In North Powys, flooding incidents are not just occasional one-off events. Significant flooding disruption has now become almost expected, especially at this time of year. In recent weeks we have again experienced flooding incidents throughout our area. Last February, there was not only significant flooding of land, but residents were also evacuated from their homes in communities such as Llandinam.
During January, there were Met Office weather warnings across most of Powys. Many people across mid Wales feel anxiety when bad weather is forecast, due to past experiences.
Also, an almost annual occurrence, is me raising flooding incidents in the Senedd. I raised the impact of floodings in mid Wales and the management of Clywedog and Vyrnwy reservoirs with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford again in recent week. I outlined to the First Minister in the Senedd the many rivers that had been overflowing and the flooding of low-lying land because of levels in the River Vyrnwy and the River Severn.
We are all aware of changing weather patterns. There are many actions that can be taken nationally, and no single issue alone will bring about a resolution, but for me, I have been urging for practical solutions locally, actions that whilst not stopping flooding incidents in mid Wales occurring, would significantly reduce the impact of flooding events. Many people are rightly anxious and fearful that their homes and land may be flooded when rivers are overflowing, and flood warnings are in place. It is hugely distressing when people’s homes are flooded, and I was glad that I had a further opportunity to again raise this issue with the First Minister.
We need to see the better management of Vyrnwy and Clywedog reservoirs. It's also been my view, for many years, that the operating rules of both dams need to be changed to allow for greater capacity of storage in the winter months. This is what I urged the First Minister to intervene in. I firmly believe that the Welsh Government and National Resources Wales need to work with all bodies involved, including with the UK Government and the Environment Agency in England to promote the better management of, and the enhancing of our local dams, to provide greater resilience.
Last year I was pleased to attend a meeting at Clywedog reservoir with the UK Government Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Rebecca Pow MP. Craig Williams MP had invited the minister to discuss the extremely important and pressing issues of flooding in Montgomeryshire and to meet with key community representatives, and others from the Environment Agency; Natural Resources Wales; Severn Trent and United Utilities where we fully discussed the policy position regarding the operating rules for reservoirs, which have been unchanged since 1979.
In my conversations with the Environmental bodies, they of course highlight the requirement to ensure the reservoirs have significant capacity and storage to allow for supply in the summer months. in my view, there is sufficient capacity within both dams to meet requirements, I simply believe the current balance is wrong.
The First Minister did recognise the issues regarding Vyrnwy and Clywedog reservoirs after I made the point that the water levels were dangerously high for this time of year. In response to my questioning the First Minister said officials of the Welsh Government do remain in regular discussions with the Environment Agency about the operating arrangements it has for both reservoirs, and he was very happy to make sure that the points I made are taken up further in those discussions.
I was pleased that the Welsh Government are working with National Resources Wales and in contact with the Environment Agency regarding the water level, but frustratingly for me and others, for over a decade we have been raising these concerns, there is now acceptance that the management of both reservoirs needs to be updated and I believe government and environmental bodies need to prioritise changing the operating rules of the Clywedog and Vyrnwy dams.