Rain gardens are being installed in the streets to help reduce the risk of flooding and prevent sewers being overwhelmed.

The eco-friendly water drainage gardens being installed by Redbridge Council have plants, shrubs, and other greenery to absorb rainwater and drain it away slowly to help stop sewer systems becoming overwhelmed.

Several neighbourhoods that have been hit by flash flooding over the last two years have now had rain gardens planted along the kerbside, including Malford Grove in South Woodford where repeated surface water flooding has been caused by heavy rainfall.

The Malford Grove rain garden was planted last summer. It absorbs and stores surface level water, then gradually releases it into the sewers below ground.

“The effects of climate change are having more frequent bouts of flooding from torrential rain,” Redbridge Council cabinet member Jo Blackman explained. “So we are investing in measures to help reduce the impact of flash floods, like rain gardens in areas that are affected most.

“Rain gardens are an eco-friendly way to help reduce flood risks which blend into the environment and improve biodiversity.”

There have been no reports of surface water flooding in the area since the rain garden was installed along Malford Grove, with similar results in other neighbourhoods.

The council has installed 11 rain gardens so far, with the collective capacity to absorb and store well over 100,000 litres of rainwater, it is estimated.

Just one five-minute shower produces around 40 litres of rainwater — so that’s just under eight years of showers that can be held in the rain gardens at any one time, helping alleviate the pressure on sewers. 

The system also provides habitats for wildlife and creates more green spaces.

Flash flooding is becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. It is impossible to completely stop flooding, the local authority accepts, but some measures can be taken to improve resilience through measures such as rain gardens, which help reduce the likelihood of flooding.

More rain gardens are being planned as part of a programme of alleviation work under Redbridge Council’s new ‘flood risk management’ strategy.