Smarter steps to tackle road flooding


Councillor Dann with one of the smart water sensors being trialled in Plymouth's gulliesSmart water sensors are being trialled in gullies to help prevent flooding on Plymouth’s roads.

The sensors, which have been installed in 20 locations that are prone to flooding, measure water and silt levels and use real-time weather data to send email and text alerts when there is potential for problems to arise.

They can also be used to monitor how different parts of the drainage network are performing in different conditions and help crews in prioritising maintenance and repairs.

Councillor Sue Dann, Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Scene, said: “Our highways team are responsible for around 39,000 gullies across the city and keeping an eye on them all is a huge task. As well as carrying out routine inspections and cleansing, crews also respond to flooding incidents in severe weather.

“We’ve made it a priority to keep drains clear and tackle flooding – and this means looking at smarter, more proactive ways of monitoring the network and targeting resources where they are most needed.

“We want to get a more accurate picture of the condition of our gullies and the problem areas so we can send crews to the right locations at the right time and provide a more efficient service.

Councillor Dann views gullies being cleared in Ham Drive

Councillor Dann views gullies being cleared in Ham Drive

“Sometimes blockages are caused by underlying problems that need further investigation and we obviously can’t prevent surface water flooding during heavy or prolonged rainfall, when the sewer system is full. However we are taking all the steps we can to keep the road network moving whatever the weather.”

The water sensor trial is part of a more targeted approach to managing the city’s gullies, using data to measure how they are performing and identify potential flooding risks. If it is a success we hope to install more sensors across the network.

Crews have cleared around 28,000 gullies over the last 18 months during their routine inspection and cleansing programme and responded reactively to around 2,500 blocked gully reports and call-outs this year. Known flooding ‘hot spots’ are checked every week and whenever severe weather is forecast.

Gullies that have been cleared can quickly become blocked again by fallen leaves and debris. People can report a blocked road gully on our website or by phoning 01752 668000. Issues in flooding hot spots, main roads and residential properties are prioritised.