2019 – Flood Detention Reservoirs (Retarding Basins): UK Experience in Designing for Resilience

J D Gosden, A J Brown, A P Courtnadge

There are currently around four new flood detention reservoirs (retarding basins) built each year in UK, which although only being modest structures with median height of 4m and reservoir capacity of 300,000m3 pose a significant risk to the community as they are located immediately upstream of the community they are protecting. These communities range from around five to several thousand households.

The cost and therefore viability of these structures can vary depending on the number of defensive features built into the design, which raises interesting conflicting issues of public safety contrasted to vulnerability to property inundation in operational (say, 1 in 100 chance) floods.

The authors have designed and supervised over 30 flood detention reservoirs in the UK in the last 20 years. This paper describes the engineering decisions which need to be made regarding defensive measures and the resilience of these structures to withstand flood loading on demand. Examples of measures to include resilience are described, with discussion of when selection of the options to increase resilience against a particular failure mode should be mandatory, and when it may be more appropriate to consider it on a case by case risk-based approach. The paper will also discuss more strategic issues of how to balance making flood detention reservoirs affordable, while at the same time maintaining high standards of public safety and compares Australian and UK approaches.

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