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| Mitigating flood risk


Coastal and river flooding is one of the most common natural disasters affecting Europe. In addition, global warming threatens to increase their frequency. The CRUE ERA-NET network aims to improve flood risk management through enhanced coordination between national programmes across Europe. The launch of a new information resource, called CRUISE, now gives users instant access to flood research programmes across Europe.


THE THREAT

With its long coastline and increasing urbanisation, floods pose a major threat in Europe. The increase in river embankments and building on flood plains and the extension of agricultural land means that heavy rain is less likely to soak into the ground, thus affecting the runoff. Forest fires, mountain deforestation, and glacier melting in the mountains, as well as greater urbanisation also raises the risk of flash floods. Rising sea levels expose the European coast and its hinterland to significant risks.


Global floods versus other natural disasters (source: UNEP-ARENDAL)

Major floods in Central Europe in 2002 and in the Alps in 2005 have served as a wake-up call to the threats posed. They caused a significant loss of life, social disruption and major economic damages. Research results on climate modelling suggest that the magnitude and frequency of intense precipitation are expected to increase in the future. Indeed, one report by the Association of British Insurers suggests that the costs of flooding in Europe could increase 10-20 fold to over €100 billion each year if no action is taken.

COORDINATION

The growing risks have prompted several government agencies to commission research into flood risk management. However most of this research has been uncoordinated, leading to problems of duplication and the waste of resources, especially since flood processes and mitigation measures often apply to similar situations in different countries (and as rivers themselves cross national boundaries).

It is for that reason that the CRUE or Flooding ERA-NET was created (CRUE is the French acronym for Coordination of Flood Management Research financed in the EU). It brings together fifteen government bodies or agencies that fund flood research across Europe - in ten countries, from Finland to Spain – under the coordination of the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the United Kingdom. The intention is also to see participation in the network grow.

The project began in November 2004, as part of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and has a timeframe of four years. The overall aim is “to develop strategic integration of flood risk research at the national funding and policy development levels within Europe” – or, as the project’s logo puts it, to “integrate, consolidate, and disseminate”. The overall project budget is only €3 million, but this sum is devoted to coordination actions; the funding for flood risk research itself remains the competence of each individual public agency.

The main achievements to date, besides the creation of the network itself, have been in the launch of the first trans-national calls for proposal in flood risk management (FRM) research, and the publication, in January 2007, of a comparison of national FRM research programmes – an opportunity to disseminate research results and identify good practice.

CRUISE CONTROL

In April the Flooding ERA-Net launched the first phase of its database, dubbed CRUISE (CRUe Information System Europe). Developed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), with the assistance of all CRUE partners, CRUISE is a web portal that allows users to search for flood-related information in terms of research programmes, funding bodies and research units.

Currently CRUISE has a database of more than 30 research programmes (worth over €430 million), 60 funding bodies and about 300 organisations involved in FRM research. The portal is a visible sign of greater integration amongst the member states, allowing users to search and cluster flood-related information and helping to generate closer links between policymakers, practitioners and the research community.

 

 

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  • Project Coordinator, crue.eranet@defra.gsi.gov.uk
  • European Commission - Climate change and environmental risks Unit, Marta Moren Abat - tel. 0032-2-2964064 or 2958815

 

   
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