Floods aniversary special

Two years ago today, Rosalie and many other parts of Brisbane were underwater. Any misconceptions we had about the power of Wivenhoe Dam to save us from ever being flooded again were swept away, and before long, attention turned to what, if anything, we could do to stop this from happening again.

In a post in The Forum (actually the first!), a visitor named Barry noted that the Council plans to install a floodgate at the mouth of Western Creek (Milton Drain) to mitigate future flooding in Milton and Auchenflower. As in many other parts of Brisbane in January 2011, the floodwaters that inundated the Western Creek catchment did not spill over the riverbanks, but entered instead via the stormwater drains that discharge to the river. The diagram below, taken from the Council’s fact sheet on backflow flooding, illustrates how this kind of flooding occurs.

Concept diagram of backflow flooding, taken from the Brisbane City Council's <a href="http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/downloads/environment_waste/water/Backflow%20Fact%20Sheet%20June%202012.pdf">factsheet</a>.

Concept diagram of backflow flooding, taken from the Brisbane City Council’s factsheet.

The Council has indeed stepped up to the plate and has already started building backflow prevention devices in Milton and elsewhere. And among the areas that have been flagged for future attention is the mouth of Western Creek.

This is a laudable idea, but the Council can hardly claim credit for it. The idea of using floodgates to protect Milton and Rosalie has been doing the rounds for over a century. In a new page entitled Backflow to the Future, or: How we learned to stop worrying and love the floods, I present a retrospective of these past proposals, courtesy of newspaper clippings from The Brisbane Courier and The Courier Mail that I have found while trawling through Trove.

The title of the essay is strictly tongue-in-cheek, and I’ll admit, downright cheeky. I’m not suggesting for a minute that we really enjoy the floods, and I don’t want to offend anyone who has suffered from them. But I do hope to put into stark focus the question of why, after all these years, we have not adopted such simple measures as floodgates to ease the pain. And I confess, the temptation to structure an essay around Dr Strangelove was just too much for me to resist.

I hope you enjoy the new page. It has been a fascinating journey to write.