Background and Goals
Floods are the most common natural hazard in Europe for areas abounding rivers, estuaries and the coastal zones. Insurance statistics show that the financial impact of flooding has increased significantly since 1990. In April 2007, the Parliament and Council of the European Union agreed a new European Directive on the assessment and management of flood risks (EU Floods Directive).
FLOODsite is a research project that supports the objectives of this Directive. The project deals with the physical, environmental, ecological and socio-economic aspects of flood events. Flood risks arise from a combination of hazard sources and pathways, and define the consequences of flooding on the “receptors” – people, property and the environment. Flood risk management is a process which comprises prevention and preparedness, backed up by emergency management actions during and after an event. The research project includes aspects of decision support technologies, uncertainty assessments, and pilot applications in rivers, estuaries and coastal zones in the countries of Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The project is also active in stimulating the uptake of research findings in practice, through providing guidance for professionals, public information and educational material.
The project aims at bringing together researchers and practitioners from governments, specialized administrations, economic sectors and research organizations to develop an integrated flood and flood risk management. To this end, the physical, environmental, ecological and socio-economic aspects of flood events in river catchments and coastal zones are investigated.
The project covers the following topics:
1. Risk analysis: flood sources, pathways and the vulnerability of “receptors”;
2. Risk management: preventive measures and flood emergency management;
3. Technical integration: decision support and uncertainty assessment
4. Pilot applications:?at river, estuary and coastal sites
5. Training and knowledge dissemination: guidelines for professionals, public information and educational material;
6. Networking, review and evaluation;
7. Coordination and management.
- Great Britain
- Czech Republic
- Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
- Lower Saxony
- Erz Mountains, Thuringian Forest and Bavarian Forest
- coasts: North Sea-/Baltic Sea coasts
- South-Eeastern basin and hills
Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change
Step 1: Understand and describe climate change
The project focusses on the probability of the occurrence of extreme events and on the effects of climate variability. To this end, probability analyses for climatic extremes (asymptotic and?multi-parametric distributions, incorporating long term trends) and statistical techniques (climatic long-term trends and uncertainties associated with meteorological downscaling) are applied. Scenarios for socio-economic and demographic developments will also be taken into account.
- River flooding
- Altered rainfall patterns
- Sea level rise und storm surges
run-off, tides, wave climate
- short term = next year’s / decades
- medium term = to 2050
- long term = to 2100 and beyond
Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact
All the currently relevant flood effects and consequences will be considered. The economic impacts include damage to buildings, material damage, damage to infrastructure, the cost of civil protection, and production losses. Socio-cultural consequences are fatalities, health impacts, wealth redistribution and conflicts, as well as loss of cultural heritage. Ecological consequences are, for example, the effects of polluted flood waters and the effects on ecosystems in the form of a loss of biodiversity. The effects of the climate change on the hydrometeorological causes of flood events will be considered.
Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances
In the project, the vulnerability of a system is defined by the damage potential. This is understood as a combination of vulnerability or sensitivity and value (without consideration of the social adaptive capacity). Flood risk (flood damage per year) is the product of probability (probability of flooding as a percentage value or ratio of years) and vulnerability (contextual damage and exposure). The aim of the vulnerability assessment is:
- The development of harmonized guidelines for Europe for the socio-economic assessment of the most important types of flood damage;
- Improvement of methods for modelling and estimating losses of human life, the effectiveness of warning systems to avoid damage, and damage valuations in the case of heterogeneous damage criteria;
- Improving understanding of the behaviour of the population towards flood events in terms of readiness, perception of risk, vulnerability, social resilience and acceptance.
So-called "hot spots" will be determined for which adaptation measures urgently need to be developed and implemented.
Step 3: Develop and compare measures
The aim is to develop an integrated flood risk management. This requires a paradigm shift in European flood management policies, from rigid flood protection specifications to flood risk management. Integrated flood risk management comprises the entire range of flood risks and takes into account all levels of politics, entire catchment areas, prevention, emergency management, follow-up management, comprehensive risk assessment, and the perception and acceptance of risk in the population. Thus, as part of the project, tools will be developed for a better dissemination of information to the public, to educational facilities and institutions and to experts, by operating an integrated information management, text-based and web-based knowledge transfer and personal knowledge sharing techniques.
An analysis has been carried out of the risk perception and behavioural strategies (perceptions, evaluations and actions) of the inhabitants of communities that are not only flood-prone, but had actually suffered severe flooding in recent years. Of particular interest was the interrelationship between the subjective perception of risk and individual prevention strategies on the one hand, and the importance of various social networks during and after a flood event on the other hand. In an international comparative study of the population in the river catchments of the Mulde (Germany), Adige/Sarca and Tagliamento (Italy), and the Lower Thames (UK), knowledge of suitable, acceptable and possible prevention strategies was generated from the perspective of the affected people and compared with the viewpoints of the policy makers.
The empirical study showed that there is a considerable gap between the perception of flood risks by "experts", with their demands for an integrated flood risk management, and the viewpoint of the population at risk. While the "experts" (policy-makers and scientists) assume that the public should (and would want to) participate in flood risk management, e.g., by taking part in preventive measures or reading flood hazard maps, this demand is not only unknown to a large part of the population, but is rejected outright as impertinent. The predominant view is that flood protection should be a public service and not left up to private interests. The much-cited paradigm of "flood risk management" must therefore be considered to be a major challenge and a long-term task, which is not to be achieved merely by implementing legislation and directives. It is important to involve the individuals and communities at risk and to win their acceptance of the transition from flood protection to flood risk management. From the results of the studies on risk awareness, individual behaviour and social vulnerability, practical recommendations were obtained that show the implicit assumptions that need to be taken into account in the necessary dialogue and how this dialogue process could be designed.
20, 50, and 100 years
Land-use conflicts are considered in the pilot studies.
Step 4: Plan and implement measures
A guideline will be developed for the economic assessment of flood risks and the evaluation of indirect macroeconomic effects. The economic assessment includes damage to buildings, material damage, damage to infrastructure, the cost of civil protection, and production losses.
6th Framework Programme for Research of the European Union, key issue "Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems"
HR Wallingford Ltd (Great Britain)
37 partner organisations from 13 different European countries. Cooperation in Germany: Leichtweiß Institute for Hydraulics, Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung e.V., University of Potsdam, University of Kiel,Technical University of Dresden, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Dresden Flood Research Center.
HR Wallingford Ltd
Howbery Park, Wallingford