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Water, water everywhere...

We all live in a low-lying area surrounded by water. Some places are actually below sea level, and yet incidents of flooding are, thank goodness, few and far between. Why?

Because we have experts managing our water levels for us, using a tried-and-tested drainage system.

And it all works - a complex network of dykes, drains, rivers and pumps has kept us dry and safe from any substantial flooding for more than 200 years.

The historic expertise and incredible success of those who drain the land, controlling local water levels, is such that this area can now boast some of the best reclaimed farmland in the country. Its protection is high on the national food security agenda.

Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), alongside other agencies, manage their part of this immense, vital, flood protection jigsaw.

Black Sluice IDB is responsible for controlling water levels across a large area mainly to the south and west of Boston.

Chairman of the Northern Works Committee is Boston Borough Councillor Richard Leggott, a lifelong farmer, who said: "Whether we are local farmers, householders or businesses we all appreciate the right conditions underfoot.

"Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board uses our drainage rates to provide and look after many of the facilities necessary to ensure that we can go about our daily life in the borough without perpetual fear of wet feet.

"Our systems are well tried and maintained and continuously updated by our dedicated staff and workforce.

"We are also well aware that our network of watercourses is a very important part of the local wildlife habitat and operational planning does include environmental considerations whenever possible."   

Its Northern Works Committee recently made its annual inspection, when members were able to look at recent developments and sites of future possible improvement schemes.

They viewed the new £325,000 offices being developed at the depot at Swineshead. The move from the Boston office to the new headquarters at Easter will bring all operations together on the same site. The Boston offices in Carlton Road will be sold.

The tour also took in an inspection of the proposed location for a culvert to replace an old farm bridge on the North Forty Foot Drain. Environmental considerations for the new structure include provision for otters and voles in the area. A "lay" built into the culvert may actually attract otters.

The power of nature has always been used to help control water - wind-driven pumps were the first mechanical means - and now solar energy is being harnessed. New solar panels on the roof of Swineshead Pumping Station are now making their contribution.

The Board constantly strives to improve drainage, and any new local development has an impact. This may necessitate cutting new dykes, improving existing ones or, where an open water course is not an option, piping water away. At Swineshead it is presently involved in assisting with drainage at three sites - two may have new homes built on them and the other one could expand an area for use as playing field.

For obvious reasons it is important for the board to keep abreast of developments which can increase the rate of water runoff from any site.

Drainage is a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year process, most essential not to be interrupted at times of potential flood risk.

To a large extent the Black Sluice IDB depends on pumping stations with modern electronic, computerised and fully automatic systems. But a backup plan exists in case of electrical failure.

Many of the Board's pumps have been fitted with dual-drive gearboxes which allow them to be powered by tractors supplied by local farmers in such emergency. 

The system was demonstrated at the Chain Bridge Pumping Station where a tractor owned by farmer Simon Bartlett, of Bannister Farms Ltd, Frampton, was connected to the dual-drive gearbox on the pump.

It was discharging at a very healthy rate of 16,300 gallons a minute (1.2tonnes/second).

In Wyberton's Solway Avenue and Yarborough Road members saw where localised flooding will be alleviated by a new improved drainage system installed by the Board's very competent staff. 

And out on the rainy and windswept Kirton Marsh an automatic weed remover was demonstrated. It keeps the weed screen at this pumping station clear of debris, allowing the ultimate discharge of water out into The Wash.

The cleaner was made in Holland, but built with technical input from Black Sluice staff.