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Farmer Combats Flooding by Returning Creeks to Nature: ‘Wildlife That Has Come is Phenomenal’

in Enviroment 56 views

In the UK, farmers are combatting flooding by returning areas of their farms to a more natural state, and seeing the benefits not only in wildlife returning but in flood mitigation.

James Robinson, an intergenerational farmer from Cumbria in the northwest, has worked together with the Ullswater Catchment Management CIC to turn a number of areas of his farm into wetland havens where birds and invertebrates have come back in phenomenal numbers.

To explain a long, related, and detail-filled story in brief, flooding is the UK’s major natural hazard, and part of reason is that many waterways—even small ones—were turned into deep and straight canals hundreds of years ago to permit boats to travel across the country.

Rivers and streams that are deep, straight, and have high banks channel water at much greater volumes and speed than natural, meandering streams—a process which is exactly what some UK farmers like James Robinson have been working to reverse.

The Ullswater CIC, or Community Interest Company, has watched their model of stream restoration spread across the region, which for English readers includes Glenridding, Windermere, West and South Cumbria, and Ullswater.

“People seem to like this model,” said Danny Teasdale, the CEO of Ullswater Catchment Management, in a long, on-site interview conducted by DEFRA.

“And then farmers talk and then someone else will get in touch. We are growing. We’ve been able to employ local contractors, and any money that comes into the CIC goes locally as well,” he said.

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Google Launches Flood Predicting Tool–Already Helped Early Evacutations in Chile

in Technology 343 views

Google doesn’t just use satellite data and machine learning to help you find Vietnamese food in the city you’re visiting, it’s actively protecting developing countries from flooding.

This August, the Chilean areas of Constitucion and Maule witnessed devastating floods that left thousands homeless, but many were able to gather critical belongings and evacuate because Google sent out warnings 2 days in advance of the flooding through their Flood Hub modeling tool.

Riverine floods, when heavy rains cause rivers to overflow their banks, happen all over the world all the time, and are a little like the unsung villain of natural disasters.

It was long thought impossible to predict these foods because of the number of factors beyond simple weather reports and forecasts, such as soil composition, topography, potential infrastructure failings, and so on.

“This was really kind of a moonshot, in a way,” said Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering and research at Google. “Can we use machine learning and other technologies in order to try to predict floods at some level of accuracy that would be valuable?”

The answer is, since Flood Hub was launched in 2018 in India, yes, you can—very well in fact.

The baseline unit of analysis in the tool is thousands of detailed satellite images of waterways that can build a topographical understanding of the river’s course and gather scientific information on flooding rates, soil composition, history of erosion, and so on. This is then treated to a deep-learning program that creates flooding models based on the addition of weather forecasts and rainfall data.

The result is what they call their global hydrologic model, and has been in use across dozens of countries for the last five years, and was recently introduced in the US and Canada. This monsoon season in India and Bangladesh, Flood Hub sent out 45 million alerts.

“It allowed us to provide flood forecasting information even in places where the historical data is quite scarce,” Matias told Adele Peters of Fast Company Magazine, reporting on the tool.

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Flooding, related issues force closure of Sci-Tech building ‘for many months’

in Local News 279 views

WATERTOWN — Building issues for the Sci-Tech Center on Stone Street have gone from bad to worse, forcing the closure of the building for “many months.”

On Jan. 5, Sci-Tech Executive Director Stephen A. Karon discovered up to 3 feet of water that filled the building’s basement. That issue followed a problem in October when it was discovered some concrete pieces on a sidewalk in front of the building fell from a lintel above a window. A lintel is a beam placed across the openings windows and doors. Barriers were placed in front of the building, but it was allowed to stay open.

But with the flooding and related issues, the city has condemned the building.

As a totally volunteer organization, Sci-Tech’s building is only open a few days each week, during regular museum hours, during scheduled classes and programs, and at other times for reserved school groups. Mr. Karon draws no salary as the volunteer Sci-Tech director.

In a news release, Mr. Karon explained how the flooding happened. Apparently, at some point during the previous 24 hours before Jan. 5 while the building was unoccupied, a valve on the fire suppression system burst. This allowed about a 1-inch stream of high pressure water to infiltrate the building’s basement. The valve was one of two just inside the basement wall, where the 4-inch pipe enters the building.

Mr. Karon said the reason for the break is not known, and added that the fire suppression system had undergone its annual inspection less than two months earlier.

“The Watertown Fire Department responded quickly, and immediately began pumping water out of the basement,” he said.

After almost four hours of pumping, the water at the high end of the basement was down to less than 4 inches – the minimum that could be achieved with their high pressure pump. (The basement slopes from north to south about 12 inches because of its original French drain system.)

As the city fire department packed up its equipment, it was expected that the remaining water would slowly evacuate through the existing basement sump at the base of the French drain. Mr. Karon explained the basement sump is not a pumped sump, just a cavity through which water slowly seeps into the ground.

However, by the next morning, water had only receded about 1 inch – the sump had been overwhelmed by the flood.

“With a call to the fire department, they again quickly responded with a different pump,” Mr. Karon said. “Although much slower than the pump used the previous day, it could be lowered into the sump, and removed the remaining water in about 5 hours.”

Mr. Karon said the Watertown Fire Department “needs to be applauded” for its efforts.

“And especially the firefighters at the Massey Street Station, not just for their rapid response, but for their incredible professionalism throughout Sci-Tech’s ordeal,” Mr. Karon said. “They were constantly providing advice and suggestions which helped us to mitigate the damage to Sci-Tech and its contents.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Karon said, the basement is Sci-Tech’s primary storage area, as well as the location for numerous building systems. Thus, not only were the heating system, electrical system, and phone/internet system damaged, but hundreds of artifacts, records, exhibit components, materials and supplies were also damaged or destroyed.

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Genius UK Business Uses Christmas Trees to Protect the Region From Flooding

in Enviroment 156 views

In an effort to combat flooding, a Yorkshire woman realized that thousands of wasted Christmas trees every year could be used as natural flood protection, and started a unique business to do just that.

The Rooted Christmas tree rental delivers a potted Christmas fir, pine, or spruce to a family for the festive season. When the lights are taken down, the company then collects their rentals and replants them to enjoy another growing season.

When the trees get too tall, they are placed on the slopes of the nearby Calder Valley as natural floodwater breaks.

The Sunday Times reports that the towns of Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire have been inundated by serious floods 4 times in the last 15 years, with the most-recent one causing $180 million (£150 million) in damages.

Rooted founder Sara Tomkins established a Christmas tree plantation in the spring of 2020 with 400 trees. Dozens of those original 400 have now become too large for the average living room, and have been hauled off for planting in the upper parts of the Calder Valley to stop floodwaters running down into the two towns below.

What started as a sustainability project turned into a flourishing commercial enterprise. When residents learned how their Christmas tree purchases could be used to protect their towns from floods and reduce waste from rotting trees, all of Tomkins’ original trees were rented out.

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Issue with water main floods part of Bradley Street

in Local News 259 views

WATERTOWN — An issue with a water main sent water flooding onto Bradley Street Friday morning.

It appears at least one break to the water main on Bradley Street, near the intersection of Burdick Street, caused the flooding. It was noticed by drivers and after nearby businesses lost water pressure.

Crews from the city water department were on scene to shut the water off, and nearby businesses cut their water as well.

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