New facility to test flood prevention technology

A new National Green Infrastructure Facility which opened last month (January 24) will allow engineers to test new technologies that can slow down flooding in the event of extreme rainfall.

The facility is based on Newcastle’s Helix Site, a 24-acre area in the centre of Newcastle that is built for international technology and science businesses.

The Green Infrastructure Facility has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Engineers from the University of Newcastle will test a range of systems such as green roofs and rain gardens to hold back floodwaters, along with a full-scale swale which is fitted with a series of ‘leaky barriers’ designed to hold back floodwaters.

A swale is a shady spot or a sunken shallow channel with gently sloping sides that are designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.

The swale is fitted with a network of sensors and cameras to monitor water levels, soil moisture, rainfall and other meteorological conditions.

This data will then be fed into Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, the UK’s largest set of real-time open data, to then inform future flood management.

Co-director of the National Green Infrastructure Facility, Dr Claire Walsh, a lecturer in Green Infrastructure at Newcastle University, said: ‘The aim is to use this site as a demonstrator to help protect other urban areas from flooding.

‘The UK has seen an increase in the number of extreme weather events over the past decade and we have seen the devastating distress that flash flooding causes.

‘Naturally engineered schemes should work hand in hand with flood defences.

‘In this way, we can disperse the water and reduce the flood risk rather than simply moving the problem downstream.

‘At Newcastle University we are working on designing a number of natural flood management schemes to help our urban environments cope with a changing climate and future development pressures.’

Chris Skidmore, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said: ‘This new facility at Newcastle University will put the UK at the forefront of innovation in flood defences, helping us reduce the damage we have seen too often across the country.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay


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