Flooding: East Yorkshire's groundwater levels at highest since 1900
GROUNDWATER levels are at their highest in East Yorkshire since records began, sparking fears there could be a repeat of the flooding at Burton Fleming.
Much of Burton Fleming was left under water for about three weeks after the Gypsey Race watercourse burst its banks.
The authorities struggled to pump the water away because the ground was so saturated and had nowhere to go.
Work on a vital flood defence wall to protect houses in Beverley also had to be postponed because of groundwater flooding.
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Contractors arrived on site last week to start building a £600,000 retaining wall next to Beverley Westwood.
A flood warning has also been in place at the River Hull, near Driffield, for weeks – the only such warning in the north east.
James Finigan, the Environment Agency's team leader for groundwater, believes the situation is very serious.
He said: "Hull and the whole of East Yorkshire gets its drinking water from the ground.
"Most of this comes from the Wolds around Driffield.
"From late autumn to now, we have seen a substantial rise in water levels.
"At Wetwang, for instance, it rose from 21.5min September to 37m now.
"We have been recording the groundwater levels since 1971 and this is the highest they have ever been. There are other records dating back since 1900 and they are still the highest ever."
The groundwater feeds into the region's watercourses, which is why they are so high.
Mr Finigan said: "The chalk acts like a sponge, holding an awful lot of water which it drips out into the watercourses.
"With so much water, these rivers, becks and streams are very high.
"This is the problem at Burton Fleming.
"Gypsey Race is a winter-borne stream, which means it is dry in summer and full in winter. At the moment, it is raging."
Mr Finigan concedes there is little that can be done to tackle the problem.
He said: "As far as managing the flood risk, it is like King Canute trying to turn back the tide.
"We can't stop the flow and putting up barriers won't help. If you do this, the flooding will just pop up elsewhere.
"What we are trying to do is make sure there are sufficient warnings in place so council teams and emergency services can react quickly to help pump the water away."
John Skidmore, head of streetscene services for East Riding Council, said he has never faced such problems.
He said: "As well as Burton Fleming and Beverley, we have also had problems at Kilham, Cherry Burton and Driffield.
"There are a few things we can do. We can dam the water, divert it or pump it away. In each case, we need to determine where the water will go so you don't just transfer the problem somewhere else.
"We are working with the agency and the fire service to ensure we can deploy pumps as quickly as possible when needed."