Northamptonshire County Council - Storm Case Study


Courtesy of Casella

The Issue

It is a common perception amongst homeowners living away from rivers or coastal areas or when there are periods of drought and water shortages that the risk of flooding is not possible. However, the hottest and driest weather conditions are often preceded by thunderstorms or flash flooding. In urban areas, heavy rainfall over dry land with poor absorption increases run-off, overwhelming the drainage capacity in the local area. Recent extreme weather in the UK has caused widespread devastation and reminded the country of the high level of threat that it faces from flooding. Against this background, Northamptonshire County Council set out to raise both safety and awareness by organising an outreach programme and siting a series of rain gauges across the county. The initiative was prepared to address the Council’s responsibilities as a Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFAs), since all Unitary Authorities and two tier County Councils have been assigned a number of duties and powers under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 relating to the management of local flood risk. .. Funding for the project was available to Northamptonshire County Council since, spurred by the recent floods, the environment secretary confirmed £21m worth of grants to help Councils protect and support their own community when managing flood risk.

The Challenge

“The objective of the project was three-fold,” explained Josie Bateman, Senior Project Manager, Northamptonshire County Council. “Firstly, it was about us getting better intelligence in relation to rainfall levels across the county so that we could start building up a historic picture of rainfall levels. Secondly, we wanted to raise awareness within primary schools and educate children about the rainfall level and the water cycle. And the third objective was to enable communities to take their own initiative in terms of creating early warning systems. To achieve all of these objectives we needed rain gauges that would be robust, easy to set up and simple to monitor and the Casella STORM Guardian met all of those needs.”

The Solution

STORM Guardian was chosen because of Casella’s experience in producing rain gauges but also because the data logger, battery and telemetry and all the main components are housed together, making for easy installation. The Casella STORM Guardian is a Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge (TBRG) mounted on a cast aluminium-alloy base, which incorporates a built-in spirit level to achieve correct and accurate positioning of the bucket. To withstand the elements the modern TBRG is made entirely from non-corrosive materials, with key components such as bases, septum rings and funnels all fashioned in aluminium alloy and protectively coated, while integral loggers and batteries can be IP65 rated to prevent water ingress.

Key to the success of these gauges is that data can be accessed from anywhere in the world thanks to integral GSM/GPRS telemetry and a dedicated website. Additionally, it will operate in remote conditions for up to seven years without the need for a solar panel thanks to ultra -low power electronics making for simple installation and low total cost of ownership. Email alerts and optional texts are also invaluable tools should rainfall exceed set limits that are indicative of imminent flooding.

The first STORM Guardian was located at Yelvertoft Primary School, a community that is at risk of surface water and river flooding, and Northamptonshire County Council has decided that placing the remainder in schools will best achieve its objectives.

“By placing 15 rain gauges across the county’s schools we will have really good coverage,” Josie explained. “With a Casella STORM Guardian in their own school children can learn about the rainfall level and the water cycle ‘hands-on’ and take that flood risk message home to their parents. Communities can take their own initiative in terms of creating early warning systems, in particular those where there has already been a certain level of rainfall that has resulted in flooding. And because the Casella STORM Guardian allows easy access to data, these communities can start using rainfall level calculations to set out early warning systems that can reach them via text or email in line with their flood warden protocols and emergency flood plans. We’re really pleased with the STORM Guardian and particularly happy with the support we’ve received from Casella in setting up this important local project.”

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