A simple model to quantify the potential trade-off between water level management for ecological benefit and flood risk

Stratford, Charlie; Brewin, Phil; Acreman, Mike; Mountford, Owen. 2015 A simple model to quantify the potential trade-off between water level management for ecological benefit and flood risk. Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology, 15 (3). 150-159.

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Throughout the world, historic drainage of wetlands has resulted in a reduction in the area of wet habitat and corresponding loss of wetland plant and animal species. In an attempt to reverse this trend, water level management in some drained areas is trying to replicate a more natural ‘undrained’ state. The resulting hydrological regime is likely to be more suitable to native wetland species; however the raised water levels also represent a potential reduction in flood water storage capacity. Quantifying this reduction is critical if the arguments for and against wetland restoration are to be discussed in a meaningful way. We present a simple model to quantify the hydrological storage capacity of a drainage ditch network under different water level management scenarios. The model was applied to the Somerset Levels and Moors, UK, comparing areas with and without raised water level management. The raised water level areas occupy 11% of the maximum theoretical storage but when put in the context of the recent severe flooding of winter 2013/2014 occupy only 0.6% of the total flood volume and represent an average increase in flood level of 7 mm. These results indicate that although the raised water level scheme does occupy an appreciable volume of the maximum possible ditch storage, in relation to a large flood event the volume is very small. It therefore seems unlikely that the severity of such large flood events would be significantly reduced if the current water level management for ecological benefit ceased.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 1642-3593
Additional Keywords: wetland, flooding, Somerset Levels and Moors, pumped catchment, model
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 18 Mar 2016 16:15 +0 (UTC)

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