A team from Heriot-Watt University have been developing and delivering community education workshops to help people explore processes involved in urban flooding. The workshops aim to be interactive and informative, placing a great deal of emphasis on community resilience and on the role that individuals can play in protecting themselves and their homes, and their communities. This work was originally funded by EPSRC as a means of communicating our research which had shown the cumultive impact that small changes to our built-up areas can have in reducing flood risk. However, we have subsequently worked in partnership with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to adapt the workshops and deliver them to wider audiences in schools, science festivals and public consultations.
The main element of the workshop is an interactive model, incorporating a scale model of an urban area with a river and typical urban infrastructure, i.e. houses, shops, industrial units, roads and parks. The model incorporates a sprinkler system to simulate rainfall, with water being fed to the sprinklers and river via a system of pumps. Workshop participants are able to change certain elements of the urban fabric in an attempt to reduce the severity of flooding, e.g. replace tarmac with permeable paving, swap conventional roof surfaces for green roof surfaces, etc. Through interaction with the model, we aimed to:
- Achieve a greater understanding among the public of issues relating to flood risk
- To generate dialogue about flood risk in urban areas between members of the public and our research team
- To promote discussion about causes and solutions to urban flooding, with particular emphasis on personal repsonsibility
- To help develop an awareness of the actions that communities can take to help prepare for and reduce flood risk
- To help communities feel empowered to take action to manage their own flood risk, and promote 'resilient' attitudes in younger generations.
- To raise the profile of on-going work in flood risk management at Heriot-Watt University, SEPA and Scottish Government and to sign-post access to up-to-date, accurate information on Flood Preparedness for communities.
- In the period 2009-2011 (funded by EPSRC), the workshop was delivered to over 5000 people in Scottish schools and UK science festivals (e.g. Borders, Techfest in Aberdeen, Grangemouth, Cheltenham, Manchester, Newcastle).
- Independent evaluation of the workshop “…yielded strong evidence for the learning that took place during audiences’ interaction with the project” including “Learning about flooding, its causes and implications” and “Learning about steps that can be taken to mitigate flooding (and that these can be small and simple)”.
- Post 2011, our team were integral in raising flood awareness across Scotland, supporting SEPA in their ongoing flood risk awareness programmes:
"Over the last two years we have been involved in taking the interactive flood model out to different age groups, to build on that approach, and the feedback has been universally positive. Seeing how flooding happens, physically moving infrastructure about to reduce flooding and generally being hands on with water contributes considerably to the learning process, and complements our long term aims to make the next generation more flood aware.”
Stewart Podger, SEPA
- Comissioned by the Scottish Government to take the workshop to a further 50 Scottish schools in 2013/14 to “embed” key messages in the adults of the future and also aimed to help prompt the building of individual, family and wider community resilience to the impact of flooding.
- The workshop has also been used for more focussed public engagement activities in the UK (e.g. to support public consultations on a sustainable drainage retrofit project in Central London).