Early warning service for urban pluvial floods for and by citizens and city authorities (FloodCitySense)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering


FloodCitiSense aims at developing an urban pluvial flood early warning service for, but also by citizens and city authorities. This service will reduce the vulnerability of urban areas and citizens to pluvial floods, which cause serious damage to the urban environment. Citizens will be actively involved in the monitoring of rainfall and flooding, making use of low-cost sensors and web-based technologies. The early warning service will enable 'citizens and cities' to be better prepared and to better respond to urban pluvial floods. FloodCitiSense targets a co-creation of this innovative public service in an urban living lab context with all actors.

Planned Impact

About 500 million people live in cities in Europe and most of them are critically vulnerable to extreme weather events as demonstrated by recent pluvial and fluvial flooding in Northern and Central Europe, which have caused massive damages and insured losses worth billions of euros. Reliable urban flood forecasting and early warning services play a crucial role in reducing these impacts. Towards the future it is bound to become even more important in light of both urbanization and intensified rainfall due to climate change.
The FloodCitiSense project will create huge societal benefits by increasing citizens' and cities' preparedness for pluvial flooding, thus supporting a major reduction of flood-related damage costs. In the first place citizens and economical actors will directly benefit (financially but also emotionally) from a lower occurrence of and better resilience against pluvial flooding. Moreover, due to their active involvement, citizens and other actors will also benefit from an increased awareness and knowledge regarding urban pluvial flooding events. Other beneficiaries are obviously local authorities, which can use the new tool to support emergency response and real-time operational water management decisions in a shared decision-making context. The targeted improved forecasting of pluvial flood events will be a direct aid to the urban drainage system managers. Also other public services will highly benefit from the real-time component of the early warning service, based on an increased density - thanks to citizen science - observation network of rainfall and flood reporting. Emergency services (fire brigade, police, medical services) can easily follow-up in space (via maps) how the pluvial flood risk is evolving in real-time, which could enable a better (re)distribution of resources in function of the needs. They can also use this information to preventively evacuate vulnerable areas of the city which are likely to be hit (e.g. restaurant and bars located on a vulnerable square could take measures to prevent material damage and injuries). Mobility services could use the distributed early warning information to anticipate and to steer traffic and warn driving citizens to avoid a certain part of the city (e.g. when it is very likely that a tunnel will flood). Finally also a range of companies in the private sector belong to the potential market which will benefit from the outcomes of the FloodCitiSense project: consultancy companies, insurance companies, technology companies developing 'smart flood resilience tools (e.g. moveable barriers, flexible gap closure valves, etc.).
Many cities across Europe suffer from pluvial floods and as such the FloodCitiSense project outcomes are relevant for many more cities than just the three pilot cases. Despite the fact that each city has obviously its specificity (different initial conditions, different stakeholders, etc.) the conceptual approach is most certainly applicable across Europe. The methodology being developed in three pilot cities, each with different characteristics, following their individual track but with ample room for interaction and shared lesson-learning, enhances a broader applicability. In order to maximise the application potential at a pan-European scale we target active dissemination towards other European cities during the course of the FloodCitiSense project with dedicated activities.


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