Leaky dams helping to protect thousands of homes and businesses from flooding

We're investing £1.7million of Growth Deal funding into natural flood management schemes

5 February 2020

You may never have heard of a leaky dam, but hundreds of the wooden structures are being installed by staff and volunteers in the Upper Aire catchment.  

Leaky dams – which are designed to slow the flow of water before it reaches towns and villages further downstream – are just one method of natural flood management that provide protection to thousands of homes and businesses that were devastated by the Boxing Day floods in 2015.  

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is investing £1.7 million from the Leeds City Region Growth Deal, a £1 billion-plus deal between the LEP and the Government to help transform the Leeds City Region economy, in natural flood management. 

In the Upper Aire catchment, the work, which is being led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has received £388,000 of Growth Deal funding.  

As part of the scheme, 76 leaky dams have been created, 1,200 trees have been planted, two new ponds were created, and more than 75 metres of new hedge rows have been laid. 

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP, said: “It’s vital that we invest in the right measures to ensure we never again see a repeat of the devastation caused to homes, businesses and communities by the Boxing Day floods in 2015. 

“However, this is about so much more than just decreasing flood risk, it is also about improving the environment, water quality and habitats for local wildlife. 

“The work carried out today will have a hugely positive impact for many years to come and I’m proud that we are investing our Growth Deal funding into such a worthwhile programme which will benefit so many.” 

Suzie Knight of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said: “This a fantastic project delivering catchment-wide benefits for both people and wildlife. Trees and hedgerows are not only essential wildlife havens but improve soil quality, encouraging better infiltration and can reduce the volume of water reaching a watercourse as well as the speed at which it does so.  

The support we've had from landowners across the Upper Aire has been fantastic. 

The programme is being monitored by the University of Leeds so that its successes can be replicated elsewhere in the UK.   

Professor Joseph Holden, Director of water@leeds and the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) at the University of Leeds said: "We are really pleased to be supporting this important work which is delivering a wide range of benefits in addition to flood risk management. Monitoring natural flood management interventions is vital as it allows us to understand what is happening and what difference to flood risk the natural flood management interventions have made, so we can get further investment in such schemes in the future. 

“We devised monitoring standards and approaches for natural flood management to ensure the monitoring undertaken is robust and can be duplicated elsewhere. We are currently gathering evidence from headwaters where many natural flood management measures have been installed such as peatland restoration ponds and debris dams in streams.  

The initial indications are that these measures are effectively operating and we will continue to gather data over the next few months to quantify the benefits."