‘Action research’ in action

There’s been a lot happening during November. We’ve seen severe floods in Cornwall just over a week ago – followed by various dignitary visits, official statements and discussions about the conditions and limits of previously installed flood defences, and in the face of apparent forthcoming spending cuts on flood-related infrastructure.

(The news media has generally been rather ‘flooded’ with spending cuts-related stories over the past few weeks it seems, what with Ireland’s bailout situation and student fee protests, to name but a couple of the more prominent ones…)

A few weeks before the Cornwall floods, I also heard the local flood alarms go off whilst working at home. This was the first time I’d heard them. Given that I’ve never been informed what they were, I did wonder for a brief moment if it was an air raid! No information or warnings came via the Environment Agency’s Floodline either – although perhaps this was because I was not at extreme risk, in my particular location.

However there was some serious flood damage quite close to home afterwards. Firstly, a row of terraced houses in nearby Walsden lost their back gardens to the suddenly swollen river, Walsden Water. Second, a ‘river of rubble‘ affected other parts of Walsden. (There’s a brief, albeit rather low quality, video on YouTube about that – seemingly taken from our local Calendar news TV programme).

These developments have quite rightly caught the attention of the national media too.

On top of all this, I’ve personally been mulling over issues around flood risks. This is because of some exciting – albeit rather all-consuming – personal developments I hope to be able to talk about very soon. At any rate, I was specifically interested in insurance premiums, flood risk databases, and flood modelling. I’ve also been poring over strategic flood risk assessments, local flood risk assessments, housing developer correspondence with the EA, drainage plans, and so on.

All of it has been, somewhat ironically, really very closely related to some ongoing research by some of my scientific colleagues. They are based in an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) research project I’ve been working on for some years now. It’s called ‘CREW’ for short (standing for Community Resilience to Extreme Weather).

A number of the things we’ve discussed internally within the team, and presented to a range of people at various public events, have all descended on me in the past few weeks – and have meant putting my money-where-my-mouth-is, as I’ve tried to work out why I’ve been getting a range of information, and quotes, from insurers.

It’s all quite amusing, as a portion of ‘action research’ has been planned for this CREW project since it’s very inception – in a rather innovative ‘sand pit’ down in Southampton, way back in 2007. I’m still not exactly sure whether what I’ve be doing qualifies strictly under typical definitions of action research. At any rate, once things have settled in the coming days, I’ll be happy to post back about all of this in much clearer detail – and promise to stop being so oblique about what I’ve been up to over the past month or so!

In the meantime, please do bear with us. We’re well-aware that November has been a rather untenanted month here at Waterstink. Normal service will resume though, very soon…

So, I’ll sign-off by wishing you all well – especially those of you who have recently begun to follow us on our Twitter page. That’s a tool we’re still getting to grips with, and we hope to make it a bit more exciting and ‘real-time’ at some point. Actually, given the nature of where I’ll – hopefully – be based rather soon, there should be plenty of material for some far more interesting updates there in fact, before too long…

Update (15/11/2016): Featured image added from this source.

Duncan Thomas

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