Is dredging rivers the best solution to flooding?

In recent weeks Britain has been blighted by serious flooding, especially on the Somerset Levels.

Dredging has been proposed as one solution and many Levels' residents are keen for it to happen in the hope of preventing such serious and long-lasting flooding from occurring again.

11th February 2014
© Thinkstock

In recent weeks Britain has been blighted by serious flooding, especially on the Somerset Levels.

Dredging has been proposed as one solution and many Levels' residents are keen for it to happen in the hope of preventing such serious and long-lasting flooding from occurring again.

How could dredging help?

Dredging removes silt from the riverbed, allowing rivers to hold more water – and to remove floodwater more quickly.                   

What are the drawbacks?

The Environment Agency has warned that in order to stop rivers bursting their banks they would need to be dredged several metres wider and deeper.

It has also been claimed that the greater volumes of water carried by dredged rivers could lead to serious flooding in towns downriver.

Conservations have expressed strong concern that dredging destroys delicate wildlife habitats such as fish spawning areas and freshwater mussel beds.

What are the alternatives?

Other suggestions focus turning upland pastures into bogs, effectively soaking up rain like a giant sponge and releasing it more slowly. Extensive tree planting in the catchment area may help to soak up excess water before it reaches low-lying areas. De-canalising the rivers, allowing them to meander, may also slow the force of floodwater.

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