Mitigating the impact of flooding in Belgium using data

Mitigating the impact of flooding in Belgium using data

In News by Stephanie Brain


Mitigating the impact of flooding
in Belgium using data

Technology emerges as a crucial player in mitigating the impact of flooding in Belgium.

The rising risks of flooding in Belgium 

Belgium is particularly vulnerable to flooding, ranking tenth in a list of countries most prone to urban flooding, with 5% of it’s land covered by low-lying cities and with 10% of the population living therein. Flood risk has increased most notably because of the reduction of ground surface permeability and the construction of buildings in flood-prone areas. To tackle flooding, the Walloon Region approved a flood prevention plan (PLUIES) in 2003. The plan aimed to:

  • Reduce and decelerate the runoff of water on slopes
  • Improve the management of rivers and crisis management measures.

It also banned the construction of buildings in areas prone to flooding.

Belgium FloodMapIn Flanders, measures were taken to create flooding zones, raising dikes, strengthening reservoirs, and dredging canals. At the state level, legislations were passed for fire insurance policies to cover flood events. Belgium also planned to draw a map of high-risk zones to ban new constructions in these zones.

Despite these measures, Belgium was hit by two severe flooding events in July of 2021. The cost of recovery is expected to be billions of euros. The human cost is heavier, with 38 deaths. Many lost their houses and belongings. The catastrophe could have been greater, as one of the dams threatened to collapse due to the high level of water.

Warnings from scientists four days before the events did not prevent such disastrous consequences. Authorities failed to evacuated people and to implement measures limiting the risks of flooding.

The impact of climate change on flooding in Belgium 

Scientists have been alerting authorities to the rising risks of natural catastrophes induced by climate change. Studies show that a warming atmosphere makes extreme rainfall more likely, as it causes more water to evaporate. A warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, increasing the intensity of rainfalls.

Downpours in Europe are 3-19% heavier because of global warming. The rainfall of July 2021 broke records, highlighting the increased risks of climate-induced natural catastrophes. Flood events impact not just people, but also industries such as insurance, mortgage lenders and agriculture.

Technology to mitigate the effects of flooding in France and Belgium

To limit the impact of flooding, data and technology are valuable tools. If used correctly by local governments and authorities, these could help reduce the effects of catastrophes and loss of human life.

Flood data sets

Property-level flood risk datasets greatly improve the precision for risk managers, local governments agencies and insurance underwriters. Such data and analytics help customers to make better decisions around flood mitigation strategies by providing readily available expect knowledge, allowing them to make quick and effective decisions.

Flood mapping

Ambiental has created flood maps to visualise, assess and understand potential flood risk for the whole of Western Europe. The flood maps provide an easy-to-understand visualisation of potential flood hazards, allowing authorities to identify the regions most at risk and take appropriate actions to mitigate the potential impact. The maps include varied sources of flood such as fluvial, tidal, pluvial, and have the capability to model scenarios such as dam failure and flood defence breaches.

This data is essential for insurers, lenders, property investors, government agencies and emergency response services to make decisions around minimising physical and transitional risk. Insurers. lenders and investors can assess risks and optimise pricing and loss ratios. Local authorities can identify areas that are particularly at risk and detect the main flood risks and implement precise and effective emergency measures.

Flood modelling

Ambiental’s proprietary flood modelling software, Flowroute, simulates flood events for cities and countries. It replicates the impact of rainfall, rivers, and tidal water sources in diverse environments, and can model what might occur if flood defences are breached or if sewers overflow.

Ambiental’s Flowroute incorporates data from multiple sources and considers variables specific to the geography and geology of a particular area. It allows insurers and develops to assess flood risks and for emergency responses services to form adequate crisis management measures.

Conclusion

The flooding in Belgium, and the rest of Europe in July 2021 is one of the worst flood events in the region for decades. Far from being a European phenomenon, floods occurred in China and India during the same period.  Scientists alerted authorities on the link between flooding and climate change. Studies show that a warming atmosphere makes extreme rainfall more likely.

Flood events and other climatic hazards are likely to be more frequent in the future as a result of climate change, with greater consequences on human life and infrastructure. The recent flooding in France and Belgium highlighted the need for a better understanding of flood risks in Western Europe. The deadly consequences of the floods and their impact on infrastructure and businesses are on the rise and are likely to increase in intensity. As traditional flood management tools and policies have proven their lack of efficiency, data and technology are now emerging as valuable tools to reduce the impact of flooding on communities and infrastructures.

Find out more about our climate suite data products for Europe here.

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