Academics McEwan and Jones conclude that experience of flooding in the UK in 2007 generated new understandings of the importance of local knowledges, which can challenge and contest ‘expert’ knowledge. The local knowledges of concern derive from self-interest and being ‘in place’ over time as well as ‘hobby’ knowledges such as natural history. The authors point out that local politics and power relations cannot be considered as separate from local knowledges. They claim that the experience of flooding has linked it to climate change in the public psyche. A combination of pluvial (rainwater related), fluvial (related to streams/rivers) and groundwater flooding, the cause was high intensity rainfall over a wide area and constituted ‘one of the greatest civil emergencies that the UK has faced’, according to the Cabinet Office (p.3). 

The Pitt Review suggests that communities be more involved in alleviating flood risks, including contributing to the cost themselves (p.3). Meanwhile, the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) invests local authorities with a leading role in flood risk management, along with the Environment Agency. McEwen and Jones identify a lacuna in knowledge of surface water (pluvial) mapping and modelling as well as regarding multiple flood events. Local knowledge becomes more valuable as exceptional conditions bring flooding to areas previously unaffected and so beyond the knowledge of experts and responsible agencies: local features (landscape) matter, down to and including pavement height, blocked drains, and recent cultivation. Participation in flood resilience is judged to be important, with the authors suggesting that community knowledge networks and pathways need identifying along with ‘bridge people’ who can liaise with experts and authorities. Local knowledge has been lost as local authorities contract out services such as street cleaning. Questions remain about how local knowledges can be connected to governance systems and whether institutional processes can accommodate such knowledges. It is may also prove interesting to enquire into whether awareness of climate change recedes along with fear as time passes since a flood.

McEwen, L. & O. Jones (2012) Building local/lay knowledges into community flood resilience planning after the July 2007 flood, Gloucestershire, UK Hydrology Research Vol 43 No 5 pp 675–688 

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