Flooding of urban areas is one of the biggest hazards in modern cities. In 2020 insurers paid over £360 million in the wake of storms Ciara and Dennis, compensating for damage to over 70,000 UK homes and businesses .
The impacts of urban flooding can be reduced with better warning systems that alert the public and enable faster incident response. As part of the FloodCitiSense European research project, RPS has worked with residents to develop innovative monitoring and early-warning systems for urban pluvial flooding.
Bringing together global expertise from industry, academia, local councils and start-up companies, the UK project team included staff from RPS, Imperial College London, water companies, the Local Government Information Unit and Rain++.
Urban living labs were set up in three European pilot cities: Rotterdam, Brussels and Birmingham. Low-cost, pragmatic and data-driven flood forecasting approaches were developed for each pilot. Novel methods were tested, including machine-learning based (using, amongst others, Eigenface models commonly used for facial recognition) and an analogue system in which the weather forecast is matched to historic climatic conditions. RPS’s deep expertise in flood modelling fed into the operational implementation and testing of both these techniques.
Residents fundamentally shaped the research project. They deployed and continue to operate low-cost rainfall sensors and co-created the free project app, which is used to display live rainfall data and collect flooding information to improve flood alerts. Our team supported UK resident engagement activities through participation at workshops and conceptual design of the forecasting system.
FloodCitiSense has demonstrated that current data, models and technology enable the ready implementation of data-driven pluvial flood forecasting models. The project data helps us to better understand who is at risk and when, ultimately reducing our vulnerability to flooding.
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