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The Gulf must act now to protect against future floods

Storm crates can offer fast, effective relief and are cost-efficient

Flood, Water, Car In urban environments rainwater flows over the surface, accumulating pollutants and debris Abdel Hadi Ramahi/Reuters
In urban environments rainwater flows over the surface, accumulating pollutants and debris, which can be filtered by storm crates

Recent flooding in our region underscores the urgent need for the immediate implementation of storm resilience systems.

This necessity cannot be overstated. We cannot afford to wait while communities continue to endure the devastating consequences of such events.

The time to act is now, especially with the looming threat of climate change increasing in the years to come. Delaying action only amplifies the risks and costs associated with future disasters.

In regions like the Middle East, where water runoff merges with sand, stormwater poses an even greater challenge. This reaction exacerbates environmental degradation and threatens ecosystems and society alike.

As stormwater overwhelms drainage systems, it carries contaminants into water bodies such as streams, rivers, and oceans, causing significant harm to aquatic life.

Achieving comprehensive flood protection for cities demands a holistic strategy. Incorporating both urban and rural nature-based solutions is paramount for effective mitigation.

Among the crucial rural interventions is soil regeneration – a practice applicable beyond city limits. By implementing soil regeneration methodologies in surrounding areas, runoff can be intercepted before it reaches urban centres, significantly reducing flood risk.

One proven methodology for rainwater retention and carbon sequestration is “holistic management”, established by Allan Savory, a regenerative grasslands visionary and TED speaker. 

Savory’s comprehensive approach has already regenerated 29 million hectares of arid desert land back into flourishing grasslands on five continents. The cornerstone of his methodology is the rotation of livestock to initiate the regeneration of these ecosystems. 

According to the Savory Institute, the problem of intensified rainstorms worsens when desertified soil fails to “quickly absorb the rain events and cycle it through a healthy landscape”.

Effective soil management and desertification reversal through soil regeneration are essential, given that “a 1 percent increase in soil organic matter allows one acre of land to absorb 20,000 gallons of water”.

In urban environments rainwater falls on impermeable surfaces like concrete or asphalt and is unable to infiltrate the ground. Instead, it flows over the surface, accumulating pollutants and debris.

Storm crates

One efficient urban solution is the implementation of storm crates, which can be swiftly implemented in comparison to traditional drainage systems, saving time and costs.

These crates can be installed underground to collect and store runoff water for various properties, including hotels, airports, private homes and highways, even in challenging high water table locations.

Storm crates function by capturing rainfall, filtering out sand and debris, reducing flooding, erosion and preventing pollution. They are not only environmentally friendly but also highly durable, with substantial load-bearing capabilities, scalable and cost-effective to install.

This captured water can be stored for future use, or simply returned to the water table via exfiltration over the months that follow.

One local manufacturer, Aquatech, has engineered and implemented numerous storm crate solutions globally, with installations at The W Hotel in Dubai, highways in Qatar (including those for the Qatar World Cup pitches), the largest mosque in America in Florida, naval bases, the MI6 building in London, and Los Angeles International airport. 

Person, Helmet, Electronics Storm crates being installed at Los Angeles International Airport
Storm crates have been installed at Los Angeles International (LAX) airport

Aquatech co-founder Dylan Williams emphasises the need for this type of “retrofit solution that can be supplied and installed faster than traditional infrastructure upgrades”.

Its 4.5km long installation at LAX was completed in just seven months at a cost of $3.5 million, compared to the original solution, which would have required new storm pipes, extensive excavation, and disruption, taking nearly three years and costing at least $15 million.

This underscores the relevance and effectiveness of storm crate solutions in critical infrastructure settings such as Dubai International airport.

The intensifying challenges posed by climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events make it imperative to protect our communities, economy and vital infrastructure.

By adopting innovative solutions such as storm crates and proactive strategies to combat runoff and flooding, we can fortify our societies against future disasters.

Erin Grover is based in Dubai and advises on emerging technologies for climate impact, food security and supply chain transparency

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