Halifax MP proposes law change to allow reservoirs to be managed to tackle flood risk

Holly Lynch visited Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge, in the immediate aftermath of the flooding on Boxing Day 2015
Holly Lynch visited Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge, in the immediate aftermath of the flooding on Boxing Day 2015

Halifax MP Holly Lynch has launched a bid to change the law to grant legal backing to water companies managing reservoirs to aid flood protection following a pilot scheme in Hebden Bridge.

Presenting her “Reservoirs (Flood Risk) Bill” in Parliament, she said that the idea of lowering reservoir levels to allow more water to be held upstream during periods of heavy rain has been piloted in Calderdale but legislative change would give water companies the confidence to really embrace this approach.

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A trial of this scheme was attempted last year for the first time in the hills above Hebden Bridge.

During the winter of 2017/18, at the request of the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water undertook a trial in which the Hebden Water supply reservoirs were managed down to 90 per cent of their usual top storage level.

Although there were no major downpours during the trial period, Ms Lynch told MPs that the study was still able to conclude that the lower reservoir levels did provide a “significant impact on peak flows in Hebden Water for the largest events they observed”.

At present, water companies must manage their resources to reduce the risk of drought, facing sanctions if they fail to do so.

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While many water companies have been engaging with the Environment Agency to explore how their reservoirs could assist in flood prevention, this new law change would give them greater clarity on their legal protections should problems arise from the lower water levels.

Ms Lynch believes that this law change would help communities which have been hit by flooding.

She said: “There is now broad agreement that when it comes to flooding our focus needs to be on how quickly water flows into the valleys, as well as how to deal with containing swelled rivers.

“There have been repeated calls to see if reservoirs can be managed in a way which would accommodate more water during extreme weather events. This legislative change aims to give water companies the confidence to go ahead with this type of approach.

“The proposed law changes are still some way off being adopted by Government, but this is the first step in making the case for why these changes are necessary for putting together the package of measures needed to keep flooding under control.”

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