Related - Floodplain Manager September 2019

IPCC Special Report Sparks Concern for Australia

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate which reveals that the average sea level rise is now 3.6mm a year.

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According to the report, global warming has already reached 1oC above the pre-industrial level, and smaller glaciers are projected to lose more than 80% of their current ice mass by 2100. These trends are predicted to have flow-on effects in Australia due to sea level rise, particularly as 21 million people live within 50km of the coast. The report predicts that Australia’s coastal cities and communities can expect to experience what was previously a 1% AEP extreme coastal flooding event at least once every year by the middle of this century. As sea levels rise, Australia is also expected to see more extreme winds, waves, storm surges and flooding from intensified tropical cyclone (Read here and here).

Paradise Dam Safety Concerns Trigger Storage Reduction Despite Drought

SunWater has confirmed it will release 105,000 megalitres from Paradise Dam in the drought-declared Bundaberg region, Queensland, permanently reducing the dam's capacity for safety reasons.

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The dam was built and opened in 2006. It is currently 75% full but was damaged by floods in 2011 and 2013. The decision was based on investigations of the dam which identified that it could pose a flood risk in a 0.5% AEP flood such as was experienced in 2013. In order to mitigate this risk it is proposed that water releases will happen progressively and will be available to local irrigators, with the remainder of the water to be collected by two weirs downstream. The decision has incited negative responses from farmers in the region who believe that the water will be wasted as crops are not at peak water need, and that water should be allocated more wisely in a time of drought (Read here).

Victorian Council Finally Acknowledges Flood Risk

A proposed amendment to the Moorabool Planning Scheme would ensure that flood risk is considered in future land development decisions.

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Recent heavy rainfall in the Moorabool Shire region in Victoria has illuminated the fact that the current planning scheme does not have any overlays to identify land affected by a 1% AEP flood. It is proposed that the plan is amended to ensure that flood risk in the catchments of the Werribee River, Lerderderg River and Little River is considered in future land development decisions. The amendment would allow council to appropriately regulate proposed development on flood-prone land and ensure that flooding is not exacerbated on other properties by inappropriate development (Read here).

Perth Planning for Sea-Level Rise

A map released by Western Australia’s government as part of the Draft Perth Water Precinct Plan, shows that some of Perth's waterside suburbs would be under water by early next century.

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The map is based on modelling conducted by the state government in 2014, which is currently under review by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. Forecasting shows that areas such as Elizabeth Quay, Heirisson Island and South Perth’s Mill Point could be inundated as a result of climate change driven sea-level rise. The precinct is susceptible to several variables such as extreme rainfall and storm surges which will likely affect the river foreshore and the associated infrastructure. The precinct plan would require policy makers to respond to the impacts of climate change by developing and implementing infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. This includes relocation of drainage infrastructure, appropriate design responses based on acceptable levels of inundation of recreational and transport assets, as well as erosion impacts (Read here).

Farmers Fear Flood, Fires and Drought if No Climate Change Action

A group of farmers concerned about the future have formed the Farmers for Climate Action lobby group.

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A conference held this month in Orange, NSW attracted nearly 200 people from across NSW to discuss ways of lobbying for more action on the effects of climate change on farmers. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has considered the past 100 years of records and has reported a 1oC rise in temperature. This trend has likely contributed to more extreme weather events such as the drought affecting much of Queensland and New South Wales, and the floods in north Queensland this year (FM February). The farmers are concerned that not enough is being done to prevent extreme weather conditions, and that there needs to be a more concerted effort to combat the risk of drought and floods. The lobby group hopes that it may bring in new ideas and insights on farming practices that can inform decision making and assist in more sustainable farming in the face of a changing climate (Read here ).

Aussie Startup FloodMapp Raises $1.3 Million

Brisbane start-up FloodMapp has received a funding boost to take its flood-prediction technology across Australia and the world.

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FloodMapp combines data analytics and machine learning techniques with traditional hydrology and hydraulic modelling, to deliver river height and rainfall data in real-time to predict flooding. The technology created by founders Juliette Murphy and Ryan Prosser, allows the creation of area specific inundation maps which can be shared with third parties. At its base, FloodMapp can be used as an early-warning tool to prevent loss of life. However, as the creators hope,  it may have applications in the insurance sector to warn policyholders that a flood is coming, allowing them to move to safety, and remove valuable items, in order to minimise losses. The funding will help FloodMapp expand across Australia, and internationally as a globally scalable tool (Read here).

Piccard.ai Flash Flooding Start-up Bags Melbourne Water as First Client

Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions startup Piccard.ai has secured a partnership with Melbourne Water, to develop a flash flood warning system for the city.

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Piccard.ai is a start-up created by Tim Kallady who recognises the potential for AI technology in various industries and environments. In Melbourne, as is the case in many cities, the majority of flood damage occurs in flash flooding. The AI solution learns from past rainfall and flood data, to recognise the weather patterns that lead to flash flooding. The system can then automatically send SMS messages to warn people likely to be affected and alert councils to facilitate timely road closures. Kallady hopes that Piccard.ai is successful during the 12 month pilot project, and aims to expand his innovative technology to the address the universal issue of flash flooding on a global scale (Read more here).

FloodScore Launched in Australia

Ambiental’s FloodScore risk rating tool which was developed for the UK is now available for Australian Properties.

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FloodScore rates individual property flood risk using an algorithm which assigns a 0-100 score, with 100 representing extreme flood risk.  In Australia, FloodScore relies on Ambiental’s Australia FloodMap which uses a 5m grid LiDAR terrain database where available and elsewhere uses GeoScience Australia’s DEM-H topography data to estimate flood extents.  This is combined with the G-NAF property database to estimate flood depths but it can also extract data at a building footprint scale for greater accuracy.  The developers see this tool being particularly attractive to smaller insurance brokers for rapid screening and simplified setting of premiums across an insurance portfolio (Read more here ).

FMA 2020 Call for Abstracts

Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) is seeking a range of high quality presentations from across Australia dealing with riverine, overland and flash flooding, and coastal inundation for the national conference that has been held annually for the past 60 years.

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The theme for conference is “A Flood Resilient Australia: Transforming Vision into Action” and will be held from 19-22 May in Toowoomba, Queensland. For more information please refer to the FM diary (Read more here ).

Young Floodplain Managers

A Young Floodplain Managers (YFM) network is in the process of being established within FMA.

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The YFM network is being established to represent, engage, support and inspire young floodplain management professionals across Australia. The YFM network will aim to promote networking, knowledge sharing and collaboration, and gender equality and diversity. The network will champion initiatives such as workshops, networking events, and industry mentoring programs. For further information or to join the YFM network please get in touch via the LinkedIn group here. An end of year network event will also be held, details can be found in FM diary (Read more here and here).

Climate Change Affects Flooding Differently Across Europe

Researchers from 35 European research institutions have found that climate change affects flood volume differently depending on the region.

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A multinational team of researchers led by the Vienna University of Technology in Austria has looked at river flow data from 4,000 monitoring stations across Europe to identify regional trends in flooding over a 50 year period. Results indicate that increases in autumn and winter precipitation and wetter soils are increasing floods in north-west Europe, while in southern Europe floods are decreasing due to a reduction in precipitation and increased evaporation of soil moisture. Floods are also decreasing in eastern Europe but this is driven by reduced snow cover and snowmelt due to warmer spring temperatures. The team found that in some areas, spring air temperature has increased by as much as 1°C per decade.  These trends have ignited concern in northwest Europe as across Great Britain and Ireland flood magnitudes have been increasing at a rate of about five per cent per decade. In Ireland, $1.6 billion is being spent on 118 flood-risk management schemes, including 50 priority flood defence schemes in some of the country’s at-risk locations. However, it is predicted that many of these strategies will not be adequate under increased flood frequencies and intensities. Another study by researchers at the University of Reading, UK, reaffirms these regional trends suggesting that coastal areas in the UK and Northern Europe will experience an increase in “compound flooding” under a changed climate. Modelling of the current climate indicates that a higher probability of experiencing concurring storm surges and heavy precipitation will lead to increased compound flooding especially in river mouths and low lying coastal areas (Read more here , here, here and here).

Community Based Flood Mitigation System in Africa

A flood risk monitoring system has been developed to support flood risk reduction through community engagement in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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Twaa Mtaro (adopt a drain), is a web-based application that engages communities in drain clean ups, facilitates community reporting on blockages affecting the flood risk of local drainage systems, and provides municipalities with relevant data related to drain cleaning activities. Dar es Salaam is prone to flooding due to poor planning, frequently blocked storm water drains, and inadequate solid waste management. This has led to a number of floods, the most recent being in 2015, that have resulted in substantial damages, injury, and loss of life. Furthermore, intense urbanisation and expansion expected to occur in the city over the coming decades, is predicted to exacerbate the risk of flooding. The monitoring system reflected on the key issues of the city and aimed to facilitate, collect, disseminate and act on local drainage information. A group of community volunteers and university students surveyed all drains across the city which were then mapped and presented on the open-access map. Each drain is colour coded according to whether it is clean, dirty, needs help, or is flood prone. Community members are encouraged to “adopt” drains within their area and to monitor and update their condition and respond accordingly in order to lower flood risk in the event of heavy rainfall (Read more here and here).

Mental Health Flood Impacts Rising

Studies find an inextricable link between flood damage and mental health in flood affected people.

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A national survey of 7,500 people in Great Britain found that those whose homes are damaged by floods are 50% more likely to suffer mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Researchers believe that these anxieties could be financial, which is exacerbated by a lost sense of security. Similarly, another study of people in post-Hurricane Harvey Houston, USA found that 20% of flood victims in the study reported post-flood post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, and more than 70% of survey respondents said the prospect of future flood events was a source of concern. The study also found that while first-time flood victims may still feel strong ties to their neighbourhoods, this emotional attachment erodes after their neighbourhood repeatedly floods. Similar themes of financial anxiety and loss of security resonate in this study with 28% of respondents reporting “financial concerns” as their primary motivation for staying or leaving flooded residences. The overall message in both articles is that comprehensive community-level planning to reduce flood risks, along with recognition of the psychological casualties associated with floods is paramount (Read more here and here).

Urban Growth makes Indian Cities more Flood-Prone

Maps show how the change in built up area in India’s coastal cities, at the cost of its natural ecosystems, have made them especially vulnerable to extreme weather events.

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An estimated 14% of India’s total population lives along its 7,500km coastline that includes 77 towns and cities such as the rapidly expanding Mumbai, Chennai and Kochi. Historically, these cities contained natural ecosystems of rivers, creeks and wetlands, but have increasingly become more urbanised. Maps were produced as part of a publication by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) which visualise the expansion of 100 Indian cities over the past two decades using publicly available data. In Kochi, rapid urbanisation paired with inadequate and inefficient waste and sewerage systems have caused the pollution and blockage of drainage and natural run-off across the city. Additionally, construction over the top of natural waterbodies has reduced the permeability of the ground making the city further susceptible to flooding. Mumbai is the most populous city in India, and supports a population of 22 million. It is estimated that 40% of the city’s mangroves which provide effective barriers against flooding have been lost as a result of urbanisation between 1995 and 2005. Similarly, in Chennai natural drainage sinks provided by marshland have depleted from 5,500ha recorded in 1965, to 600ha in 2013 (Read more here ).

Looking Beyond Flood Defence Strategies in India

Flood management needs to focus not only on flood defence strategies but also on flood risk preparation, mitigation, protection, and post-flood recovery to help make flood-prone areas more resilient.

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Floods in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Barak floodplains in India are becoming more frequent affecting nearly 6,000 villages and resulting in the deaths of at least 200 people in July this year (FM July). Traditionally, flood management efforts have been centred on flood defence strategies that aim to minimise the probability of flooding through structural interventions such as dams, levees bank strengthening works and dredging. However, constructing physical defences isn’t without issues.  This year, around 24 of 33 districts in Assam reported damages in dam embankments as a result of lack of maintenance and forethought into the nature of high silt quantity river systems. Some are calling for a shift in focus to the simultaneous implementation of diversified strategies which may be a more appropriate approach to achieving flood resilience, including investments in health, education and livelihoods (Read more here ).

Global Collaboration for Forecasting Floods

Against the backdrop of climate change driven extremes, transnational relationships between forecasting and disaster management services should be at the forefront of flood resilience.

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A good example of the importance of integrated local information and resources with global scale forecasts and support, was the recent floods in Africa cause by tropical Cyclone Idai (FM March) and Kenneth (FM May). These floods spanned vast areas and crossed borders leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and thousands dead. During this time, researchers from the University of Reading, UK, produced real-time emergency flood hazard and exposure bulletins containing interpretations of flood forecasts and satellite images from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. This was provided to humanitarian response groups in order to identify areas of most risk in order to better allocate resources, and to anticipate areas that could become affected.  A number of international initiatives currently exist which seek to enhance cooperation between scientific organisations and flood risk managers, and deploy humanitarian resources prior to floods occurring. These global partnerships between flood forecasting experts and humanitarian efforts on the ground are shipped to improve flood resilience and decrease flood risk especially for large-scale floods like those in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique earlier this year (Read more here ).

Researchers Hone our Ability to Map Storm Flooding

Researchers at the University of Connecticut, USA, are developing a radar satellite-based mapping technique that reduces the time it takes to delineate flooded areas following a storm.

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The flood mapping system is automated and is not reliant on human interpretation, from the detection of potentially flooded areas to the generation of the flood maps. The process currently takes two days to obtain the data from European Space Agency’s satellite after a storm, and then another 12 hours to generate maps. The new technique allows almost real-time estimates of flood inundation after a storm passes. This may provide invaluable assessments of where the water is flooding, which can be used by emergency response personnel to make quick assessments of the damage even in areas that may be inaccessible after a storm (Read more here ).

New Satellite May Make Flood Prediction Easier

A satellite on schedule to launch in 2021 could offer a more comprehensive look at flooding in vulnerable, under-studied parts of the world.

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A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that the satellite would enable more accurate floodplain maps and better predictions about which areas are likely to flood. This is because the radar installed in the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (or SWOT) mission will enable the capture of about 55% of floods worldwide, and capture more detailed images of severe flooding. More broadly, the mission is the first-ever global survey of the planet’s surface water, and will allow scientists to measure how water bodies, including the world’s oceans, change over time (Read more here ).

New Study Opens the Door to Flood Resistant Crops

A study published in Science has identified the genes responsible for flood resistance, thus paving the way for flood resilient crops.

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Traditionally, most scientific studies of plant gene expression in relation to climate change have focused on cellular adaptations to drought conditions. However, comparatively little is known about plant adaptations to flooding, which is likely to become a threat to global crop species under a changed climate. Currently, rice is the only crop immune to flooding due to evolutionary exposure to the monsoons and waterlogging of the tropics. Researchers from the University of California, USA, have found that a wild-growing tomato and alfalfa-like plant share at least 68 families of genes in common with rice that are activated in response to flooding. The genes are found in tips of the root cells and have evolved to “switch-on” in rice when the roots are being flooded. The genes involved in flooding adaptations are called submergence up-regulated families (SURFs), and it is hoped that by activating these genes in other crop species such as corn, soybeans and alfalfa researchers, can produce plants that can withstand floods (Read more here ).

International Floods

There were 21 international floods reported across 22 countries throughout September 2019. At least 412 people died and over 233,600 were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:

Sudan

In Sudan, Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) have demanded that the government declare Sudan a natural disaster zone following widespread destruction from heavy rains and flash floods over the past months. The death toll stands at 78, with at least 65,300 families affected, 40,800 homes collapsed, 184 schools affected, and 4,500 animals drowned. A total of 67 localities are affected in 14 states with the most damage reported in White Nile state, Kassala, El Gedaref, Khartoum, El Gezira, Sennar, and Red Sea state. Relief goods have been supplied including emergency shelter and non-food items, water, sanitation and hygiene, food and agricultural aid, health, and vector control. (Read more here).

Bahamas

Hurricane Dorian caused major devastation to the Bahamas early this month bringing with it heavy rain and damaging winds of up to 295km/h as well as storm surges of up to 7m. Dorian is the most powerful hurricane to strike the Bahamas on record making landfall on 1 September, and destroying 70,000 homes. The category 5 hurricane led to the deaths of at least 70 people ( however the official toll is yet to be announced) and caused in excess of $11 billion dollars’ worth of damage. (Read more here and here).

India

At least 45,000 people have been displaced and 20 people have died after flooding in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh. Almost all the major rivers are flowing above or close to danger levels, with reports that 19 of the 28 major dams across the state have had their gates opened. More than 15,000 homes have been damaged, along with 1.5 million hectares of crops. This year marks the heaviest monsoon rains to lash India in 25 years. More than 1,600 people have died since June, with the season producing 10% more rain than a 50-year average. (Read more here and here ).

Niger

At least 42 people have died as a result of major flooding that has devastated the region since late July. Houses, schools and shops have been damaged or destroyed, along with food stocks, agricultural lands and cattle. Approximately, 5,500 houses have been completely destroyed leaving an estimated 70,000 people affected. (Read more here).

Thailand

Flash flooding and landslides have affecting 147 districts across 32 provinces in Thailand since late August following heavy rainfall associated with tropical cyclone Podul. At least 19 people have died and widespread damage to infrastructure and assets has been reported . (Read more here).

Laos

At least 14 people have died and 88,000 have been displaced by flooding following heavy rainfall associated with Tropical Cyclone Podul and Tropical Depression Kajiki. An area of over 1,000km2 is currently underwater across the six provinces of Khammouan, Savannakhet, Champasak, Saravan, Sekong, and Attapeu. (Read more here).

Diary

2019 International River Symposium
Where: Brisbane, Australia
When: 20-24 October 2019
For more information visit here

“A River with a City Problem” a seminar with the author of the book with the same name
Where: Suncorp – Level 28, 266 George Street Brisbane, QLD 4001
When: 31 October, 2019
For more information visit here, tickets are available for purchase here

Young Floodplain Managers End of Year Event
Where: Sydney
When: 6:00pm- 9:00pm, Tuesday 12 November, 2019
Register here

2019 The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS) Annual Conference
Where: Goyang, Korea
When: 12-15 November, 2019
For more information visit here

2020 Floodplain Management Australia Conference
Where: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, QLD
When: 19-22 May, 2020
website

2020 Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Annual National Conference
Where: Fort Worth, Texas, USA
When: 7-12 June 2020
For more information visit here

2020 International Conference on Flood Management
Where: The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
When: 17-19 August, 2020
For more information visit here

Resources

The Great Flood of 2019: A Complete Picture of a Slow-Motion Disaster

The New York Times has published an interactive composite map depicting the flooding in Mid-west and South USA from January to June 2019. The map depicts the extent and intensity of flooding and the effects on nearby farmlands. The map also includes area specific captions explaining mitigation and evacuation measures taken, as well as historical and current rainfall and flood level data. (Click here).

Levees and Dams: Are They the Flooding Problem?
Flood guru Chris Green presents a short podcast on the history of dams and levees in the USA and their implications on flood protection with the backdrop of the recent mid-west flooding. (Click here).

“A River with a City Problem” a book about the Brisbane River Floodplain
Margaret Cook’s book: “A River with a City Problem” is a history of floods in the Brisbane River catchment, especially those in 1893, 1974 and 2011. Extensively researched, it highlights the force of nature, the vagaries of politics and the power of community. With many river cities facing urban development challenges, Cook argues for what must change to prevent further tragedy. A seminar is to be held in Brisbane on the 31st October which will feature a panel Q&A session with the author (more information is provided in the FM diary). Margaret’s book is available for purchase online here or at most bookstores.