Flooding FAQs

What are the roles of the City Council and Environment Agency in a flood event?

The City Council and Environment Agency (EA) work together to manage a flood event. On Osney the EA tends to be the main actor, e.g. in deploying flood barriers and pumps if needed, because we have the EA depot at the end of Bridge Street. The City Council may also provide some services, as may other agencies such as the fire service (pumping water, evacuation) and the police (road closures).

Who can I contact if I need help?

Oxford City Council Direct Services emergency number: 01865 249811.

Councillor Susanna Pressel (daytime only): 01865 554001.

For sewer and drainage problems Thames Water: 0800 714614, https://www.thameswater.co.uk/contact-us/report-a-problem/report-a-problem-online

Who can I contact on Osney?

During a flood event the lock keeper, Mark Winks, is usually at the lock between 9 and 9.30 a.m. He is happy to answer residents’ questions.

Simon Collings in South Street (simonjc_uk@yahoo.com) and Richard Thurston in West Street (richardthurston@btinternet.com) are local residents you can contact for information. They do not have an official status, but as members of the pressure group Oxford Flood Alliance, they are in touch with the EA and City Council about flooding. During a flood event they try to provide updates to the community about what is happening, based on information from EA staff. They’ve both lived on the island for decades and experienced many flood events.

I’ve signed up for flood warnings and received a Flood Alert. What does this mean?

It is a good idea to sign up for Flood Warnings with the government Flood Information Service https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/. These warnings cover an area of the floodplain and are not specific to your property.

Flood Alerts are the lowest level of warning and are not uncommon on Osney. They cover a large area and mean that the river is spilling into the floodplain and is flooding towpaths, fields, parks etc. They are also a signal to start thinking about how prepared you are should the flooding get worse.

What does a Flood Warning mean?

A Flood Warning means that property flooding in your area is likely. It does not mean that your own house is necessarily at risk, but some properties in the area covered by the warning are likely to be affected. You should assess the situation, and if necessary start to use property-protection products such as flood barriers and air brick covers, move furniture upstairs and secure valuables and essentials in case you need to evacuate.

Flood Warnings cover a smaller more precise area of the floodplain than Flood Alerts. When Osney is on a Flood Alert it is possible that nearby areas such as South Hinksey or Botley are on a Flood Warning. If you want to fully understand the flood situation it is a good idea to check for all warnings in the Oxford area.

A Severe Flood Warning means that significant disruption is expected, and potentially danger to life.

Do I need sandbags?

The properties on Osney most likely to be threatened by flooding have been provided with flood gates and electric pumps. Other properties are unlikely to be flooded except in an event much greater than any we have experienced for the last 50 years.

When water does enter houses on the island it tends to be groundwater, which comes up through the floor. Sandbags will not stop this. Some properties backing on to the river may be protected by a sandbag wall, but this has to be professionally built and will be organised by the relevant agencies if needed.

My house has flood gates and an electric pump. How do I use these?

The properties in the lowest part of the island have been issued with flood defences. If your house is one of these and flooding seems imminent you should fix airbrick covers and flood gates at the front and rear of the house. Pumps can then be used to keep the water below floor level — ideally by putting the pump into the water under the floor and using the hose to pump water out of the door or window.

Why is there water building up in the Bridge Street extension/Doyley Road/South Street? Are the drains blocked?

If water appears in these areas when river levels are high it is most probably caused by rising groundwater, not blocked drains or burst pipes. This is a normal occurrence. When water starts to build up the EA will pump it out of the street.

Why is water bubbling out of manhole covers in the lower part of Bridge Street?

This is flood water that has infiltrated the sewer system and is forcing its way out. It is effectively dilute sewage. When water starts to build up the EA will pump it out of the street.

Can we use our toilet during a flood?

If your toilet is working it should be safe to use it. Some Osney households have reported problems with flushing toilets during past floods, especially ground-floor toilets. If you experience problems contact Thames Water Customer Services for advice 0800 714 614, https://www.thameswater.co.uk/contact-us/report-a-problem/report-a-problem-online

What is the role of the lock keeper?

The first priority of the lock keeper during a flood is to make sure weirs are open so water can move downstream as fast as possible. He also observes the local rivers and streams to check for obstructions such as fallen trees or boats that have come loose, helps vessels in distress, checks flood levels on towpaths and other safety issues. He liaises closely with the EA Flood Incident Officer, colleagues up and downstream, and members of the public.

When Osney is threatened by flooding, large areas of the Thames floodplain are likely to be affected and EA staff will be at full stretch. They will be prioritising areas with the greatest threat to property and life. It may therefore take a little time for them to respond to requests for information or help.

How is the sluice at the junction of North and East Streets managed and what does this mean for levels in the back stream?

During a flood event water flows through the city in multiple channels and over land. At such times, whether or not the weir at the Osney Bridge is open makes little difference to the level of the back stream, which is also fed by other sources. Each flood event is different and water levels in our stream are mainly affected by what is happening downstream (e.g. how much water is entering the Thames from the Cherwell). The weir is more likely to be opened at other times, for example in summer to keep levels in the back stream high enough for its ecology.