Council beefs up drain cleaning teams to combat flooding

Flooding to low lying land on Mumbles Road, near Blackpill, Swansea, following a wet February and first half of March. Photo Richard Youle

Richard Youle, Local democracy reporter

The endless task of cleaning more than 40,000 drains in one municipality is ahead of schedule thanks to additional investments.

Swansea City Council cleans street drains every three years, but some are also cleaned annually or semi-annually. On average there are more than 250 drainages per week.

There are two “routine” drainage teams, three reactive and one specialist team, a report submitted to a council scrutiny panel says. The service has been boosted with additional funding of £300,000.

Swansea highways team leader Mike Sweeney said priority was given to drains, which posed a serious flooding risk to motorists and adjacent properties.

Above average rainfall this winter – Swansea recorded 103mm just last month – has been a problem on Mumbles Road. Drainage engineers took a few weeks last November to unblock an underground drain that had caused persistent flooding on the eastbound carriageway in front of Swansea University.


Cllr Michael Locke said the inner westbound lane of Mumbles Road was frequently flooded near Blackpill. “It’s a real danger when it’s dark,” he said.

Cllr Chris Evans said flooding was a problem across much of Mill Lane, Blackpill, and that one family had to move out of their home as a result. “It looks like the ground underneath (the road) has eroded,” he said.

Met Office data from 1836 suggests that the UK is becoming slightly wetter, although there is wide variation from year to year. The climate is getting warmer and the warmer the atmosphere, the greater its capacity to store water.

Local authorities in Wales are responsible for flooding of surface water, drains, culverts and small streams. Swansea Council is developing a new six-year flood risk management strategy, including raising awareness of and responding to coastal erosion. The strategy divides Swansea into six geographical areas affected by climate change and sets out what the council is doing to manage flood risk.

Flood reduction programs

Welsh Government funding has been secured to plan flood defense schemes in Capel Road, Clydach, and West Street, Gorseinon, while a proposed project in Killay Square, Killay, is under consideration. Outlined business cases are developed for other upgrades.

Meanwhile, a £23 million redevelopment of the seawall in Mumbles, part of a national coastal erosion program, is expected to be completed early next year.

Cllr Mary Jones said last year's flooding had affected the footpaths at Trafalgar Bridge, at the mouth of the River Tawe, and she asked if anything was planned to address the problem. She was told that this was being looked at as part of a study and that the council had commissioned a major piece of work called a Strategic Flood Impact Assessment for the county.

Councilors also asked how households could minimize water runoff from their homes and driveways. Cllr Sara Keeton said she believed every home should have a rain barrel to store excess water. She said people without yards could still use the water to wash their cars.

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