London Flood Strategy Proposal : Recovery of its Hydro-logical Network


This project focuses on the cycle of flood and drought which climate change experts are predicting for the future of the UK.  Here, MARIA JOSE YURISIC A, a recent student on the MA Landscape & Urbanism course at Kingston University, proposes a strategy to deal with rain water excess and scarcity in urban areas, creating a new typology of urban valley.  This blog post will be followed up with further sections from the project over the next few weeks.


“Water is very present in the urban milieu, from seafronts and rivers to the water supply and sewage systems.  With the increasing scarcity of this resource, one may even wonder if is not time to consider cities as complex hydraulic systems, as a series of watersheds that must be managed with the greatest care. Hydraulic engineering thus represents a fundamental dimension in the construction of the urban landscape”
(Picon, 2005, p. 99).

From drought to flood, water is becoming one of the most critical problems around the world.  However, it is predicted that the dilemma with water in the future will be more related with the availability of it during certain periods of the year than an absolute lack of the resource.  It is predicted that rainfall will become more seasonal, with more rain during winters and less in summer. This seasonality of the rain may become more and more extreme causing the conditions which cities have to deal will continue to deteriorate, which means that floods will become worse, so as droughts.

The project proposes a strategy to deal with the rain water excess and scarcity in urban areas, creating a new typology of urban valley. This typology seeks to restore the hydro-logical network that used to exist in the Greater London area, not just as a functional solution to “solve” the current and future water problems, but a way to understand and incorporate water management into the urban development planning.  The project is conceived as part of the London Green Grid, as a new layer added to the plan.  A series of urban valleys will be created through London, following the paths of the existent or hidden rivers within the urban area. This new infrastructure of valleys will aim to connect the unconnected patches of green areas in order to counteract the effects of the climate change such us urban heat island, water scarcity and flood, focusing primarily on this last as the main goal.

Env Agency

The project is proposed as an alternative to the mega-infrastructure proposals that are currently under discussion as the appropriate (and only possible) solutions for the future floods in London, such as the Thames Tunnel and the massive enlargement of the Thames Barriers.  This alternative aims not just deal with “the problem”, as something that has to be solved (meaning that “somebody” will do something), but also engage citizens with the concern of the urban landscape identity, development and management.

Rain seasonality 2


Green grid 1PLANS:

  1.  Green Grid (Green) Areas Series of unconnected green areas
  2. Managing Climate Change Fluvial flooding (rivers) and tidal flooding (Thames + Lea Valley)

Green grid 2    3.  Productive Areas Allotments / Horticulture / Arable Agriculture / Livestock Agriculture / Woodlands

4.  Rivers and navigation canals


Proposal idea 1In the flowing post this proposal will examine London’s flood and sewage systems.

Like many older cities around the world, the vast majority of London is served by a combined sewerage system, collecting sewage (from toilets, sinks and washing machines etc) together with rainwater run-off from roads, roofs and pavements.The magnificent interceptor sewers, constructed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette following the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858, are still the backbone of London’s sewer network today. Rebuilding this system, using modern methods, would cost £50-60 billion today.


… be continued.



  1. landscapeiskingston

    Statement: 10 January 2014
    “End the paralysis on flooding and water” says President of Landscape Institute

    The recent floods across the country have once again exposed the UK’s lack of resilience when confronted by
    extreme wet weather. The existing sewer infrastructure can’t cope, and the government appears paralysed
    when it comes to fully implementing the Flood and Water Management Act.

    We have the means to better protect ourselves against flooding with the introduction of wetlands, reed beds,
    drainage channels and porous driveways (known as sustainable drainage systems: SuDS) – all accepted ways of
    helping to prevent run-off flooding. However, the UK’s developers and housebuilders are arguing against this
    modest investment for new developments. We need to invest in order to save the massive costs to people and
    property demonstrated by the flooding across the UK. New development is just the tip of the iceberg. Unless
    we start a comprehensive programme of retro-fitting SuDS alongside larger scale catchment management
    programmes, the problems will continue to get worse.

    “It’s no surprise that parts of Britain are being devastated by floods again. The UK’s water supply chain needs
    to become more sustainable, so it deals with drought and flood effectively. We need to look beyond the idea
    that a pipe in the ground is the best option for getting rid of rain water – this is an obsolete 19th -century
    solution to a growing 21st -century problem. Soft planted, green drainage schemes cost less whilst increasing
    property values and providing multiple benefits like increased biodiversity, better air and water quality,
    improved public health and enhanced land value. Elsewhere in the world investment in SuDs is accepted as an
    economical and sustainable way of protecting against the cost of flooding. We can look to Sweden, Australia,
    the US and Japan to find great examples of SuDS protecting homes and businesses from the devastation of
    flooding. Even countries like Latvia and Russia are building and retrofitting SuDS, whilst we continue to lag

    It is depressing to find the Government seemingly so short-sighted in its approach, considering first line
    economic growth in isolation of the longer term benefits to flood alleviation, urban pollution, and all other
    improvements to public amenity and biodiversity that SuDs can bring. Until the government takes it seriously
    and commits some money to addressing the problem, the floods will continue, and our homes, businesses and
    transport systems will be severely disrupted. The Natural Environment White Paper promotes the Green
    Economy; developing and implementing SuDs could make an important contribution to stimulating growth, and
    we know it can be extremely cost effective.” – Sue Illman, President, Landscape Institute

    The Landscape Institute is the royal chartered body for landscape architects. It campaigns to protect, conserve
    and enhance the natural and built environment for public benefit

  2. Pingback: Foragings:: The latest news, resources and designs - The Metropolitan Field Guide

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