As you report (Revealed: One-third of vital flood defenses in England are in private hands, October 31), the Environment Agency has limited powers to enforce maintenance of private flood defenses . There is another category of largely private infrastructure that has great potential to reduce the risk of flooding: reservoirs owned by water companies. It is recognized that providing storm space in reservoirs can reduce the risk of flooding. For example, the risk of flooding in Keswick, Cumbria is greatly reduced when there is space in the Thirlmere Reservoir upstream.
Water companies focus on supplying their customers and avoiding drought measures, both of which are backed by legislation. The risk of flooding does not have the same priority for them, and the Environment Agency does not have the power to demand action.
The agency recently completed a national review of reservoirs, in which their role in reducing flood risk was assessed. This report has not yet been made public and may not be as it has been classified as an internal document intended to inform the policies of the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
As climate change increases the severity of storms and floods, it is essential that the role of existing reservoir infrastructure be included in reducing flood risk.
Dr Mark Roberts
Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire
Your article did not refer to other organizations with responsibilities in the most vulnerable regions of the country. These are the internal drainage boards, which are responsible for ditches, culverts, ditches (canals), pumping stations, etc. Given the important role they play in managing streams that are smaller than rivers, they generally manage to keep a low profile. But their response can be critical for many communities regularly threatened by flooding, and perhaps should be the subject of further consideration.