The definition of surface water is any water that is found above ground, be it water in rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, puddles, or floods.

Surface water drainage is when rainwater falls and is drained away, whether that’s directly through the drains and into the sewerage system, through soakaways, or directly into the ground. When there is insufficient drainage, or there is simply too much water accumulating in a short space of time, surface water has nowhere to go, which causes flooding.

In 2020, Defra published a report on arrangements for determining responsibility for surface water and drainage assets. The report concluded, rather gloomily, that: “Much of our drainage infrastructure is ageing, and in need of significant maintenance or replacement. New development risks reducing the capacity of the land to provide natural drainage, and has the potential to increase surface water run off.” Responsibility for improvements to surface water drainage is not clear cut, and the report’s author concludes that: “the National Planning Policy Framework [needs to] be reviewed to ensure that national advice on the vital importance of achieving sustainable drainage for all new development is prominent, clear, and unequivocal.”

As the authorities search for a solution for upgrading the country’s drainage system, there are steps you can take in the immediate future to reduce the likelihood of high rainfall overwhelming your drainage system and flooding your business premises.

So, what can you do now to reduce the risk of flooding on your business premises?

Ensure your drains don’t get blocked

This may seem obvious, but people are prone to flushing inappropriate things into the drainage system such as wet wipes, nappies, and sanitary products. These then accumulate, trapping with oils and fats that are put down kitchen sinks, and eventually cause the delightful phenomenon known as ‘fatbergs’. To try to prevent blocked drains, put notices in the bathrooms reminding employees that wet wipes need to go in the bins and sanitary products need to go in the special bins provided.

If you have canteen kitchens on your premises, make sure there are adequate grease traps so no cooking oils or fats can reach the sewers. The less detritus that goes into the drains, the less likely it is that blockages will accumulate, which means that, when there is heavy rainfall, your sewerage system is more likely to be able to deal with surface drainage, reducing the risk of flooding.

Install soakaways to redirect rainwater

If you have grounds surrounding your premises, consider installing soakaways. A soakaway is an underground pit filled with gravel. Instead of directing rainwater directly into the sewerage system - where you will be charged for its disposal - you can funnel it into the soakaway. This will redirect the excess water caused by heavy rainfall into the earth around your building with the additional benefit of watering your grounds or gardens.

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