Concern Continues for Inland Rail Flood Risk
In the wake of the Federal Government’s announcement to fast track the $10 billion Inland Rail project, communities continue to voice their concern about associated flood risks.
The Inland Rail project is one of 15 infrastructure projects nationwide flagged by the Government for streamlined approval in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic response. However, the project has been dogged by controversy (FM Mar, 2020) as communities along the 1,800 km route, including on the Condamine and Lockyer floodplains, believe that the project will exacerbate flooding. In late May 2020, the Australian Rail Track Corporation was required to undertake a review of the current 16 km Border-to-Gowrie Condamine floodplain route which locals say would alter overland flows and place properties and lives at risk of flooding.
The project has also been referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry with a report due by 11 November 2020. The inquiry considers the impacts of five Queensland sections of the proposed route including the Lockyer Valley. The Lockyer Valley Regional Council submitted a response to the inquiry stating that “Following the catastrophic floods of 2011 and 2013…the Lockyer Valley remains extremely sensitive to the contribution railways may have to the impacts of flood events” (Read here, here, and here).
Regional and Remote Queensland Gets $16 million for Resilient Infrastructure
As part of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments’ $134.5 million infrastructure package, regional and remote parts of Queensland have been approved for almost $16 million to build resilient infrastructure.
In the wake of the 2019 floods which saw widespread damage to infrastructure across the north of the state, 46 resilience projects will be built to ensure communities can better withstand extreme weather events. The funds will benefit 18 Councils and will be used to repair damaged infrastructure to more resilient standards, including the construction of concrete floodways and causeways for Cook Shire Council and drainage improvements for Townsville City Council (Read here).
Royal Commission Turns Focus to Improved Land Use Planning
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has turned its focus to the role of local governments following submissions by insurers highlighting risks associated with land use planning.
The inquiry which was triggered by the devastating bushfires of 2019/2020 (FM Apr, 2020) has received submissions from several insurers including RACQ and Suncorp who have called for improved land use planning, building codes and higher levels of mitigation spending across all levels of government. Suncorp is proposing that all new developments have floor heights above the 1-in-100-year flood level. Furthermore, RACQ notes that “building … level may still be insufficient to make insurance affordable and/or practical thereby causing the end user (residents) to bear the losses of each disaster” and that developers and Councils don’t tend to bear the financial and emotional burdens of disasters. Hearings will take place in June 2020 which will include an examination of actions to prepare, respond to and recover from disasters and co-ordination arrangements in place at local and regional levels(Read here).
Funding for Youth Flood Mentoring
The Ocean Shores Youth Response Team is set to received $25,000 to run skill-building and awareness workshops as part of a $40,000 grant under the NSW Disaster Resilient and Future Ready (DR:FR) Get Ready program.
The funding will be used to run five weeks of workshops that will include sessions from a local Indigenous facilitator, and aims to boost morale and self-confidence and provide an opportunity to role model positive behaviours in the local youth. The remaining funding will be allocated to producing a map of flood risks from the Brunswick River to the Tweed River on the Qld border. The map will be a resource available to locals and tourists and will depict areas of flood risk, emergency procedures and the location of community refuges places, and how to prepare for emergencies (Read here).
BOM Predicts Increased Chance of Wet Weather and Flooding
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has issued a La Nina watch for the first time since February 2018 predicting a 50% chance of formation in 2020.
La Nina is a cooling in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and is associated with a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and increase precipitation. The last extremely wet winter influenced by a strong La Nina in Australia was in 2016, and was the fourth wettest ever for the Murray Darling Basin. After several dry years associated with no La Nina or negative IOD, the predicted rain would bring much needed moisture to drought stricken regions. However, La Nina also increases the chance of flooding and cyclones in Australia particularly in central, eastern and northern parts of the country. According to Dr. Andrew Watkins who is the head of long-range forecasting at the BoM, “… roughly half the La Nina events saw some degree of flooding” for instance the devastating 2011 Queensland floods occurred during a strong La Nina. However, as that occurred in the summer, the effects of La Nina were likely exacerbated by tropical moisture. Furthermore, after years of drought the dry soils around the country will have greater storage capacity than usual in order to reduce run-off and flooding (Read more here and here).
BoM’s 7-Day Ensemble Streamflow Forecasting Service Released
On 23 June, 2020 BoM released its streamflow forecasting service to the public after more than ten years of research, development and improvements.
The 7-day ensemble streamflow forecasting service provides streamflow forecasts for 100 catchments using over 400 forecast locations with a lead time of up to seven days to assist river users and water managers. The service offers users daily probabilistic streamflow forecasts which are designed to benefit and inform decision making including managing releases of dam water in the lead up to floods and high flow, providing condition reports to inform safe recreational river use, and avoiding water wastage by irrigators. The service is generated using the streamflow modelling software package Short-term Water Information Forecasting Tools (SWIFT) which has been developed by the CSIRO and the BoM. SWIFT calculates the volume of rainfall landing on a catchment, the proportion of that rainfall that becomes runoff and the way in which that runoff accumulates as it travels downhill and collects in streams and rivers. It also calculates how wet the catchment is at any given time-step by taking into account infiltration of rainfall into the soil, seepage of soil moisture and evaporation. The output is an online resource updated daily that graphically represents predicted rainfall and streamflow at hundreds of locations nationwide (Read more here).
Building Flood Resilience in a Changing Climate
New studies on global flood risk management stress that a holistic and proactive approach to managing flood risk is needed to strengthen societal resilience to floods.
The Geneva Association has produced a series of reports that assess the state of flood risk management in the United States, Germany and England and one for Australia is in production. While the need to build resilience to floods is recognised as a priority in these countries, the studies show that, in general, actions taken by stakeholders are reactive rather than proactive. In addition, the changing risk landscape associated with future changes to the climate, land use planning, and development is generally not taken into account in planning. The reports stress that governments, insurers, businesses and homeowners all have a role to play in adopting a more forward-looking approach to address increasing levels of flood risk and build holistic community resilience (Read more here ).
East African Floods may be Exacerbated by Projected Frequent and Extreme Climatic Events
The recent extreme rainfall events leading to widespread flooding across eastern Africa correspond to a projected increase in rainfall and average temperature for the region under current and future climate change.
While a single extreme weather event cannot be directly attributed to climate change, the March to May rainy season in east Africa has brought record-breaking rainfalls that are linked to variability in large-scale climate systems that may be exacerbated by the warming of the Western Indian Ocean. Flash flooding occurred across many regions of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Djibouti and Somalia, where many weather stations recorded the most rainfall in 40 years, or the highest on record. Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest inland body of water, reached its highest recorded levels in May, causing whole villages to be submerged. This extreme weather is following an exceptionally wet period at the end of 2019, and precedes a period of predicted higher than normal rainfall in the region between June and September. While some seasonal differences in rainfall are fairly predictable in Eastern Africa, there are several other intra- and inter-annual climatic variables influencing the amount of rainfall which are not yet well understood. Human factors are also intensifying the impact of flooding in the region, such as deforestation, sedimentation of rivers, wetland degradation, and the spread of populations in flood prone areas (Read more here and here) .
Social Capital Framework to Determine Post-Disaster Recovery
A recent study has developed a framework for understanding the role of social capital in post-disaster recovery and resilience.
Based on data collected from citizens, governments and other stakeholders, this study demonstrates the importance of social capital (networks, trust and shared norms) in recovery following flash flooding in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. It found that in order to improve post-disaster recovery, a holistic approach integrating household capacity, organisational capacity, and social capital is required, and it is necessary to take into account these three factors when assessing long-term recovery and determining the risk of future disasters. Both government organisations and religious institutions were found to play important roles in evacuation and recovery efforts (Read more here).
Flood Response Based on Trust in the Messenger
Risk information communicated by trusted sources is more effective at influencing those affected by flooding.
A study of flood-prone households in Austria has shown that trust plays an important role in determining how flood information will be received by citizens. Trust levels in local governments, emergency and relief service volunteers, and neighbours were compared, and the groups’ influence on public flood risk perceptions and responses were analysed. This showed that volunteers are the most trusted group, and are perceived as the most competent in flood risk mitigation. For this reason, it was found that volunteers are most effective at conveying flood risk information. It additionally shows that increased community trust in volunteers leads to more positive flood responses and decreased instances of negative flood responses, such as denial of risk (Read more here).
Estimating the Financial Burden of Flooding on Mental Health
Research from Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that people can suffer mental health issues following a flood and a new project has developed a method to evaluate the financial impact of flood with respect to mental health.
The project was commissioned by the Environment Agency’s FCRM Directorate, as part of the joint Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Research and Development Programme, and uses data from the PHE study following the Cumbria floods in 2015. Traditionally, the economic value of flood defences is based on the physical damage of flooding on properties and business. However, this new method considers the negative impacts on mental health as the main economic business case when selecting preferred options and applying for flood risk investment. The method was derived by reviewing literature that assessed the mental health impacts of flooding and available data concerning health impacts of flooding including the PHE study. To produce an average cost of treatment, the researchers analysed data including the number of patients presenting with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the cost of treatments, the cost of the GP, and estimations of work-base loss and compared it to flood severity. The results showed a positive correlation with mental health impacts and severity of flood. For instance, costs increased from an average of $3,357 per adult per flood event with internal depths up to 30 cm, to $7,393 where the depth was more than 1 m (Read more here ).
Young People Enable More Effective Flood Early Warning Systems
Researchers have studied the effectiveness of early warning systems and the role of young people with references to flood preparedness in Indonesia.
In early January 2020 heavy rainfall and flooding in Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi in Indonesia led to the evacuation of more than 19,000 people, caused $200 million loss, inundated 200 schools and killed at least 48 people (FM Feb, 2020). This case study served as a backdrop to the researcher’s review of the systems in place and the role of community members in reducing flood loss. According to the Jakarta Regional Disaster Management Agency, a number of flood early warning devices are deployed across the city. During the January floods however, it was reported that several of the devices did not function correctly. An initiative by the Australian Government and Plan Australia, Plan Indonesia in 2015 allowed young people within flood affected communities to undertake disaster risk mapping of the people and places most likely to be adversely affected by flooding. This led to the installation and maintenance of the early warning tool in two flood prone areas in 2019 by young people with reference to local preference and experience. During the January 2020 floods, the early warning tool was pivotal in inciting a response by locals when floodwaters triggered the device. The study showed that young people played an important role in mobilising peers, so that their involvement could increase the resilience towards floods based on research and community engagement(Read more here.)
Drivers and Barriers of Flood Adaptation Initiatives
An analysis of natural hazard management in Europe has identified how societal transformation affects the principle drivers and barriers of community risk mitigation and adaptation.
The analysis of local initiatives by local governments, residents and NGOs that support transformative approaches to hazard management has provided insight into the factors that promote and hinder attempts to integrate multi-functional protection schemes. Using case studies from flood and avalanche hazards in Austria, France, and Ireland, it was found that local initiatives often only aim to address local problems, rather than contribute towards large-scale transformation of hazard management. Multi-functional community initiatives are driven primarily by a lack of funding, lack of legal protection, and lack of space. Conversely, the key barriers to community initiatives include a lack of local capacities, lack of political support, and technological barriers in the implementation of plans. This information can be applied to support work in Europe on the implementation of hazard and climate change adaptation strategies (Read more and here).
Flood Reinsurance Scheme (Flood RE) Provides Evidence for UK’s Flood Inquiry
Flood Re has provided an eight-point plan to ensure affordable flood insurance to the inquiry being conducted by the Commons Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA).
The inquiry led by EFRA was launched in March (FM Mar 2020) was accepting evidence until 15 May, 2020. Flood Re’s eight-point plan was submitted to the inquiry and aims to advance its long-term “Transition Plan” to reduce flood risk by investing in flood defences and reducing inappropriate land use planning, reducing flood cost by encouraging resilient property measures, and achieving and efficient insurance market that rewards homes with discounted premiums if they install flood resilient measures. Andy Bord the chief executive at Flood Re has said that “these proposals will help to ensure home insurance is both available and affordable for those most at risk of flooding” (Read more here ).
Confidence in Scientific Products for Improved Flood Response
As the number of scientific datasets increases rapidly, there is a call for accurate and actionable information to be readily available to assist with effective disaster response.
Advances in remote sensing technologies, crowd-sourced data, social media, and demographic information have increased the availability of datasets that can be used in disaster preparation and response. Along with this shift to an abundance of geospatial information comes the need for user friendly databases that can be used by stakeholders working in disaster response. Therefore, there is a call for a consensus among data providers about how to create a trusted set of flood products and services that can be used by disaster response organisations. This would bring reliable datasets to the forefront and provide a way for the non-expert stakeholder to find accurate and consistent information that can be applied to important decision making (Read more here).
Extreme Sea Level Metrics May Misrepresent Future Flood Risk
Estimates of future extreme sea levels used to measure coastal risk may be misleading because they take into account only physical factors without considering societal outcomes.
. The height and occurrence of extreme sea levels are often used to investigate flood risk to coastal areas under different climate change scenarios. While these account for the hazard posed by physical water levels, they do not reflect the impacts to society such as loss of life and property damage. This new study shows that in some locations, modest increases in the height of extreme sea levels may correspond with a large change in population exposure. It was found that societal impacts are highly localised and dependant on the relationship between the population and the predicted changes in extreme sea levels. Other approaches that take into account human and environmental factors may be more effective at providing a more complete snapshot of coastal flood risk under future climate change. Other approaches in addition to analysis of extreme sea levels can be applied to help improve climate adaptation decision making and risk communication efforts (Read more here ).
Assessing Global Coastal Compound Flooding Using Precipitation and River Discharge Data
A study found that integrating precipitation and river discharge data leads to improved assessment of compound flooding caused by the interaction of both storm surge and high water runoff.
Compound flooding is the result of the combination of storm surge and high water runoff, and its hazard over large spatial scales is commonly assessed using proxies rather than specific flood datasets. Based on global-scale compound flooding hazard assessments, this study indicates that integrating precipitation and/or river discharge data with storm surge data allows for robust assessment of the hazard arising from compound flooding. The use of precipitation data permits for analysis where there are no or only small rivers, and where local rainfall drives compound flooding. However, it was found that integrating river discharge data was preferable in assessing hazard, especially in larger estuaries with long rivers. This study provides a methodology for large-scale compound flooding hazard assessment where only certain datasets are available (Read more here ).
Sheltering From Floods and a Virus
Disaster response planning in Japan is forced to adapt in order to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19.
As Japan enters a period of heavy rainfall that has historically triggered evacuations of people from flood- and landslide-prone areas, disaster response organisations are cautious to enact measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within evacuation centres. Hundreds of people may be forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter in evacuation centres in flood affected regions. With each person allotted 1.6 square metres of space, little room remains for social distancing within the gymnasiums commonly used as evacuation centres. While cases of COVID-19 are declining across Japan, there are fears that crowded conditions in the shelters could spark another wave of infections. Measures to be put in place include taking temperatures upon entry of the centres, separating those suspected to be infected, and the use of face shields and masks. Officials are attempting to provide a barrier of two metres between households within the centres, which will result in reduced capacity and require additional shelter sites. For this reason, individuals are requested to explore alternative shelters other than evacuation centres, such as staying with friends or family, if possible (Read more here).
There were 31 international floods reported across 28 countries during June 2020. At least 108 people died and over 19,000 people were displaced.
Internationally significant floods included:
Heavy rain and flooding has affected wide areas of China’s southern and central provinces since early June. At least 20 people have been killed and 200,000 have been displaced as heavy rainfall triggered flooding and landslides. China’s emergency management ministry has estimated that direct economic losses may be in excess of $550 million from the flooding which destroyed 1,300 homes, 715 hectares of crops, power stations and roads. The Xiaojin River in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province was 40 cm above warning level whilst 144.3 mm of rain was recorded in a 24 hour period to 18 June. (Read more here, here and here).
Guatemala and El Salvador
Tropical Storm Amanda made landfall in Guatemala on 31 May bringing very heavy rainfall leading to widespread flooding and damage. At least 14 people have died and 600 people were displaced as a state of emergency was declared in neighbouring El Salvador. In a 15 hour period on 31 May, Santa Cruz Porrillo in San Vincene department recorded 153.8 mm of rain which caused flooding and damage of more than 300 homes, several roads and bridges. (Read more here ).
At least 21 people have died as a result of landslides caused by heavy rain in India’s Assam state. Approximately 420 mm of rain fell in 48 hours to 3 June in Silchar which triggered several landslides in the Barak Valley region. This recent rainfall follows widespread river flooding in the region last month (FM May) which has left 6,000 still displaced. (Read more here)
Flash flooding and landslides caused by heavy rain in Abidjan, Ivory Coast has caused widespread damage of homes, roads and railway infrastructure. At least 13 people have died in landslides in Anyama city resulting from heavy rain of as much as 260 mm in 48 hours to 15 June. (Read more here)
Wednesday 5 August 2020 – Queensland Chapter Meeting in Brisbane
Thursday 20 August 2020 – NSW/ACT Chapter Meeting in Sydney
Wednesday 11 November 2020 – Queensland Chapter Meeting in Brisbane
Thursday 19 November 2020 – NSW/ACT Chapter Meeting in Sydney
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
FRIAR 2020 International Conference on Flood and Urban Water Management (Postponed from original date)
Where: Valencia, Spain
When: 28-30 September
For more information visit here
Flood and Coast 2020 Conference and Exhibition (postponement date announced)
Where: Telford International Centre, UK
When: 8-10 December, 2020
For more information visit here
FLOODrisk 2020 European Conference on Flood Risk Management (postponement date announced)
Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: 21-25 June, 2021
For more information visit here
Floodplain Management Australia Conference 2021
Where: Luna Park, Sydney, NSW
When: 25 – 28 May, 2021
For more information visit here
FMA Digital Conference Papers Available
Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) has begun uploading the 2020 Digital Conference Papers and Presentations to the Members’ Section of floods.org.au. Not all Papers or Presentations are available yet, but it will be making them accessible as they are received.
Queensland’s Post-disaster Cookbook
The Recovery Kitchen Cookbook is an initiative of the Rockhampton Community Development project run by UnitingCare Queensland and funded through the Queensland Department of Communities Child Safety and Disability Services by the Australian Government. The book comprises recipes for times of emergency and disaster when usual cooking methods which rely on a reliable power source are not possible. The book includes advice on preparing kitchen recovery kits, maintaining good hygiene, as well as real-life recipes provided by locals that experienced the devastation following Ex-Tropical Cyclone Marcia in February 2015. Click here.
Maitland Flood 1955: NRMAs Response Recollection
The NRMA has published a selection of historical photographs and recounts of the 1955 Maitland, NSW, flood which damaged or destroyed 7,000 homes and claimed the lives of 14 people. The NRMA sent a team of eight patrols to aid in the clean-up effort and help residents rescue and retrieve 120 vehicles which had been inundated. Click here.