SRA Annual Report 2018-19: Purpose of Somerset Rivers Authority
Flooding in Somerset goes back centuries. Over the last 100 years, places badly hit have included Athelney in 1929-30, West Somerset in 1952, Taunton and 50,000 acres of the Somerset Levels in 1960, Frome in 1968, Crewkerne in 2008… The list could go on and on.
The floods of recent years have been among the worst. In the summer of 2012, flood waters on farmland reached 9ft deep. The winter of 2013-14 was the wettest for 250 years. Around 150km2 of land was submerged for weeks: 600 homes and 7,000 businesses were affected, 81 roads were closed. The cost to Somerset was estimated as being up to £147.5million.
It was during the devastating 2013-14 floods that Somerset decided to try a new, local approach to tackling flooding. Various partners drew up a 20 Year Flood Action Plan. Somerset Rivers Authority was launched in January 2015 to oversee that Plan and do the extra work that long experience has shown Somerset needs.
There is no single answer to Somerset’s many flooding problems, and different parts of the county have different needs. That is why the SRA was set up as a partnership between different organisations. Those organisations are limited in what they can do individually, but as SRA partners they can get more done by acting collectively. They can take local, grassroots views about what is important for people in Somerset.
Through local taxation, the SRA funds a unique depth and breadth of actions. These are grouped into five workstreams, that reflect the local priorities of the Flood Action Plan, and the need to attack problems from different angles. The five workstreams are Dredging & River Management (W1), Land Management (W2), Urban Water Management (W3), Resilient Infrastructure (W4) and Building Community Resilience (W5).
In practice, SRA activities include extra maintenance, repairs and improvements; innovations; collaborations; enabling major projects to go ahead; studies, reviews, and investigations; long- term initiatives; moves that respond to Somerset’s special characteristics; or combinations of the above. The SRA Annual Report 2018-19 shows examples of all.