Ways of adapting to climate change on the Somerset Levels can be explored with a new web-based app.
The app has been created for the Adapting the Levels project to help local people and organisations turn their ideas into plans for action, particularly as regards flooding and drought.
Adapting the Levels is a partnership between Somerset County Council, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest. It is funded by the EU’s Interreg 2 Seas Regional Development Fund and Somerset Rivers Authority.
Somerset’s unique approach
Cllr David Hall, Chair of Somerset Rivers Authority and Somerset County Council cabinet member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “The app uses a cutting-edge technique that’s being employed around the globe to plan for climate change. ‘Adaptation Pathways’ are a simple way of looking at complex issues, to see how different options interact.
“What’s unique about Somerset’s approach with this app is that it allows everyone to contribute, enabling an inclusive and accessible conversation to take place. This is a pioneering approach that will help Somerset’s residents plan for a climate-resilient future.”
Adapting the Levels team members have worked with parish and town councils, businesses and communities to create draft pathways now online at Adapting The Levels. Subjects covered include reducing the run-off of rainwater from homes and gardens, managing flood risk in Wedmore and Langport, and managing flooding and drought on farmland.
The app is designed to be used on tablets or desktop computers and people living and working in Somerset are invited to comment and add their ideas.
An “enjoyable and thought-provoking process”
Shelly Easton, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Climate Adaptation Manager, said: “Even if global emissions stopped tomorrow, there’s still decades of change locked in due to climate lag. Responding to the climate emergency requires an approach on two fronts: mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the unavoidable changes.
“The pathways on the app have been created in workshops with local people, which has been a really enjoyable and thought-provoking process. One of the most interesting elements is that we were able to place traditional flood defence measures, like raising banks and dredging, alongside nature-based solutions such as planting trees on hills to slow the flow of water, or re-connecting rivers with the floodplains to create capacity. This means we can see how these different approaches support each other.”
Using pathways offers Somerset different possibilities, for example helping parish councils look at local issues like surface water flooding, or bigger bodies shape strategies for dealing with river flooding.
Local people’s thoughts about adaptation plans will be compiled and shared by Adapting the Levels, with the aim of creating a shared vision for the future of Somerset’s communities and businesses.
The three videos below set out some of the ideas behind this project and show how to get involved. The first – Why do we need to adapt to climate change? – features Emma Giffard, Somerset Rivers Authority Community Engagement Officer, and Shelly Easton, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Climate Adaptation Manager.
The second video – How can we plan for climate change adaptation? – also features Emma Giffard and Shelly Easton.
In the third video – How to use the online pathways tool – you can hear the voice of Dawn James, Somerset Rivers Authority Community Engagement Support Officer.