Flooding in Suffolk fileld © Eco Images/UIG/REX/Shutterstock© Eco Images/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

Water management experts have urged the government to help reduce the risk to farmland from flooding.

The Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) made the call on the 10th anniversary of the 2007 floods that caused widespread damage across the country.

Summer 2007 was the wettest on record, with 414.1mm of rain falling across England and Wales in May, June and July – more than at any time since records began in 1766.

See also: Allow more farmers to maintain rivers, says NFU

ADA chief executive Innes Thomson said the government must give more attention to water management and flood risk.

“To date, the government has ducked the issue of sustainable drainage in England and now is the time to put in place robust plans to help future development in the long term.”

Collaborative approach

Mr Thomson said ADA was calling on government ministers to take a collaborative approach to flood management – working with farmers and other stakeholders.

It was also important to take a catchment-wide approach to managing water from the highest point in the uplands down to lowland areas and estuaries.

Closer co-operation was needed between public bodies and farmers, who increasingly wanted to maintain waterways to mitigate flood risk more efficiently.

South Lincolnshire farmer and ADA vice-chairman Robert Caudwell grows arable crops and fieldscale vegetables around the market town of Boston.

A decade on from the 2007 floods, Mr Caudwell said he continued to receive regular phone calls from rural residents who had seen their property inundated with water.

“People are still traumatised,” said Mr Caudwell. “I still receive phone calls on an almost weekly basis.”

The Environment Agency recently announced five pilot catchment areas where farmers are being allowed to maintain local watercourses in a bid to reduce the risk of flooding.

If all goes to plan, responsibility for maintenance in these catchments could be transferred from the agency to internal drainage boards, including farmers.

The NFU has long argued that farmers could look after catchments more effectively than the agency   – and many farmers want the pilot project expanded.