Related - Floodplain Manager May 2019

Feds Fudge Flood Funding

Billions of dollars will be allocated to natural disaster response as part of the 2019-20 Budget but disaster mitigation funding continues to fall in real terms.

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From October 2019, a $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund will be established through legislation as a Commonwealth Investment Fund and will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, to provide a sustainable source of funding for recovery from catastrophic natural disasters. The $150 million per annum that will be made available by the government will be distributed when there is need for additional support beyond existing national disaster response programs and will be directed by a funding plan.

In light of the North Queensland floods the government announced a North Queensland Flood Recovery Package. This includes an income tax exemption for qualifying grants made to primary producers, small businesses and non-profit organisations affected by the floods. North Queensland’s livestock industry and associated communities will receive $3.1 billion over five years under the recovery package which includes funding for business loans, restocking, repairs, weed management, school and study financing. Furthermore, $5.5 million will be allocated to prioritising mental health natural disaster assistance. The funds will be allocated over four years and aim to provide additional mental health services and support for communities impacted by natural disasters in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. This will include $1.3 million for the Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health to develop and implement online training tools to assist health practitioners to better support communities affected by disasters. The Government will also introduce Medicare items to allow General Practitioners to provide telehealth services to flood affected communities in Queensland until 30 June 2019.

The government will provide $1.7 million over two years for a National Disaster Risk information Capability Pilot project to demonstrate the benefits of establishing national scale climate and disaster risk information, and identify areas of improvement. Finally, the government will allocate funding to the Natural Disaster Resilience Funding to reduce the risk and impact of disasters ($130.5 million). This includes a $104.4 million five year national partnership to support states and territories in reducing disaster risk, $26.1 million to deliver initiatives that reduce disaster risk at the national level. It should be noted however that the figure for the latter has remained unchanged since 2009 (FM June 2009) so has effectively reduced by about 20% when inflation is taken into account (Read here).

2019 FMA Conference Wrap

The annual Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) conference which took place in Canberra from 14-17 May was another resounding success.

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The conference theme was “A National Call to Action: Making Australia Flood Safe” and brought together 355 people to share research and ideas surrounding floodplain management issues. There were 125 papers and poster presentations along with pre-conference workshops covering a wide range of topics and issues. The winners of the FMA excellence awards were as followed:

  • FMA-Allan Ezzy Flood Risk Manager of the Year Award Winner – Peter Garland, City of Sydney
  • FMA-NRMA Insurance Flood Risk Management Project of the Year Award Winner – Bureau of Meteorology, Tweed Shire Council, Tumbulgum Community Association, NSW SES and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for Development and Implementation of a Flood Warning and Response Service for Tumbulgum.
    Highly Commended – Brisbane City Council for Flood Resilient Homes Program
  • Harold Sternbeck Medal for Best Paper: Winner – Christopher Gooch, City of Parramatta Council for FloodSmart Parramatta: A Total Flash Flood Warning Service
    Highly Commended – Kara Agllias, Royal Haskoning DHV for Mainstream Technology Trends: Identifying New Vulnerabilities and Opportunities in Flood Emergency Management
    Highly Commended – Philip Conway, IAG Natural Perils for Regional Sensitivity of Flood Risk to Climate Drivers
  • Best Poster Presentation: Winner – Katrina Smith, WMA Water for Statistical Assessment of Errors in Floor Levels

The next conference is scheduled to be held in Toowoomba, QLD from 19-22 May, 2020.

ARR 2019 Launched

The final updates to Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR) were launched at the FMA Conference by Engineers Australia and Geoscience Australia.

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In 2016, draft chapters were released for the first comprehensive revision of ARR in 30 years. Feedback gathered from users since 2016 has been used to improve the guidelines, and all chapters are now finalised in the 2019 edition. The edits made to reflect user feedback were wide ranging and included minor typographical errors to the finalisation of several draft chapters. Of note is the finalisation of Book 9 which outlines the methods used for modelling floods in complex urban environments (Read here).

The Runaway Insurance Effect 

The frequency of extreme weather in Australia’s worst effected regions has doubled compared to the long-term average and may make many homes and businesses uninsurable.

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According to the Australian Actuaries Climate Index which tracks changes in the frequency and duration of six types of extreme weather across 12 regions of Australia, there is evidence to suggest that weather extremes are becoming more common. Of interest to flood insurers are predicted movements in the 1% annual exceedance probability (AEP) flood zone which is often used to set insurance premium thresholds. If predictions that these areas could increase by 130% are correct then it could encompass 850,000 dwellings or 10% of residential properties. This may mean that the most at-risk homes could become uninsurable unless homeowners are encouraged to put in place protection measures and rebuild homes appropriately for the location (Read here).

Road Characteristics Influence Flood Fatalities

A paper published in the Journal of Environmental Hazards has shed light on how driver decisions to enter floodwaters may be influenced by road attributes.

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In Australia, 49% of flood fatalities occurring between 1960 and 2015 were vehicle related. A number of papers have sought to provide explanations as to why motorists deliberately choose to enter floodwater including: drivers not taking warnings seriously, underestimating the risk and being impatient and thinking that they are invincible. This paper sought to build on current research of motorist risk-taking during floods, by examining whether the characteristics of the road can influence decision making. The study took records of 21 vehicle-based flood fatality sites across NSW, QLD and WA and compared them based on location-specific road elements such as warning systems, speed limits, street lighting, signage, and downstream depths adjacent to roadside. The results show marked trends including that 50% of the sites had signage pertaining to flood risks associated with the road. The study suggests that the findings could be used to inform policy in Australia which currently has no standard practice for the risk assessment of flood-prone road sections. The results can also be utilised to improve the future design of roads in flood-prone areas particularly understanding the benefits of road side barriers, improved signage and lighting options (Read here ).

#3Things Flood Awareness

NSW SES has launched the #3Things campaign to raise public awareness of flood preparedness.

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The campaign is the first of three projects under a formal agreement with the University of New England (UNE) to challenge people to think about what they need to do when faced with flood preparation and evacuation. This partnership between NSW SES and the UNE is critical to ensure that the public is informed by ongoing safety messages whilst highlighting the risk and dangers around flooding (Read here).

The Importance of Floods to Kati Thanda

The flood waters generated from the north Queensland floods in February are breathing life into the Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda) basin.

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The aftermath of the Queensland floods at the start of the year (FM March) saw an influx of water to the Lake Eyre Basin unlike anything that had been seen for over 45 years. The Lake Eyre basin covers a vast expanse of inland Australia spanning across four states and supporting 60,000 people and a plethora of wildlife. The torrential downpours in north Queensland saw floodwaters make a 1,000km journey to the basin in just two months. However, the water has a vastly different effect from source to sink. From the devastating inundation of homes and loss of 500,000 cattle upstream, to the transformative oasis it creates downstream. As the basin started to fill in March, thousands of water birds flocked to the area and fish swam on land that had been dry for decades (Read more here).

CBA Focuses on Flood Risks

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) 2018 Annual Report identifies flooding as the second most expensive physical annual risk to customer assets.

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The report discusses climate-related financial disclosures and takes into consideration ongoing reports of risks in business lending, stranded asset risks, climate scenario analysis, and climate policy to inform future outcomes and pathways. The analysis presented in the report takes three climate change-related scenarios and the associated physical and transitional drivers of risk to outline the flow on effects to insurance, retail lending, wealth, and business lending. The results of the analysis of five physical perils likely to come into play under a changing climate show that impact on properties vary greatly according to geographic location and vulnerability. Those properties identified as higher risk were more likely to experience increased maintenance and damage costs leading to higher insurance premiums. The estimated annual loss modelling spanning from 2018-2060, identified flooding as the second highest risk after soil contraction. Overall it is expected that the impact of climate change may compound the existing issue of insurance affordability in areas with high risk of severe weather events. Therefore, the CBA recommends intervention and mitigation measures be taken on an individual, community and policy maker level (Read more here ).

Brisbane Flood Resilient Homes Program

Brisbane City Council in partnership with CitySmart has developed an initiative to help Brisbane residents build flood resilience.

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Overland flow flooding has had a major impact across areas in the upper, middle and lower parts of the Brisbane River catchments with some areas having an annual risk of overland flow flooding of 50%.  There is limited scope to increase drainage infrastructure to reduce flooding in many of these areas so they have been the target of the Flood Resilient Homes Program which aims to prepare buildings to withstand and quickly recover from overland flow events, while supporting everyday liveability and quality of life.  Through the program, Brisbane City Council is funding flood resilient renovations to homes in eligible catchments.  Properties eligible for the program can expect to receive a free in-home assessment report, a free property report providing tailored flood-resilience information and recommendations, and financial assistance for property modifications. Council will fully cover the cost of flood resilient measures up to $50,000 and house-raising up to $100,000.  Council has created a trailer-based microhome which displays flood resilient design features that it has been exhibiting at various trade, home and local shows (Read more here ).

Toowoomba’s Flood Project Wins National Planning Award

Toowoomba Regional Council’s (TRC) flood management project was awarded the national “Hard Won Victory” honour at the Planning institute of Australia (PIA) National Awards for Planning Excellence 2019 at the Gold Coast.

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The “Hard Won Victory Award “is presented to projects which have demonstrated innovative solutions, significant effort, and leadership to overcome a planning challenge. TRC initiated the “Toowoomba Region Flood Management – Safer Stronger, More Resilient Region” project in the wake of the 2010/11 floods which resulted in the death of three people and widespread damage to private and public infrastructure. The project was a joint venture between Council, the community, the Insurance Council of Australia, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, development industry and flood management, agriculture and emergency services sectors and required dealing with conflicting interests. The PIA further commended TRC on the project’s ability to provide better clarity about floods and flood risk particularly in the development sector to protect people, property and infrastructure from flooding (Read more here ).

Sea Level Rise Could Be Double the Forecasts

Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

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A new study has suggested that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013 report’s estimated global waters rise of between 52cm and 98cm by 2100 was too conservative and was more likely to be in the realms of 62cm and 238cm under a 4oC global temperature rise. Researchers have expanded on the 2013 IPCC report by including Antarctica as a major contributor to sea-level rise alongside Greenland. Under this scenario the world is likely to lose a 1.79 million square kilometre land area equal to the size of Libya by 2100. A worst case scenario of 2m sea-level rise would have major ramifications for a number of major cities worldwide including London, New York and Shanghai and would result in the displacement of millions of inhabitants (Read more here ).

UK Environment Agency Calls for Retreat

The UK Environment Agency has warned that urgent action is required to protect communities from river and coastal floods predicted with a 4oC rise in global temperatures.

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The average global temperature rise of 4oC stated by the Environmental Agency is over double the target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.The chair of the Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, has warned that without a shift in flood response focus, thousands of kilometres of coastal communities will be under threat.  Traditionally, the UK has focused funds and efforts towards the prevention of flood inundation by flood wall installation, and clean-up efforts to repair damages. However, these methods are finite, and ultimately will not be plausible or productive under a changed climate. Instead, the focus should be on flood resilience through adaptive living such as specifically designed homes that can cope with inundation, or potentially moving communities out of harm’s way. This gradual shift away from physical defence would increase in relevance as a predicted 1.5 million homes could be in areas of significant levels of flood risk by 2080 (Read more here ).

Using R in Hydrology

An article posted published in the Journal of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences has reviewed the present and future applications of open-source programming language R in hydrological sciences.

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As a free multi-platform language, R has a wide range of uses including data acquisition and provisioning, manipulation, analysis, modelling, statistics, visualisation, and even well-developed geospatial and geographic information system (GIS) applications. This has made it particularly useful in the field of hydrology as discussed in this paper. R has a dedicated and active community of users who have developed more than 10,000 packages spanning many disciplines with a rapidly increasing trend in the number of hydrology-related packages being added by the R community in recent years. For example, users may access a variety of packages which allow for instant retrieval of hydrological and/or meteorological data, and robust hydrological statistics, visualisation and modelling packages. The researchers suggest that R enhances the field of hydrology by increasing the reproducibility of studies, unifying researchers under a common language code, and contributing to teaching of hydrological tools and models to a broader range audience through an easy-to-use and freely accessible program (Read more here ).

What is a flood?

A group of researchers in the Netherlands has published data showing the ascribed meanings of flood terminology differ substantially between scientists and the general public.

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A study published in the Journal of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences has shown how everyday words such as “flood”, “river”, and “groundwater” may have very different meanings when used as water scientist jargon. A group of 119 lay people and 34 industry experts were asked to ascribe definitions to a set of 22 terms and pictures relating to water and water hazards. The results show that although the two groups mostly agreed on interpretation of pictures, there was greater divergence in interpretation of words such as river, river basin, and groundwater. “Flood” was a term which displayed one of the greatest divergences in meaning (Read more here ).

London's Flood Cloud

London is using Flood Cloud and Flood Modeller to more rapidly generate flood intelligence data for a broad range of users.

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Approximately $560 billion worth of property and infrastructure line the floodplains of the iconic River Thames. Today the floodplain is protected by a sophisticated system of warning infrastructure, response plans, flood defence mechanisms, and an extensive flood management program known as TEAM2100 (Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100).  The continual computational advancements which have allowed more detailed and robust flood modelling analysis to inform flood planning, education and response for the Thames have created time and cost challenges, particularly where end users want to understand the implications of different flood and response scenarios in real time.  Flood Cloud is being used to simultaneously run multiple simulations on multiple virtual machines providing reliable and timely results.  For example, modelling to inform the best operation practices for the Thames Barrier, which takes hundreds of simulations, can be performed simultaneously in FloodCloud much faster than by traditional means (Read more here ).

Tokyo’s New Real-Time Flood Modelling System

A new real-time flood projection system has been developed to aid critical decision making during floods.

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The S-uiPS (Sekine’s urban inundation Prediction System) predicts floods based on detailed urban infrastructure data, including how the sewage system and streets are structured and connected to rivers. The joint venture between Waseda University and University of Tokyo uses rainfall monitoring and projection data from the transport ministry and the Meteorological Agency to predict floods in real time. The system will enable users to view a detailed flood prediction 30 minutes into the future which will provide crucial data to inform the decision making progress. The system could also inform timing judgement for the sealing and/or evacuation of underground spaces that are of risk of inundation. The system is currently being trialled in Tokyo’s 23 wards, but the developers hope to have the final version available before the 2020 Olympics (Read more here ).

Is Level a Better Measure of Frequency than Flow?

An article in the Journal of Water has compared the accuracy of estimating flood frequency using flow estimates and water level recording.

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Traditionally, river flood levels have been estimated using annual maximum river flows which results in a given probability of exceedance, or return period. This paper compares the traditional method to an alternative approach which is commonly applied to storm surge and coastal flood estimation and is based on annual maximum water levels. The researchers used a virtual experiment based on the use of synthetic data to gain insights about the potential and limitations of the two approaches. The results revealed that while the alternative approach had fewer sources of uncertainty, reduced computational time and a lessened data requirement, it was not as robust when factoring in changes in the river channel or the hydraulic effects of water. Overall, the paper suggests that using a combination of the two approaches could provide a more holistic and complementary estimation of flood levels particularly when designing flood defence structures such as levees (Read more here ).

International Floods

There were 26 international floods reported across 25 countries throughout May 2019. At least 173 people died and over 1.5 million were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:


Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in Mozambique on 25 April (FM April), making it the second powerful tropical cyclone to hit the region which is struggling to recover from the aftermath of Cyclone Idai a mere six weeks prior (FM March and FM April). At least 38 people have died and 20,700 people have been displaced by the cyclone which brought heavy rains of 300mm in 24 hours in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado Province. The resultant flooding in the Cabo Delgado province has destroyed 3,000 homes and damaged a further 32,000, including schools and health care centres. An estimated 30,000 hectares of crops have also been destroyed (Read more here).


At least 13 people have died in flash flooding which hit Mali’s capital Bamako on 16 May. Flooding caused by sudden torrential rain caused flood waters of up to 2.5 metres deep in some locations. The extent of the damage to the region’s infrastructure is not yet known. (Read more here).


Heavy rainfall in the south of the country has caused increased river levels in areas of Ñeembucú Department.  At least 16 people have died and an estimated 62,000 families have been affected of which 10,000 have been displaced and are living in 22 temporary shelters set up in the department. (Read more here ).

India and Bangladesh

The strongest tropical cyclone since Phailin in 2013 has hit the Indian state of Odisha. As of 12 May, 89 people had died as a result of Tropical Cyclone Fani which made landfall in eastern India on 3 May bringing winds of up to 180km/h. At least one million people living at refugee camps near the coastal district of Coxs Bazar in Bangladesh were warned by authorities to evacuate as water inundated villages and breached flood embankments. Fani has caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damages in both India and Bangladesh including thousands of homes, rail infrastructure, and farmland. (Read more here and here).


Afghanistan has once more (FM March) been subject to heavy flooding which has killed 26 people bringing the total number fatalities as a result of floods in 2019 to 150 people. Flooding on 25 May affected six of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and included the country’s capital, Kabul. (Read more here).


Meteorology for Disaster Managers Masterclass
Where: Bureau of Meteorology: Level 15, 300 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, NSW
When: 6 June, 2019

2019 TIEMS Annual Conference
Where: Goyang, Korea
When: 12-15 November, 2019

2020 FMA Conference
Where: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, QLD
When: 19-22 May, 2020


Brisbane: Flood Awareness Map

Brisbane City Council's Flood Awareness Map is a free online tool designed to enable the general public to understand the possibility of flooding in their local area. It also provides historic flooding information and information on different sources of flooding, and was recently updated to include the latest flood data from the Citywide Creek and Overland Flow Path Flood study. (Click here).

Normalised insurance losses from Australian natural disasters: 1966–2017

A paper in the Journal of Environmental Hazards discusses how the rising cost of natural disasters is being driven by where and how Australians choose to live more than by a warming climate.(Website).