Models of sustainability
There was a time when engineering projects, such as dams and dykes, were seen as the sole solution. Unfortunately, structural measures sometimes only shift the problem to other areas, may create new ones, and can have devastating effects if they fail.
The EU is gradually moving away from the notion of ‘controlling’ floods to ‘managing’ them, and from local solutions to an overall awareness of how floods operate within river systems.
With the growing urbanisation and farming of flood plains, river basin management has become a vital tool. It aims to improve natural flood protection mechanisms – forests, vegetation cover, wetlands and soil conservation. This environmentally sensitive approach protects ecosystems while permitting the sustainable development of land and water resources.
Forecasting phenomena across an entire river basin is difficult. It involves the complex interplay of physical, ecological, climatic and human factors. Despite these challenges, the CATCHMOD project cluster has developed effective modelling and decision support tools.
Involving more than 150 institutes, CATCHMOD’s activities have included constructing scale models of rivers to support the water and environmental management decision-making process. It has also worked on developing harmonised river-modelling tools and information technology frameworks, as well as benchmarking approaches.
Flood-modelling technologies were put to the test during the recent floods in the Elbe basin (Czech Republic/Germany). The early warning they provided allowed authorities to take emergency measures to protect infrastructure and evacuate thousands of people. To learn more about CATCHMOD, go to: http://www.harmonirib.com/catchmod.htm
Integrated flood management approaches Awareness has grown of the need for a consolidated approach to flood management in river basins. The RIBAMOD project set out to lay the groundwork for the creation of integrated systems for real-time flood forecasting and warning.
During its four-year life span, the project focused on flooding within the framework of river management and explored the difficulties arising from past management practices, formulated best practices, analysed the latest EU research, and identified future research needs.
RIBAMOD’s findings have helped to steer subsequent research efforts in the field and bring the EU closer to a truly integrated river management system. [http://www.hrwallingford.co.uk/projects/RIBAMOD]
The Ecoflood project investigated ways of optimising natural flood defences, such as flood plains. [http://levis.sggw.waw.pl/ecoflood/]