Rain dances

This evening, like yesterday evening, I visited Chasewater. The day’s rain had ceased. I noted yesterday on my 365daysofbiking journal that I think the water level has increased about 500mm in the last week, and I was interested to see how much a days worth of heavy downpour had added to the level.

At the moment, the secondary outlet culvert is still just above the waterline, so it’s a ready indicator of depth. So I thought I’d compare photos 24 hours apart.

7:46pm, Saturday, 28th April 2012.

8:52pm, Sunday, 29th April 2012.

As you can see, there has been an increase in level, but not a massive one – maybe 20mm or so. The main area to witness the difference is between the vegetation and the dry bank. So really, a whole day of quite steady rain hasn’t made much difference – and that difference will become less the more the reservoir tends towards full, as the surface area increases.

I’ve seen a lot of comments in the last couple of days about the drought, the water shortage and suchlike. The rain we have had – and it feels like we’ve had a deluge – is clearly not that great. We’ve had three very dry seasons now. One wet week will not correct that, as can be seen above. Please let’s engage our brains. If Chasewater isn’t filling much, neither are our water supply reservoirs.

I noticed last week that it’s now fashionable for rightwing blowhards an op-ed commentators like Peter Rhodes of the Express & Star to deny the drought, the same way they deny climate change, or anything else whose existence threatens their limited, selfish worldview. Take a trip up to Blithfield or Carsington, and take a look at the water levels. Then take a look at the water levels where the drought has really hit, down south.

We still have a drought. We’ve had a wet week. This will not end the problem unless we get a sustained season of heavy rain. In 1976, after a single, long hot summer, it started raining on August Bank Holiday Monday and didn’t really stop again for months. That’s what we need now.

There’s a very good article in the Independent about this. I suggest anyone interested reads it.

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14 Responses to Rain dances

  1. warren parry says:

    The nations rivers seem to be able to collect the water readily enough. And reservoirs in wales that serve England are dumping their excess water into the river systems. I have to ask why can’t this water be diverted to areas that are suffering drought? Droughts are going to occur with more and more frequency. i hope the excuses stop and some action plans are put in place to use the abundance of H2O we are getting just now.

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Back in 1976 there was discussion about a national water network whereby reservoirs, aquifers and rivers in dry areas could be topped up from places like Scotland, Cumbria and Wales. Successive governments have shied away from this and we haven’t really had any disasters, yet …

    As I understand it the water companies are saying that although surface reservoirs are low they are not disastrously so, but that aquifers and rivers are severely depleted (though South Staffs Water seem unworried), so it takes a lot of rain before surface runoff reaches the rates we would like. I suspect Blackman’s Gully will have flowed into the Fly Bay much faster as it drains from hard surfaces in Burntwood, such as black top and factory / warehouse roofs. Crane Brook might take a little longer to rise, but maybe not by much, as it drains areas of forest and sandy-gravelly areas that soak up a lot of rain.

    According to Hammwerwich Weather 22 mm fell yesterday and [I calculate] about 65 mm over the last week. This fits to a degree: In 24 hours we see a ratio of close to 1:1, but a higher ratio of about 7.5:1 over a week, which could result from a lag from heavier rain last Wednesday and Thursday – 22.6 mm combined. I will try to have a look later on.

    • Hi folks

      Great contributions, as ever. Worth a pop along to Chasewater right now – it’s clearly filling and we’ll probably never see this process again. It’s fascinating, perhaps moreso than the draining, as dry land is reclaimed and small pools reconnect.
      The problem with pumping water long distances it’s that it’s hugely energy intensive. Politicians suggest it and it seems to make sense. Practically, it consumes a lot of energy unless you’re lucky like bIrmingham and can construct the longest gravity fed system in the world. Actually getting water down to aquifers is interesting. I imagine this would present its own challenges, although not insurmountable.
      Water is a lot harder to pump than people imagine, but I’m sure there’s suitable engineering solutions with the right vision.


      • Hi. Just a quick thought.

        There’s a good illustration of how much energy water pumping takes in this post:


        That’s a 150KW (approx) pump to top up Barr Beacon reservoir. This is only a light, non-demand top up feed and is joined in the task by Sandhills and Bourne Vale pumps. Sandhills well is closer to 400ft, and I believe Bourne Vale to be a similar depth. Therefore, I’d suggest that topping up a single reservoir ‘header tank’ is probably consuming around 200KW continuous, allowing for standard diversities. That’s a lot of juice.

        Most of the local boreholes are artesian, so the majority of the energy is delivered in pushing the water uphill. Pumping long distances is a Herculean task, and an interesting challenge.

        Best wishes


        • Andy Dennis says:

          I suspect a dredged channel will just deliver water more quickly and with greater force to pinch points, such a bridges, so that banks burst more readily.

          On the Ford Brook are some tanks that store flood waters and are emptied when the peak has passed, but that would not be workable for the volumes of water in major rivers such as the Severn. Water meadows used to do this job once upon a time, but most have been drained for agriculture or building. Somehow, though, our hydrological and other engineers will have to find ways of handling “weird weather”. Otherwise, we had better start propagating crops that are both drought and flood tolerant and stockpile gopher wood.

      • Mike Hawes says:

        What seems to be forgotten here is that the water companies calling Drought WASTE more water than they save by not fixing the myriad leaks in the system. They have failed to re invest in the infrastructure and now it’s falling apart. Like the big pipe that fractured on the beacon. Of course they berate folk for hosepipes but then fail to respond quickly enough to leaks.

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    Sorry, I meant Tuesday and Wednesday.

  4. Pedro says:

    “In 1976, after a single, long hot summer, it started raining on August Bank Holiday Monday and didn’t really stop again for months. That’s what we need now.”

    Look kindly on us Denis!

    He was made Minister for Drought in 1976 (but nicknamed ‘Minister for Rain’,which had the driest summer in over 200 years, but days later heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding, and he was made Minister of Floods.Additionally, during the harsh winter of 1978-79 he was appointed Minister for Snow…


  5. Pat says:

    Years ago when our rivers were used more to move freight they were dredged
    so they held more water,To-day the rivers are shallower so they cannot cope
    with extra water flowing into them ,As all the rivers flow to the sea ,Instead of
    waiting until they higher water has destroyed millions of pounds worth of
    property and disrupted peoples lives,DREDGE THE RIVERS NOW.

    • Hi Pat

      Dredging is a popular call, but sadly makes little difference to flooding events – the problem is lack of fall gradient in the river, not conducted volume. See here – the top engineering explanation is bang on for the River Severn, although it refers to the Yuba in California.


      Also, this is quite good


      By dredging, you only increase the channel by the amount of silt you remove – in most cases that means reducing the bottom gradient to the terminal point slightly, which doesn’t help. Water removal is dictated by the fall of the river and it’s valleys and floodplains. If you’d dredged the Severn before the 2007 flood, the volume gained would have made negligible difference to the result.


      The problem is that we’re getting more extreme weather events, more houses built on floodplains (although the definition of ‘Floodplain’ seems somewhat elastic depending on the point being made), and there’s way too much hardstanding in our towns and gardens.

      Also, o course, the River Severn has always flooded, even during commercial times.

      I fully realise you probably won’t agree with me on this, but I think it’s important to put both sides.

      Best wishes


  6. Barry Carpenter says:

    Yes the Severn and other rivers have always flooded, in fact water meadows where designed to take advanage of this very fact. These where allowed to flood to capture silt and allow it to settle increasing the productivity of the hay and grazing crops.

    Now the problems start when the “traditional flood plains” have been reduced by levees and other building works and the water flow has become condensed with in a restricted channel. Natural and man made bottle necks tend to hold back at some point and the extra water has nowhere to go other then sideways and back up stream. Resulting in flooded property.

    In the States after the major flood they had a few years back, they realised this and have removed a lot of the restrictions along the banks, even relocating whole towns up hill away from the flood plain. This allows much of the flow to slow down and spread out before bottle necking. Effectively slowing down the flow.

    One of the side effects is that a percentage of the water rather then rushing of to sea is soaked up by the ground back down to the aquifer. Unfortunately such water can take years to reach the aquifer naturally.

    Now, our current thinking is to get the surface water away as quickly as possible and we channel as much of the water to drains rather then traditional soak aways. Which in turn adds to the amount ending up in the river system. Not giving the ground back the rain that would go to the water table and aquifers.

    I believe that a few years back, regulations came into force, stating that new drives required planning premission. There had to be provision for water to soak away between block paving etc. rather then direct it down the drain. Now I don’t see much of the happening as concete and tarmac are still being layed without much evidence of a soak away being installed.

    Rather then fighting nature, we should be working with nature and using what she has been telling us for years every time proporties are flooded!

  7. Mike Hawes says:

    Finally found *before and after* pics of chasewater from 2010 and this Saturday. feel free to use them here if you like


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