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Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Friday, 3 August 2007 15:17 UK

Keeping Britain Dry

This early summer has been the wettest in England and Wales since records began more than 240 years ago.

Flooding in Tewkesbury
Panorama: Keeping Britain Dry was broadcast on Monday 6 August at 2030 BST on BBC One

Figures covering three months up to 23 July show the amount of rainfall was more than double the average.

On Monday, Panorama asked how much the floods have cost the UK and how much more we would be prepared to spend to defend the country from future downpours.

Reporter Kate Silverton followed the River Severn from its source to the sea to find some of the most vulnerable areas to flooding.

The government is now urgently reviewing the impact of the floods on our essential services - schools and hospitals and our power and water supplies.

More than a million of us live in homes which are at risk of serious flooding.

Earlier flooding

These latest downpours came just weeks after earlier floods affected Yorkshire and areas of the Severn Valley.

See where the heaviest rain fell

Sheffield suffered its heaviest rainfall ever. In Hull some 16,000 homes were affected.

The summer floods cost the lives of 14 people and left 500,000 people without power, water or homes.

The total cost, in terms of insurance claims and the tidy-up operation, is likely to be in the region of 6 billion.

The government believes that three million new homes are needed by 2020 and it has not ruled out building on flood plains.

Panorama visited some of the worst affected areas including; Upton-on-Severn, Tewkesbury, Longlevens and the Walham district of Gloucester.

We've got to learn to live with the floods and look to ensure that we don't further develop in the flood plains and put more people and property at risk
John Adams, Environment Agency
The team also visited Shrewsbury in Shropshire to look at the town's flood defences.

Panorama also looked at the causes behind the recent flooding.

More than 387mm (15.2ins) of rain fell in England and Wales in the three months to 23 July - more than double the average of 186mm (7.3ins) for the period.

A wide variety of explanations are being offered from global warming to intensive farming, which has meant more water being drained into rivers.

There are now concerns that the floods we have seen in recent weeks could become more common.

Flood plains

Flooding in Worcester
The River Severn flooded Worcester city centre
John Adams from the Environment Agency told Panorama: "The Severn is a massive river with wide flood planes.

"It won't be possible to defend every community and certainly would not necessarily be cost beneficial either.

"We've got to learn to live with the floods and look to ensure that we don't further develop in the flood plains and put more people and property at risk."

Historically we have built most of our major towns and cities alongside rivers and much of this land is still vulnerable to floods.

This land is incredibly valuable - and desirable.

Cooking pots filled with water
Mains supplies were lost to 140,000 homes after the floods

The programme also looked at the implications of increased flooding for insurance.

At present the insurance industry is happy to insure most homes. But this may change if flood defences are not maintained.

You can see Panorama: The Cost of Keeping Britain Dry on Monday 6 August at 2030 BST on BBC One



SEE ALSO
Transcript - Keeping Britain Dry
08 Aug 07 |  Panorama
How flood projects are funded
06 Aug 07 |  Panorama

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