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Do Canal Floods?

Do Canal Floods?

As everyone who lives in the UK is well aware, the country gets a lot of rain.

In some extreme cases, heavy rainfall can cause flooding and in recent years flooding has decimated local communities across the country with homes and businesses having to be evacuated. 

 If you live near or close to a canal, you may be wondering ‘do canals flood?’

It’s important to understand the dangers heavy rainfall can bring and know what to do in extreme cases to keep yourself and others safe during severe weather conditions.

With this in mind, in this article, we’ll take a look at whether canals flood, and provide you with flooding safety tips.

Read on to learn more. 



What is a canal?

A canal is a man-made waterway that is built to allow water traffic (like boats and ships) to seamlessly pass through taking people from one body of water to another. They can also be used for drainage management, water irrigation purposes and other reasons. 

Typically there are two main types of canal including:

  • Waterways – These are the sections of the water that are navigable and where vehicles, like boats, move through during transportation. 
  • Aqueducts – Alternatively, aqueducts are used for the exclusive transport of goods such as drinking water, agriculture and hydroelectric power. 

Canals are particularly important to those who live on houseboats, and who use the waterways on a daily basis. 


Do canals flood in heavy rain?

The UK can often experience heavy rainfall, and in these instances, flooding can become normal in certain areas of the country. 

But do canals flood? In short, yes canals can flood. 

While less likely than in other areas, in extreme cases, heavy rainfall can lead to flooding. This is more likely if the canal’s walls have been breached, broken or damaged. Furthermore, if not properly maintained and looked after, flooding may also be more likely in certain circumstances. 

If a canal does flood, it can pose significant risks to those who live on it or nearby, as well as those who use it on a regular basis.    

If a canal has flooded, it will likely take a while until the water returns to normal levels so it’s important you understand what to do. 

We’ll explain how to stay safe during a flood in the section below. 


How to be safe during a flood

While canals are usually managed and looked after by local authorities, this does not mean that it is impossible for flooding to occur. In the rare instance that your local canal has flooded, you should take protective measures if you’re using it. 

Follow the guidance below if you use or live on a canal that has flooded.

Footpaths and walkways 

Before setting off on a journey, if heavy rain has occurred you should do your due diligence before heading out. Most local authorities will provide information online about affected areas including if there are any stoppages you need to be aware of. 

If footpaths, walkways or towpaths have become flooded, we’d always recommend seeking an alternative route. However, if you have no choice, make sure you are extremely cautious and always stick to the edge of a path that is furthest away from the canal. You should never run or cycle in flooded areas as the risk of an accident is increased.

Always remember that fast-flowing water is more powerful than you might think. At ankle level or above, it can easily knock you off your feet with the depth suddenly increasing when you least expect it. With this in mind, you should avoid these areas at all costs. 

If you’re walking a dog and it jumps into the canal, never go in yourself to try and rescue it. The best thing to do is stand on the side in a visible place where you can call it and hopefully, it’ll climb out of its own accord. You shouldn’t enter the water for any reason.   


If you’re a boater who regularly uses or lives on a river near a canal, there are a number of mitigations you should take to protect yourself. 

Firstly, you should carefully monitor the weather at all times. The most effective way to do this is to sign up for online alerts. 

Also, make sure to check if there are any stoppages nearby. 

Don’t cruise during steam conditions, instead, tie up securely and keep an eye on the water level. Adjust your mooring ropes when necessary. Also, take a look at your boater’s handbook for advice on how to cope with fast-flowing water. This will provide accurate advice for the specific boat you have. 

Always take additional care when getting on and off your boat, and call the emergency services if you get into difficulty. 

If you are in an area susceptible to flooding, glass flood defence systems are a great choice. At IBS Engineered Products Limited, we can provide you with a range of leading flood defence products, get in touch with our team to learn more.    

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