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Collaborative research on flood resilience in urban areas 

In Europe alone, hundreds of severe floods in the first decade of 21st century led to more than one thousand deaths, displacement of half a million people and damage and economic losses amounting to tens of billions of Euros. Projections of climate change and urban growth indicate that flood risk will be exacerbated in many regions. Consequently, governments, policy makers and communities worldwide are forced to review flood management strategies and invest more in portfolios of measures. The EU Floods Directive and the wider EU Flood Action Programme call for improved flood forecasting and early warning systems as well as for flood risk mapping. CORFU was an interdisciplinary project that looked at advanced strategies and measures for improved flood management in cities. Through a four-year collaborative research programme, the latest technological advances have been cross-fertilised with traditional and emerging approaches to living with floods.

The overall aim of CORFU was to enable European and Asian institutions to learn from each other through joint investigation, development, implementation and dissemination of strategies that will enable more scientifically sound management of the consequences of urban flooding in the future. Project objectives include:

  • determination of the interactions between economic and urban growth, societal trends and the urban structure;
  • real time urban flood forecast systems development;
  • assessment of health impacts of flooding by combining hydraulic modelling with QMRA;
  • enhancement of existing flood risk management strategies, all through a series of case studies.

CORFU has brought novel methodologies and models into a DPSIR (Drivers-Pressures-States-Impacts-Response) framework, which were implemented in seven case studies – Barcelona in Spain, Beijing in China, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Hamburg in Germany, Mumbai in India, Nice in France and Taipei in Taiwan. Application in the case studies involved variations in focus and level of detail, depending on specific flooding problems, data availability and development scenarios. A parallel study on flood risk management problems in these cities was conducted, which brought about valuable experience in the applicability of modern methods in different conditions. An important lesson was that for both the Asian and European case studies, the DPSIR framework using flood modelling, based on hydrodynamic flood models with the introduced modifications, provides a sound basis for flood damage analysis and the evaluation of mitigation measures.

Key novel modelling technologies developed within CORFU include: (i) a Bayesian probabilistic optimisation algorithm for urban growth modelling based on the use historic land cover maps taken from satellite data combined with thematic maps, (ii) a multi-cell approach to urban flood modelling in mega cities that adopts a coarse grid for the global model domain of the whole city and refined grids that are activated only when flooding occurs, (iii) the first health impact model that uses a combination of deterministic hydraulic modelling of transport and mixing of pollutants in flood water to predict their concentrations and the data on human vulnerability through dose-response functions and (iv) a new Flood Resilience Index (FRI), which takes into account different spatial scales from parcel to city scale, by evaluating external and internal requirements for urban functions.

Other original methodologies that have been investigated and implemented in CORFU case studies include evaluating the impact of economic growth on development scenarios relevant to flood risk management, a consistent methodology for urban flood modelling, an ARL (Awareness, Relationships and Livelihood) framework and an assessment of flood risk management strategies using maturity levels. New tools, databases and web-based systems created in CORFU include new depth-damage curves for all case study cities, an impact assessment tool, a web-based GIS platform with flood and damage modelling results from case studies, a web-based system for real-time flood modelling and a 2D (two-dimensional) tool for simulation of transport and mixing of pollutants in urban flood water. The project also produced new guidelines for calibration of urban flood models as well as new national guidelines for design of urban drainage systems in China.

The main dissemination event of CORFU was the International Conference on Flood Resilience: Experiences in Asia and Europe held in Exeter on 5-7 September 2013. Project results have also been disseminated at workshops in all case study areas and by various other presentations and publications. CORFU is a unique EU-funded action in that it has had a strong impact in Asia, including in countries not associated with this project (e.g. Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand).

This was a collaborative research programme in the sense that investigations always involved both local case study partners and the consortium partners who were focussed on the development of novel methods. Through these interactions the former had opportunities to take up the cutting edge science being developed, and the latter were able to test the new tools on real world problems.

The policy briefs from CORFU project are: 


Other CORFU deliverables and publications are downloadable from the project web site

University of Exeter UK
Hamburg University of Technology DE
University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis FR
Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay India
The AREP Group FR
Institute of Water Modelling in Dhaka Bangladesh
Beijing University of Technology China
China Academy of Urban Planning Design China
Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design China
CETaqua ES
Hydrometeorological Innovative Solutions ES
Cranfield University UK
Dura Vermeer Business Development NL
Hamburg Institute of International Economics DE
National Taiwan University Taiwan