Recently, I wrote about issues with electricity infrastructure not keeping up with development. The same issue is occurring with storm water drains.
Water damage arising from storms is one of the greatest causes of property insurance losses in Australia, so it should be of great concern to see that our councils and water authorities do not seem to be investing in the infrastructure to protect our homes and businesses.
There are three main issues. The first is councils should simply not allow developments in known flood zones.
The second is that they need to invest in upgrading the storm water systems if they are going to reap the reward of extra rates from new developments. In Camberwell, where our Melbourne office is located, one development alone has two underground storm water pipes that are around 450mm in diameter, but the council drainage system that it will flow into is less than ¼ of that capacity.
Due to all the additional hard surfaces that are a direct result of turning homes on ¼ acre blocks with a yard into multistorey apartments that take up much of the block and what is left is concreted, means water that was previously soaking into the ground is now surface water, and the existing council drainage system simply cannot cope.
Add to this the fact that developers are not required to bund their construction sites to stop excavated soil and building materials such as sand, gravel etc from being washed into the drains. If they are required to do this, our local authority is not policing it. As well as the odd dodgy builder who just washes down concrete slurry in the roads and lanes, and of course, you get localised flooding.
It appears that the council has also reduced the clearing of the drains despite all the new development and this only compounds the problem. Even if it is the same frequency, it is not sufficient to deal with the extra debris the new developments have created.
As a result, several of our neighbours have had water inundation 5 times this year, when this did not occur in the past.
The trouble for business of course is that unlike residents we have no vote or say in local elections despite most of us spending more time in the electorate than at home and paying significantly more rates than an individual home owner.
Clearly the insurance industry needs to help the insuring public and start a discussion with local authorities in an effort to address this serious problem which is clearly only getting worse.