Imprints’ early warning software provides a real-time overview of potential flash floods
Timely flood alerts and real-time monitoring of flood emergencies can save lives and prevent damage to property, infrastructure and the environment. Imprints, WeSenseIt and UrbanFlood are just three examples of EU-funded projects that have developed unique forecasting and alert systems to warn communities of impending floods.
Flood management and prevention is at the heart of the Imprints project which has developed an early warning platform to cut responses to flash floods down to about two hours, and even less – potentially giving people more time to get out of harm’s way. The platform is based on better rainfall predictions, using meteorological models and weather radar networks. The software is able to predict water flows on the ground and provide a full early warning system for flash floods, the amount of debris they might carry and any potential damage to local infrastructure.
Water services and hydro-meteorological operations in Spain, Switzerland and France are using these project’s innovations to refine their own real-time forecasting systems. Furthermore, flash flood indicators, developed within this project, are used now in the operational European Flood Awareness System.
Meanwhile,WeSenseIt, a project which ends in September 2016, makes good use of the power of human observation as an essential part of an early warning system. People contribute by taking measurements using new apps currently being developed by the project, and sending information and images by mobile phone. The new technologies and approaches are being tested in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.
“We have developed mobile apps so that flood wardens in the UK can walk along river banks, and take tagged pictures if they think there is something of concern,” says project coordinator Fabio Ciravegna from the University of Sheffield. In Italy, an evaluation involving some 500 volunteers simulating a flood in the city of Vicenza was completed at the end of March 2014.
Dams and river embankments are at risk during a flood. The UrbanFlood project has developed sensors and related technology to monitor flood embankments and provide an early warning of their risk of failing. The underground sensors monitor the state of embankments and any changes to water levels, and other factors such as temperature, moisture and earth movements. The information is then assessed by the project’s modelling software, which can trigger an alert if there is a problem. The software calculates how fast the site will be flooded if the dam fails, and even suggests the best ways to move citizens to safer areas.
European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The EU continues to invest research and innovation into flood management and prevention. Our aim is to help governments take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this risk and protect its citizens”.
The European Commission's Joint Research Centre is also contributing to the research on floods, with the development of European and Global flood forecasting and monitoring systems such as EFAS, GloFAS and GFDS.
About the projects
Imprints received €3.3 million under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7). The project brought together 18 research institutions from 7 countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the UK) as well as European Commission's Joint Research Centre. Visit: http://floods.jrc.ec.europa.eu/flood-research-at-jrc/flashfloods.html
WeSenseIt received €5.4 million in FP7 funding. It brings together partners from the public and private sectors and includes eight SMEs: Quinary (Italy), Disdrometrics (Netherlands), HydroLogic Research (Netherlands), Software Mind (Poland), Advantic Sistemas y Servicios (Spain), Starlab Barcelona (Spain), Sensorscope (Switzerland), and Knowledge Now (UK). Visit: www.wesenseit.com
UrbanFlood The EU provided around €2.3 million in FP7 funding. The project involved TNO, an IT company (Netherlands), the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), STOWA, which coordinates research for Dutch water authorities (Netherlands), Cyfronet, a computer research institute (Poland), the Russian subsidiary of Siemens (Russia) and HR Wallingford, a consultancy (UK). Visit: www.urbanflood.eu
About European research and innovation funding
On 1 January 2014 the EU launched a new, seven year research and innovation programme called Horizon 2020. Over the next seven years almost €80 billion will be invested in research and innovation projects to support Europe's economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The EU research budget is focused mainly in improving everyday life in areas like health, the environment, transport, food and energy. Research partnerships with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, car, rail and electronics industries also encourage private sector investment in support of future growth and high skill job creation. Horizon 2020 will have an even greater focus on turning excellent ideas into marketable products, processes and services.