accounts for value for money on strategic spend vs tactical spend and more flexible local spend vs more inflexible and proscriptive national spend. The National Audit Office last did a narrow investigation into certain areas of Environment Agency spending in 2005.

I think the public deserve much better scrutiny over how the Environment Agency spends its £1.2 billion budget.

-------------------------
James Arathoon
 07 February 2014 06:13 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jarathoon

Posts: 1040
Joined: 05 September 2004

"Environment Agency chief should 'get his act together' "

http://www.itv.com/news/update...get-his-act-together/

"Joe Notaro said: "That man on top wants to get his act together and chuck the red tape out the window." "

Urgent questions now need to be asked, to maintain public confidence in our current systems of regulatory governance.

What is the vast Environment Agency bureaucracy achieving for us all? What is the maximum potential positive effect of Environment Agency protections, compared with the negative effects of a very harsh winter, or the fact that many people use pesticides and herbicides or that there are millions of pet cats in the country?

How many people actually read and trust the validity of the vast bureaucratic environmental tomes created over the years? Is there a cheaper more productive way of organising this environmental knowledgebase?

I think we need a thorough cost-benefit review of public and private environmental spending in the UK.


-------------------------
James Arathoon
 08 February 2014 04:58 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jarathoon
Urgent questions now need to be asked, to maintain public confidence in our current systems of regulatory governance.

Why James?

The EA get £1.2 billion and have to cover quite a lot for that and for the most part do a pretty good job. I would rather have a review of the governance of the financial governance and which seemed to have failed and cost us 100's of £billions and for my mind still has not been properly sorted out.

What is the vast Environment Agency bureaucracy achieving for us all?

Bureaucracy is not the issue; the EA is underfunded for what it has to cover and that is what needs to be sorted out. In addition to this there needs to be some joined up thinking between Westminster, Local Councils and the EA. Lots of houses have been built on known flood planes and without proper protection measures costed in and provided at the time and the EA has been required to stop those houses being flooded, and has done a reasonable job considering. I do not see any of those public servants who gave permission for the building being reprimanded.

What is the maximum potential positive effect of Environment Agency protections, compared with the negative effects of a very harsh winter, or the fact that many people use pesticides and herbicides or that there are millions of pet cats in the country?

Aha now it's the fault of the cats.

How many people actually read and trust the validity of the vast bureaucratic environmental tomes created over the years?
Those who wish to read it read it.

Is there a cheaper more productive way of organising this environmental knowledgebase?


Talk about saving a few pounds when it's hundreds of millions which need to be spent. The cost benefit review may however show this and make the case for more funding.

Regards.
 19 February 2014 10:26 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jarathoon

Posts: 1040
Joined: 05 September 2004

In a natural flood plain rivers gradually silt up, and at some point the main river channel will chaotically shift position with a large enough rainfall event to the river catchment.

The most popular way of modelling river catchments is to use a empirical engineering systems approach: i.e. attempt to determine the transfer function(s) of the catchment so the effect on river levels of discrete rainfall events in the catchment can be modelled over time.

[a precipitation impulse hitting a river catchment is like a voltage impulse input to a low pass filter]

However unlike the analogy of electrical/electronic circuit theory, river transfer functions change over time: land management changes, rivers silting up etc.

It seems that with advances in systems engineering and the associated modelling techniques that we are in a better position than ever before to cost effectively manage our river catchments. The main problem at the moment is not climate change, it is that there is lots of expensive infrastructure to be maintained in places where few people now live and work. [e.g. should we keep all the old Victorian and Edwardian seaside resorts going in their current form]

These are deeply political issues (because they involve the potential disruption and dissolution of communities that have built up over generations) and solutions will only come from political discourse in the light of a wider knowledge of the environmental and engineering realities we face.

It seems that the Environment Agency prematurely settled on a idealogical policy before the public had had a proper chance to debate these difficult issues. Public debate in adversity (as we are now having) allows engineers to play with new ideas that might end up changing society (and its environment) for the better, in unexpected and unpredictable ways.



-------------------------
James Arathoon
 22 February 2014 11:28 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



kengreen

Posts: 400
Joined: 15 April 2013

an entirely innocent question - of course - but what is/was the purpose of the so-called planning committees?

Ken Green
Statistics

See Also:



FuseTalk Standard Edition v3.2 - © 1999-2014 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.