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Uncertainty in urban flood damage assessment due to urban drainage modelling and depth-damage curve estimation

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Due to the increased occurrence of flooding events in urban areas, many procedures for flood damage quantification have been defined in recent decades. The lack of large databases in most cases is overcome by combining the output of urban drainage models and damage curves linking flooding to expected damage. The application of advanced hydraulic models as diagnostic, design and decision-making support tools has become a standard practice in hydraulic research and application. Flooding damage functions are usually evaluated by a priori estimation of potential damage (based on the value of exposed goods) or by interpolating real damage data (recorded during historical flooding events). Hydraulic models have undergone continuous advancements, pushed forward by increasing computer capacity. The details of the flooding propagation process on the surface and the details of the interconnections between underground and surface drainage systems have been studied extensively in recent years, resulting in progressively more reliable models. The same level of was advancement has not been reached with regard to damage curves, for which improvements are highly connected to data availability; this remains the main bottleneck in the expected flooding damage estimation. Such functions are usually affected by significant uncertainty intrinsically related to the collected data and to the simplified structure of the adopted functional relationships. The present paper aimed to evaluate this uncertainty by comparing the intrinsic uncertainty connected to the construction of the damage-depth function to the hydraulic model uncertainty. In this way, the paper sought to evaluate the role of hydraulic model detail level in the wider context of flood damage estimation. This paper demonstrated that the use of detailed hydraulic models might not be justified because of the higher computational cost and the significant uncertainty in damage estimation curves. This uncertainty occurs mainly because a large part of the total uncertainty is dependent on depth-damage curves. Improving the estimation of these curves may provide better results in term of uncertainty reduction than the adoption of detailed hydraulic models.

Keywords: flood damage, flood modelling, modelling uncertainty, urban flood

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