Article
Advancing climate resiliency through digital flood management
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Author
Jason Caldwell
Sr. Associate Engineer

One of the most visible aspects of a changing climate is the increase in extreme weather events, including heavier downpours, higher storm surges, and more intense tropical storms. As record-breaking flooding events become more frequent with each passing year, adapting the built environment to withstand a more volatile climate is fundamental to building greater levels of sustainability and resilience in the cities and communities where we live and work. According to the World Resources Institute, the number of people impacted by flooding will more than double within the next decade, and it is anticipated that the current economic loss due to riverine flooding will triple by 2030 to roughly $500 billion annually.

With climate change posing the potential for more frequent and devastating weather events, adaptation measures can help reduce future economic losses by as much as $7 for every $1 spent.​​ Now is the time to focus on flood prevention and new digital tools are helping communities see the impact flood mitigation projects provide.

The future of flood visualisation

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the ability to visualise multiple data sources and flood flow details such as velocity and intensity, multiple storm event elevations, historical storm elevations, flood mitigation scenarios, and high-water mark locations onsite is a game changer. Communicating flood risk through traditional two-dimensional (2D) maps does not resonate with stakeholders as deeply as photos depicting flood events after they have caused severe damage. This makes community buy-in to procure necessary funding and select the most impactful flood mitigation projects challenging.

Wood is using augmented reality to help communities and landowners visualise flood scenarios and develop an immersive picture of severe weather impacts before they occur. Part of Wood’s digital sustainability toolkit, FloodVueTM is changing flood risk communication and showcasing the benefits of adaptation. With many factors and trade-offs at play, we are empowering clients with the data they need to make smarter, more resilient decisions. This advanced digital model is successfully bridging the gap between the need for critical flood mitigation and justification to procure the essential funding needed for sustainable infrastructure investment.

Bringing flood risk to life

In the flood prone Midwestern United States, FloodVue is being used to create conceptual mitigation alternatives for multiple communities. The 4D visualisations make impacts personal to stakeholders. Not only has the use of FloodVue increased engagement, it has also resulted in stronger support for community investment to construct flood control including natural and nature-based systems like wetlands restoration, as well as, infrastructure (i.e., dams, levees, coastal flood works, pump stations), and other floodplain conveyance improvements. Through the immersive visuals, stakeholders are put directly in the flooding scenario with and without mitigation.

garden plain downstream without mitigation

garden plain downstream with mitigation

Typical flood mapping provides only a 2D view of predicted flooding and flood mitigation options. In the predictive modelling map (above-left), the blue line indicates where flooding will occur, and the green line indicates how incorporating a large wetland into the mitigation plan will preseve critical infrastructure upstream. However, this view is not as impactful as the augmented reality visualisations developed in FloodVue that put the viewer directly within the flood scenarios (above-right).

The power of flood management

Building resiliency to the shocks and stresses that will continue to occur in the future means developing resilient solutions to mitigate potential flood impacts and protect assets now. Digital solutions such as FloodVue advance the ability to withstand a changing climate by interpeting large sums of water resources data to generate a comprehensive visual representation and address potential flood impacts before the damage occurs. We’re using FloodVue and the rest of Wood’s digital sustainability tookit for improving community engagement, empowering communities and inspiring action.

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