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NSERC Canadian FloodNet (FloodNET)

Challenge

In Canada, floods are recognized as the most common and largely distributed natural hazard affecting life, property, the economy, community/industry water systems, and the environment. The 1996 Saguenay flood in Quebec was Canada’s first natural disaster, with damages of more than $1 billion. In 1997, the Red River watershed was hit by “the flood of the century,” the worst in Manitoba since 1852. In 2011, the province of Manitoba again faced very extensive flooding, with costs estimated to be about $1.2 billion. In June 2013, the unprecedented floods of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in southern Alberta became Alberta’s worst natural disaster in recorded history, with estimated costs of $6 billion.

Severe flood events are a reality faced by Canada and many other countries. While floods cannot be eliminated, measures can be put in place to reduce their impact on people and society. Effective mitigation requires a solid understanding of the frequency of floods, for the design of permanent flood-protection infrastructure, as well as the ability to forecast flood events with high accuracy and sufficient lead time to implement temporary protection, such as evacuations and sandbag dikes.

The need for enhanced flood-forecasting tools and management capacity in Canada cannot be overstated. An effective solution for Canada requires a concerted national effort, similar to recent initiatives in the United States and Europe, to enhance knowledge of flood processes and their impacts, and to develop an advanced and adaptive flood-forecasting and early-warning system appropriate for Canadian conditions. This is at the heart of the FloodNet research program.

Network Structure

FloodNet is a multidisciplinary research network, with active involvement of end-users such as operational flood forecasters. The collaboration between academic experts, government scientists, and end-users is a key strength of FloodNet and will ensure that the knowledge and technology developed will meet the users’ needs. FloodNet will allow resources and expertise to be coordinated and optimized to address river floods in Canada. The benefits of enhanced flood forecasts and management are tremendous and include reducing damage, socio-economic impacts and human distress, as well as protecting people and livestock, community water systems and the environment. In addition, students and post-doctoral fellows (PDFs) trained as part of the FloodNet research program will be uniquely and highly qualified to work in an area that is in high demand in Canada.

The four themes of the FloodNet research program will be addressed through 21 projects at the frontiers of engineering/statistical hydrology, environmental science and technology, and information and communications technology. A total of 21 professors from 12 universities, and 30 partners from 29 public and private organizations – including the main hydrologic forecasting centres across Canada and their lead flood forecasters – have partnered in establishing FloodNet.

The NSERC Canadian FloodNet’s administrative centre is located at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Research Objectives

The NSERC Canadian FloodNet will develop advanced knowledge, tools and technologies that will allow Canada to better face the reality of floods. To achieve this, complex fundamental and applied research problems, grouped into four inter-related research themes, will be addressed:

Theme 1   Flood Regimes in Canada: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future

Theme 1 will advance our knowledge of flood regimes in Canada (past, present and projected future) and provide guidelines for infrastructure design.
Theme 2 Quantifying and Reducing the Predictive Uncertainty of Floods

Theme 2 addresses the challenges associated with the reduction and quantification of predictive uncertainty in the management of water resources.
Theme 3 Development of Canadian Adaptive Flood-Forecasting and Early-Warning System (CAFFEWS)

This theme aims to advance our knowledge of flood-forecasting systems and to enhance flood-forecasting capacity in Canada, which is a key target of FloodNet.
Theme 4 Risk Analysis of Physical, Socio-Economic, and Environmental Impacts of Floods

This theme will provide much-needed information to improve our understanding of the social, economic and environmental effects of floods.


Outcomes

The benefits of new knowledge and technologies for enhanced flood forecasting and management are many. Examples of specific outcomes of FloodNet research include:

  • Manual and statistical tools for flood-frequency analysis in Canada. There is a need for formalized procedures for such analysis. (Theme 1)
  • New guidelines and procedures for updating intensity, duration and frequency (IDF) curves. Changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme storm events require an update of the IDF curves used for engineering design. This outcome is urgently needed by municipal engineers. (Theme 1)
  • New optimization framework for multi-reservoir operation. Optimal operation of multiple reservoirs to reduce flooding downstream requires robust optimization techniques. This outcome will provide a tool for the operation of water-supply and hydroelectric power reservoirs. (Theme 2)
  • Forecast system evaluation tool and guidelines for the use of ensemble forecasts in operational flood forecasting. This outcome will be essential to hydrologic forecasters interested in using the new ensemble forecasting techniques. (Theme 2).
  • Canadian adaptive flood-forecasting and early-warning system (CAFFEWS). This advanced flood-alert system will enhance flood-forecasting capacity in Canada, with significant benefits for flood mitigation. Embedded technologies, such as the P2P communication system and the real-time spatial information-processing algorithms, have potential for spin-off activities, thus leading to high-skill job creation in Canada. (Theme 3)
  • Data estimation tool for addressing the common issue of the paucity of monitoring networks. This tool will have a wide range of users, including government/industry scientists, operational hydrologists/engineers and researchers. (Theme 3)
  • Vulnerability indicators of urban flooding for major metropolitan areas. Knowledge of the potential impacts of future extreme storm events on urban drainage systems is essential for municipalities. This knowledge helps municipal officials to better plan infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. (Theme 4)
  • New knowledge for enhanced understanding of flood impacts on agricultural lands and aquatic ecosystems. This information is needed to properly manage and protect agricultural lands and surface water quality. (Theme 4)
  • Integrated indicators of flood vulnerability for planning and decision-making. Holistic indicators, including the socio-economic impacts of floods, will be particularly useful for stakeholders and decision-makers. They will provide not only the flood risk for a given area but also the cost–benefit ratio for living in a flood-prone area. (Theme 4)

Contacts

Kurt C. Kornelsen
Network Manager
Tel.: 905-525-9140 ext. 20438
Email: floodnet@mcmaster.ca

Paulin Coulibaly
Principal Investigator
Tel.: 905-525-9140 ext. 23354
Email: couliba@mcmaster.ca

Website: This link will take you to another Web site www.nsercfloodnet.ca
Twitter: This link will take you to another Web site @NSERCFloodNet


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