Unions warned yesterday that funding cuts and job losses will leave parts of Britain defenceless if the country faces storms on the scale seen in the past week.
Sixteen severe flood warnings were issued by the Environment Agency yesterday as foul weather hit hard for the third time since Christmas.
The agency's own head waded into the cuts debate by declaring publicly that a 9 per cent government funding cut will see flood defence projects scaled back.
Con-Dem ministers have cut back its budgets with the agency planning to slash employee numbers from 11,250 to around 9,700 by October 2014 as a result.
Around 550 redundancies will be from the floods team - although the government claims these will not impact frontline roles.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden demanded an assessment of the damage the job cuts would bring.
"The public need to know that job losses on this scale will impact specifically directly on flood risk management, on flood defence operations teams managing flood defences and carrying out river maintenance to enable flows to be conveyed away - enhancing the river's ecology and supporting fish stocks," he said.
Mr Bowden added that the affected teams "provide wider incident response containing river pollution as well as aerating watercourses to prevent fish deaths from low oxygen levels.
"So cutting flood risk funds will have a detrimental affect on the health of all rivers, no matter what the interest."
Public-sector union Unison predicted that staff cuts would prove a false economy that would cost more in the long run.
National officer Matthew Lay said: "There is a significant cost associated with managing flooded land and cutting services to save money in the short term is a false economy."
The union warnings came after Environment Agency head Paul Leinster warned of a "reduction in the number of people in flood risk management" as a result of the cuts.
Writing in environmental policy magazine The Ends Report, Mr Leinster added that projects aimed at improving flood warnings would now have to be "resized."
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