Improving forecasting for surface water flooding

With much of the map of England lit up with flood warnings and alerts this morning, this serves as a timely reminder about the importance of ongoing work into flood forecasting.

Screen grab of the Gov.UK Flood Information Service

 

The recent iCASP project on Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasts (ESWFF) set out to try to enhance the forecasts that are issued to help decision making in the run up to, and during, a flood event. A wide range of people utilise these flood forecasts including the emergency services, flood planners in local authorities, water utilities and the Environment Agency.

The culmination of iCASP’s ESWFF project was a mock incident response workshop in April that used data from a previous flood incident to see if enhanced forecasts would lead to different decision making. Involving many different flood responders in the workshop gave useful insight into the value placed on different kinds of information, how decision makers use different pieces of information and how the information could be further improved for clarity and ease of use.

Tweets issued to warn the public about surface water flooding

 

Several recommendations came out of the project, including how to better support local authorities in their responses to surface water flooding, and further development and testing of user-centric surface water forecast information.

The executive summary, final report and a flyer about the project can all be freely downloaded:

Executive Summary (of final report)

Final Report

Flyer about the project

Improving future flood resilience

iCASP will be involved with the new ‘Yorkshire Future Flood Resilience Pathfinder’ project led by City of York Council which won Government funding last week.

The project involves several iCASP partners including City of York Council and the Environment Agency and will encourage greater uptake of property flood resilience (PFR) measures across Yorkshire. It will draw upon existing projects and initiatives tackling flooding in the region and share best practice and provide training.

One of the more exciting aspects of the project will be the creation of a physical demonstration site in the form of a community hub and learning lab at Wilberforce College, Hull. The learning lab will have exhibits, physical models and demonstration PFR measures used to deliver training and awareness raising to a broad range of other projects, communities and people.

The Living with Water Partnership, who recently started an iCASP project on telemetry integration, will co-develop the learning lab and continue its management and delivery beyond the end of the pathfinder funding.

iCASP’s role in this pathfinder project will be to review the current awareness and adoption of PFR measures in communities and businesses across Yorkshire, and also across local authorities, planners and other professionals who promote, procure, design and deliver PFR interventions. This will take place at the outset of the pathfinder in September 2019, and then be revisited towards the end of the project to understand the reach and impact the pathfinder project and its interventions have had, and to make recommendations for future work and opportunities to develop the programme further.

Other links of interest:

UK Government press release on new funding for flood resilience

Hull City Council news item on learning lab

Living with Water news item

Natural flood management in the media

This week has seen the 12th anniversary of the 2007 floods which impacted across swathes of the UK and affected villages, towns and cities across Yorkshire. It is timely to look at some of the measures put in place since then to alleviate flooding in the future. Natural flood management (NFM) has had some coverage in the media recently with both the BBC and ITV reporting stories that cover activities iCASP projects are supporting.

Countryfile recently visited Hardcastle Crags near to Hebden Bridge to find out more about leaky dams and how they will help tackle flooding in the future. The NFM work in Hardcastle is as a direct result of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. iCASP has been working with the Environment Agency, JBA and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, amongst others, on monitoring and measuring the range of benefits of NFM measures such as the leaky dams seen in the programme. The main focus of iCASP’s work has been developing approaches to measure whether or not the dams work to deliver flood alleviation. A future focus of the work will be to help quantify the additional benefits of these types of interventions – such as more varied habitat for wildlife, improved water quality and enhanced well-being for visitors to the area – which will be vital for making the business case for future natural flood management measures.  Find out more about the Hardcastle Crags leaky dams from Countryfile

Images of leaky dams and volunteers by Slow The Flow Calderdale

Natural flood management encompasses a range of different measures, not just leaky dams. An ITV news report on tree planting in Hebden Bridge mentioned how this work will draw upon the expertise of iCASP later in the year to understand the impact of trees already planted. iCASP will be working on the project to help identify how features, such as trees and hedges, can absorb heavy rainfall and contribute to alleviating flooding, as well as investigating how different soil types and land covers also contribute to flooding. Decisions on where trees and hedges should be planted in the future, for optimal benefit, will be informed by a rainfall-runoff model developed at the University of Leeds.  Read the ITV report

These NFM activities rely upon a range of different partners getting involved. A diagram showing the range of different partner organisations, drawing from the voluntary, charitable, private, public and regulatory sectors, has been developed to give a flavour of the interactions in these activities in the Calderdale area.  View the interactive diagram

iCASP hosting Exercise Augustus – surface water flood forecasting and response workshop

Introducing participants to the day’s activities and where the forecasts and data they will be seeing comes from

This week iCASP hosted a workshop for a range of organisations across Yorkshire involved with flood preparedness and response, and national organisations responsible for producing flood forecasts and alerts. The workshop was run to test out how useful it could be to combine probabilistic rainfall forecasts (Met Office Global and Regional Ensemble Prediction System, MOGREPS) with high-resolution hydrodynamic modelling (JBA’s JFlow®) to provide localised surface water flood forecasts.

A mock incident response situation – Exercise Augustus – was run using JBA’s Exercise Management System (JEMS), which presented representatives from Yorkshire’s Local Authorities, flood action group leaders, Environment Agency, emergency services and Yorkshire Water with the ‘new’ forecasts based on a real flooding incident in Leeds to see how they responded to the information they were given, and what decisions and actions they would take as a result.

Screen grabs of some of the information participants were shown during Exercise Augustus

This kind of incident response scenario planning gives us an understanding of the kinds of information that incident responders find most useful in helping them make their decisions – both in advance of an incident and also as the incident is unfolding.

Participants discussing the data and information and what it means ‘on the ground’, and what decisions and actions to take as a consequence

The participants worked in four groups so that their thoughts on the information they were presented with, and the rationale for their decision-making, could be understood and captured. A report will be produced summarising the different responses of the groups that will allow iCASP partners to better understand the ways to present information to flood responders, and which kinds of information elicit the most appropriate responses to the situation.

 

 

 

 

The flood that Exercise Augustus was modelled on took place in Garforth, Leeds on August 22 2015.

Leeds City Council Flood Risk Management Workshop

iCASP convened a workshop with Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency on 17th April to bring together a range of stakeholders to look at flood risk management in Leeds, for the next spending period, 2021 to 27.

The stakeholders, including infrastructure providers, representatives of local authorities and councils, water companies, academics and others working in catchment management, were not just focused on future flood risk management schemes but other infrastructure or growth ambitions for Leeds City Region.

Photo credit: Jennifer Armstrong

This meant an exciting outcome of the workshop was identifying future activity and investments where multiple benefits might be delivered, not just the reduction of flood risk. All stakeholders at the workshop highlighted the importance of early integration across organisations to achieve these common aspirations.

The next step in this process is for ideas for flood risk management schemes to be submitted for funding support from central government – hopefully with a clear outline of the multiple benefits that they can help achieve.

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