Business is booming.

NSW is in a race against the next storm

Torrential rain has disrupted our lives for many months now, and the summer forecast for more falls in the future means communities will have to contend with some of the worst flooding on record.

What has already become tragically clear is the urgent need for a better early warning system as well as the rapid deployment of a rescue operation to avert disaster before it is too late for people to evacuate and more lives are lost. Two men died this month after they were washed away in flash floods while trying to cross Prestons Creek near Boorowa.

For the town of Molong, near Orange, the flood warning came too late for residents to escape on Sunday evening. Locals were told it would be too dangerous to evacuate after flooding trapped people in their homes. Almost 100 millimeters of rain fell in just six hours in parts of the Central West region, which includes Molong, catching people off guard. Aerial footage taken on Monday showed many homes engulfed in flooding and surrounding roads under water.

Meanwhile, one in five residents of the flooded town of Eugowra have been rescued by helicopter or boat since midnight on Sunday. NSW Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said there were nine major floods in place across the state and that “the whole of central west NSW has been very badly hit in the last 24 hours from flooding”.

Residents in regional NSW understandably feel they are fighting a losing battle in a constant battle to keep water levels in check around their properties. With rivers and soil already saturated, there is nowhere for excess water to escape.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that more is to come, with heavy rainfall and flooding in the towns of Eugowra, Derribong and Canowindra. Nearby Forbes and Parkes, which are still recovering from recent flooding, are at risk of further flooding.

Sydneysiders also face the risk of more frequent flooding as the city posts its wettest year on record.

Professor Jason Evans from the University of NSW has warned that the amount of rain falling in extreme floods in the city has increased faster than expected. Storms now generate between seven and 20 millimeters in 10 minutes, compared to four to 15 20 years ago. He says updating the design standards for gutters and drainage should be considered.

Although emergencies cannot be controlled, they should no longer surprise us. The need for climate action is well established, but Australians must also learn to live with the freak forces of nature and prepare for the next disaster. Just as wildfires are now a deadly and more frequent threat, flooding is also becoming an all too common occurrence.

Like Australia, Houston, Texas has faced repeated flooding and severe water shortages. It is investigating new ways to improve its water security. Innovative solutions being explored include underground movement and storage of water in aquifers. Australia should consider the feasibility of potential solutions such as storing mitigated flood water in depleted aquifers.