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InfoWorks RS and FloodWorks provide potential solution for proposed European flooding directive

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Courtesy of Innovyze

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Wallingford Software's InfoWorks RS and FloodWorks software solutions have received a boost from the news that the European Commission has put forward a directive intended to help its member states to limit or prevent floods and the consequent damage to human health, the environment, infrastructure and property.

Since 1998 floods in Europe - notably the catastrophic 2002 floods in the Danube and the Elbe - have caused some 700 deaths. In all, around half a million people were displaced in 100 flood events, and the insured costs were at least €25 billion.

The situation is predicted to get worse – over the coming decades the flood risk in Europe is likely to increase, and if nothing is done greater economic damage will result. The scale and frequency of rain events, and therefore floods, are likely to increase due to climate change and if countries fail to manage river systems properly this will be exacerbated by the trend towards building on flood plains, which increases the assets at risk and at the same time reduces the capacity of the land to absorb flood waters.

These events and the realization that the situation will worsen caused an EU review, and the decision to create pan-European legislation to help address the problem.

Flood risk assessment

The new flooding Directive will introduce a legal obligation on Member States to undertake preliminary assessments to identify river basins and associated coastal areas at risk of flooding. Flood risk maps and flood management plans will have to be prepared for these zones, focusing on prevention, protection and preparedness.

InfoWorks RS, an integrated modeling system for river systems, enables extremely fast model build, which will be an important factor when countries are faced with the massive task of undertaking flood risk assessment for their entire river network. The ability to auto-import digital terrain model (DTM) data and generate automated flood mapping enables broad-brush rapid assessments for indicative flood maps.

This ability was recently utilized by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to provide robust flood mapping facilities for the country's extremely varied terrain.

SEPA was looking for a searchable map providing web-based flood outlines that the public could access – an important issue under Europe 's Aarhus Convention, which gives the public a right to access environmental information.

Detailed analysis of high risk locations

The flooding Directive also requires countries to look in detail at key risk locations, undertaking more detailed modeling, which can be provided seamlessly using InfoWorks RS, taking advantage of the indicative mapping data already available. Belgian regulator AMINALl has undertaken detailed flood mapping and flood management plans as well as designing flood protection works for an entire river basin using the solution.

Flood warnings

The Directive also recognizes that it is not possible to prevent all floods, so flood warning becomes a critical issue. For this, Wallingford Software's FloodWorks solution provides the answer, enabling real-time simulation and forecasting of hydrological and hydraulic conditions within river basins, drainage systems and coastal zones.

Designed for operational use, FloodWorks is highly effective in real-time flood management, providing forecasts of water level, flood depth and sea state and automatically disseminating detailed flood warnings when trigger levels have been reached. I t can also automatically publish flood forecasts on a website for viewing by remote users via a standard web browser. As it utilizes the data already captured during InfoWorks RS flood mapping, it provides users with additional value from the investment they have already made in their flood risk analysis.

Sharing flood risk information

InfoWorks RS' ability to import seamlessly many different types of data will also enable it to provide a solution for another requirement of the Directive: that countries share flood risk information.

The global need to identify and map flood risk zones has already seen InfoWorks RS becoming the solution of choice in many countries including Mexico , Thailand and Malaysia as well as in utilities and government authorities across Europe .

In Mexico , the country's Water Commission has used InfoWorks RS to undertake a major river modeling exercise with the Federal Electricity Commission in the Chiapas region to predict possible flood zones for vulnerable sections of key rivers such as the Grijalva.

Consultants for the Thai government recently created an InfoWorks RS model to provide flood forecasts and warnings via a real-time telemetry system in the Bang Pakong river basin. This was linked to telemetry sites by FloodWorks Configuration Manager Software, which established key locations and nodes. Although the FloodWorks Server is located at a dam control room, the system has a web feature that reports to the Bangkok Flood Management Center .

In Malaysia , the solution has been used to develop a comprehensive river model consisting of hydrological, hydraulic and ground elements, covering the country's main river and flood plain. The Malaysian government also plans to produce a flood risk map based on various return periods and to model the impact of flooding caused by changes in catchment characteristics.

InfoWorks RS and FloodWorks Sales Manager Tyrone Parkinson says: “The proposed Directive will be a significant step forward in ensuring the impacts of flooding in Europe, which have been considerable over the last decade, are reduced. InfoWorks RS and FloodWorks could play a key role in ensuring the Directive's requirements are fulfilled.”

About the Directive

A three-step process is proposed. First, countries will undertake a preliminary flood risk assessment of their river basins and associated coastal zones. Where there is found to be a real risk of flood damage, countries will then have to develop flood risk maps.

Finally, flood risk management plans will have to be created for these zones. These must include measures to reduce the probability of flooding and the potential consequences. They will have to deal with all phases of the flood risk management cycle but must focus on the prevention aspect.

In the case of international river basins, these steps must be coordinated between the countries involved to ensure problems are not simply passed from one area to another.

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