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Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

Potential and limitations of 1D modelling of urban flooding

Ole Marka,*, Sutat Weesakula,1, Chusit Apirumanekula,
Surajate Boonya Aroonneta, Slobodan Djordjevicb,2

Water Engineering and Management Program, Asian Institute of Technology, P.O. Box 4, Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand
School of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter EX4 4QF, UK

Urban flooding is an inevitable problem for many cities around the world. In the present paper, modelling approaches and
principles for analyses of urban flooding are outlined. The paper shows how urban flooding can be simulated by onedimensional hydrodynamic modelling incorporating the interaction between (i) the buried pipe system, (ii) the streets (with
open channel flow) and (iii) the areas flooded with stagnant water. The modelling approach is generic in the sense that it handles
both urban flooding with and without flood water entry into houses. In order to visualize flood extent and impact, the modelling
results are presented in the form of flood inundation maps produced in GIS. In this paper, only flooding from local rainfall is
considered together with the impact in terms of flood extent, flood depth and flood duration. Finally, the paper discusses the data
requirement for verification of urban flood models together with an outline of a simple cost function for estimation of the cost of
the flood damages.
q 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cost function; Digital elevation model; Flood map; GIS; Sewers; One-dimensional urban drainage; Stormwater; Urban flooding

1. Introduction
The problems arising from urban flooding range
from minor ones, such as water entering the basements of a few houses, to major incidents, where large
parts of cities are inundated for several days. Most
modern cities in the industrialized part world usually
* Corresponding author. Address: DHI Water and Environment,
Agern Alle 11, DK-2970 Hrsholm, Denmark. Tel.: C45-45169373; fax: C45-4516-9292.
E-mail addresses: (O. Mark),
(S. Weesakul), (S. Djordjevic).
Tel.: C66-2-524-5554; fax: C66-2-524-6425.
Tel.: C44-1392-263664; fax: C44-1392-217965.
0022-1694/$ - see front matter q 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

experience small scale local problems mainly due to

insufficient capacity in their sewer systems during
heavy rainstorms. Cities in other regions, including
those in South/South-East Asia, often have more
severe problems because of much heavier local
rainfall and lower drainage standards. This situation
continues to get worse because many cities in the
developing countries are growing rapidly, but without
the funds to extend and rehabilitate their existing
drainage systems. The extent and frequency of urban
flooding in large cities in developing countries make
them good case studies for urban drainage modelling,
as flood data are available and the impact of
alleviation schemes can be evaluated straight away.

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

A few examples of historic urban flood problems

are: Mumbai (India), 2000 where nearly 17,000
telephone lines in Mumbai City ceased to function
after flooding occurred and electric supply was cut off
for safety purposes. The water depth reached 1.5 m at
the worst inundated locations and 15 lives were lost in
the flood. In Dhaka City (Bangladesh), even a small
amount of rain may cause serious problems. Dhaka
has often experienced flooding with ankle to kneedeep water in the streets. In September/October 1996,
most of the daily activities in Dhaka were nearly
paralyzed and heavy traffic jams occurred due to
stagnant water. In 1983, Bangkok (Thailand) was
flooded for nearly 6 months and it caused the loss of
life and infrastructural damages of approximately
$146 million (AIT, 1985). In February 2002, five
people were killed in Jakarta (Indonesia) as heavy rain
extended floods to the city center, deepening a crisis,
which forced 200,000 people from their homes and
killed 50 nationwide (Bangkok Post, 3rd February
2002). A final example is Houston, Texas (USA)
where the storm Allison in June 2001 caused urban
flood damages in the order of $2 billion on the Texas
Medical Center in the Harris Gully watershed (Holder
et al., 2002).


is presented in this paper, to provide a first estimate of

flood costs.
Urban flooding may create considerable infrastructure problems and huge economic losses in terms of
production, as well as significant damage to property
and goods. The water depth in some inundated city
areas is commonly in the order of 5070 cm. In
addition, diseases spread and impose problems to the
population, for instance, diarrhoea or Leptospirosis,
which can be spread by bacteria in the urine of rats.
In September 2000 flooding in the north east of
Thailand, 6921 cases of Leptospirosis were reported,
244 of these resulting in loss of human life (Bangkok
Post, 20th September 2000). Last, but not least,
parasites seem to thrive when urban flooding occurs
regularly. Moist soil provides a good environment for
worm eggs to flourish, and water flooding open drains
spreads eggs to new victims (Kolsky, 1998). Today
antihelmintica kills parasites, but the parasites may
gradually develop resistance to the drug and impose
new and more severe problems. The best way to
manage parasite problems is to break the life cycle of
the parasites, that is, to remove their natural
environment by reducing the frequency and duration
of flooding. For example, Moraes (1996) found that
reduced flooding reduced the prevalence of roundworm and hookworm by a factor of two and
hookworm alone by a factor of three.

2. The impacts on society from urban flooding

Water flowing on the urban surface is a problem
when it causes damage. The perception of damage
varies from person to person. Konig et al. (2002)
divided damages from urban flooding into categories:
Direct damagetypically material damage caused
by water or flowing water.
Indirect damagee.g. traffic disruptions, administrative and labour costs, production losses, spreading of diseases, etc.
Social consequencesnegative long term effects
of a more psychological character, like decrease of
property values in frequently flooded areas and
delayed economical development.
It is often difficult or impossible to provide an
accurate estimate of the cost of the flood damages.
Nevertheless, a very basic cost estimation procedure

3. What can be done to understand and reduce

urban flooding?
With todays advances in computer technology,
many cities in the developed part of the world manage
local and minor flooding problems using computerbased solutions. This involves building computer
models of the drainage/sewer system, for instance by
using software like MOUSE (Lindberg et al., 1989);
InfoWorks (Bouteligier et al., 2001) and the SWMM
models (EPA SWMM, MIKE SWMM, and XP
SWMM), (Huber and Dickinson, 1988). These types
of models are used to understand the frequently
complex interactions between rainfall and flooding.
Once the existing conditions have been analyzed and
understood, alleviation schemes can be evaluated and
the optimal scheme implemented. Nevertheless, at
present there are few studies on urban flooding that


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

Fig. 1. Layout of pipe and street system.

deal with both the conditions in the surcharged pipe

network and the extensive flooding on the catchment
surface. Even fewer projects have dealt with modelling urban flooding in developing countries. Some of
the few case studies dealing with of modelling of
urban flooding which both includes the pipe system
and extended surface flooding are: Bangkok
(Thailand) (Boonya-Aroonnet et al., 2002); Dhaka
City (Bangladesh) (Mark et al., 2001); Fukuoka and
Tokyo (Japan) (Ishikawa et al., 2002); Harris Gully
(USA) (Holder et al., 2002); Indore (India) (Kolsky
et al., 1999) and Playa de Gandia (Spain) (Tomicic
et al., 1999). These studies treated urban flooding as a
one-dimensional (1D) problem. Schmitt et al. (2002)
considered a 2D model as a benchmark for 1D model.
A model, which dynamically couples a 1D pipe flow
model with a 2D hydrodynamic surface flood is
currently under development (Alam, 2003).

If the intake capacity of the drainage system is

limited, only a fraction of the water can flow into the
pipes and a large runoff volume will be transported on
the surface during and after a heavy rainfall. This may
happen even if the underground pipe system has
sufficient capacity, see Fig. 2. The water in the pipe
system may return to the street system if the capacity of
the pipe system is insufficient. In this case the water
will flow from the pipe system to the street system,
causing surface flooding, see Fig. 3. The duration of
flooding on the street depends on the intake capacity of
the catch pits, the drainage capacity of the pipe system,
infiltration and evaporation in the catchment area.
In the present modelling approach, the urban
drainage system consists of two networks, one

4. A methodology for simulation of urban flooding

Urban flooding may be due to various causes. The
runoff generally starts as overland flow on the street
before entering the underground pipe system through
catch pits. Fig. 1 shows a street system connected to a
pipe system through manholes/catch pits.

Fig. 2. Flow from the street system into a partly full pipe.

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

Fig. 3. Flow to the streets from a pipe system with insufficient capacity.

representing the free surface flow in the streets and

one for the pipe network. The drainage system is
modelled as two dynamically interconnected networks. The hydrodynamic model is based on an
implicit solution of the St Venant equations. The two
networks route the rainfall runoff simultaneously in
the pipes and on the streets. Manholes (network
nodes) function as points of flow exchange between
the pipe and the street systems. Water from the street
system can enter the pipe system by flowing through
catch pits or manholes and vice versa.


Fig. 4 shows the modelling approach for urban

flooding. Two models are needed, i.e. a hydrological
model, which simulates surface runoff from rainfall
and a hydraulic model describing flows in pipes,
streets and storage of water on the surface.
In urban flooding simulation, the hydrological
process is separated conceptually from the hydraulics
of the drainage system. The computation of the
surface runoff from rainfall can be carried out by a
standard surface runoff model, e.g. a time/area,
kinematic wave or linear reservoir model. A surface
runoff hydrograph is computed for each sub-catchment. Runoff hydrographs from each sub-catchment
are then used as input for the hydrodynamic model,
simulating flows in the pipe and street systems. The
runoff from the catchments is entered in the model
either on the streets or directly in the sewers
depending on the local layout of the drainage systems.
Hence, the initial flooding will be generated due to
insufficient capacity of either the pipes themselves or
of the inlets to the piped system. As the pipe and inlet
capacities can differ significantly, it is important to get
this part of the schematization right.

Fig. 4. Interactions between various stages in the modelling approach for a flooded urban drainage system.


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

5. The digital elevation model

The digital elevation model (DEM) represents land
elevation data, which are essential for estimation of
flood volumes on the surface areas. In addition, the
result presentation in the form of a flood inundation
map is based on water levels from the model
simulation in conjunction with the DEM. Thus,
quality of the model results depends on the quality
of DEM. To generate the DEM, spot elevations (X, Y
coordinates and the ground level Z) covering all of the
catchments are needed. The data for the DEM can be
obtained by field survey data, by digitising a contour
map or by some other techniques (Hale, 2003). The
interval of spot elevation for analysis of urban
flooding should be in the range of 1040 cm, to
achieve a resolution sufficiently accurate to cover all
important details in the city area, e.g. the distance
between the road and the curb level. For a field survey,
it is especially important to obtain the following data
in the flood prone areas (Fig. 5):
elevation of bottom and curb level of road system,
elevation and general topography of each
elevation of low and high spots.
The DEM may be developed based on a distance
weighted interpolation routine. This means that a
Z-coordinate is interpolated from the adjacent X, Y, Z
points for each and every grid cell. The resolution of
the DEM should be fine enough to cover important

details so that the DEM can yield sufficiently accurate

representation of elevations along the streets and flood
prone areas. The size of a 1!15!5 m resolution is
recommended for urban flood analysis since it can
cover the width of the road, the width of sidewalks, and
houses or buildings. However, using a finer resolution
like 1 m does not necessarily provide results which are
significantly more accurate in terms of flood levels, but
does provide a much better visual presentation of the
flood extent. A coarser 5!5 m DEM can thus be used
for quick assessment of the model results, while
detailed analyses should be based on the 1!1 m DEM.
It makes sense to create both a fine DEM and a coarse
DEM and to use each for various purposes.
It is essential to have an accurate description of the
streets in the DEM. If the DEM is based on spot
elevations on the ground level, e.g. on the sidewalk,
the streets must be burned into the DEM with an
elevation which corresponds to the height of the curb.
Major roads in the study area where floods occur must
be included in the DEM, as the streets act as drains for
the surface flooding. If the water from street rises
above the curb level of the street, the water will flow
to adjacent areas and cause flooding. Fig. 6A and B
show sample DEMs from real models, i.e. a DEM
from Dhaka City with and without the street system
and a DEM from Ballerup, Denmarkwhere the
houses also have been added to the DEM. The houses
are on purpose not included in the DEM for Dhaka
Cityas it is believed that the water flows into many
of the houses during floodingwhereas it is essential

Fig. 5. Spot elevation map used for generation of the DEMcase Bangkok City.

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299


Fig. 6. (A) The DEM for Dhaka City, without and with the road system. (B) A 3D view of the DEM for Ballerup, Denmark, with streets and

to include the house in the DEM for Ballerup as only

smaller amounts of water flow into the houses during
the flood events.
A typical procedure is to interpolate and generate
the DEM using ground points only, i.e. without taking
into account the heights of man-made objects. DEM
must then subsequently be corrected, by raising of
pixels to include buildings. This operation is called
height correction of DEM, and is illustrated in
Fig. 6B. The procedure presented in this paper is
generic in the sense that when the final DEM has been
made, the areaelevation curves are automatically
computed based on the DEM (with or without houses)
and the correct flood zones will automatically be

attached to the model. This method thus provides

modelling of flooding with or without flood water
inside the houses depending on the reality in the field.

6. Catchment delineation for urban flooding

The catchment definition depends on topographical
and drainage network data. In urban areas the
catchments must be further divided into sub-catchments connected to the appropriate location in the
local drainage channel. This means that it will be
necessary to overlay different types of mapped
information from the study area. Difficulties arise in


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

the flat areas, where the boundaries are unclear, and

often determined as much by small local drainage
paths as by topography (Kolsky, 1998). The main
concept in sub-dividing of catchments is to understand the topography and drainage network to define
the areas contributing flows to different portions of the
network. Once the draft catchment delineation is
sketched on a map, it is important to survey the study
area and inspect the past flooded areas to check that
the runoff is flowing in the expected direction and that
there is an agreement between the model and real life.
Apart from a manual procedure, automatic catchment
delineation can generally be laid out in three different
ways (Djordjevic et al., 1999):
1. Distance-based, i.e. based on the distance to the
drainage network.
2. DEM-based, i.e. based on an algorithm that
traces most probable flow paths depending on the
information in the DEM concerned terrain aspects
and slopes.
3. DEM plus cover image (land use). This is the same
as the DEM-based procedure, but with the
addition of impacts from objects in the digital
image, like buildings, cascades, etc.
Two types of catchment delineation were evaluated
in this study. The first procedure was the manual
delineation and the second procedure was distance
based. The manual delineation was applied for Dhaka
City, as the catchment is rather small and easy to

delineate based on topography and land use maps. The

distance based delineation was applied for Bangkok,
as the model for the downtown area of Bangkok has
more than 2000 catchments, but very little information
is presently available in a digital form concerning local
terrain and land use. Hence, the distance based
method was convenient for Bangkok to define the subcatchments for each manhole, but at the same time it
defined the catchment without considering the topography and land use of the area. This may lead to
inaccurate physically unreasonable catchment delineation. For instance, automatic delineation does not
consider features, like natural flow paths, houses and
hill traces as boundaries for sub-catchment delineation.
Hence, the result from the distance based delineation
must be checked and if necessary, verified through a
manual procedure. Fig. 7 shows the sample of manual
and automatic catchment delineation.
When DEM-based delineation is applied, it is
essential to have a reliable DEM created not only for
the analyzed catchment, but also for a certain zone
surrounding its assumed boundary. This should ensure
that the real catchment boundary is precisely

7. Modelling of routing and flooding

The drainage network is geographically and
topologically fully determined so that a network

Fig. 7. Dhaka City catchment: manual delineation (left) and automatic (distance-based) delineation (right).

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

model actually resembles a schematized view of a real

system. The flow in a flooded pipe system is complex,
and the computations in the present urban flood model
are based on an implicit finite difference scheme,
adopted from the St Venant equations.
Traditionally, when surcharge water from a pipe
system flows into the street system, most of the
models stores flood water from the underground
system in a virtual reservoir and the stored volume
returns to the pipe once the system resumes free
surface flow. To make a significant advance on this
approach, and to model the dynamics of flooding in
urban areas reliably, high resolution data on terrain
model are needed, as stated by Maksimovic (2000).
His paper concluded that a new methodology for
simulating the storage of surface flooding on the street
system is needed, not using a virtual reservoir
approach at each computational nodal point on the
surface. By the application of GIS features like a
DEM and a simulation module, modelling of real
storage and routing of surface flooding can be
If water from a pipe network flows through a
manhole and reaches the street ground level, then
surface flooding takes place. The flooded surface area
is gradually increased following the DEM and hence a
model can accurately describe the rising water level
along the street and its borders, and therefore simulate
the surface inundation. An areaelevation relation is
required for the surface topography, in order to define
the storage capacity for surface floodingas input of
the model, e.g. as a storage function for a basin. This
relation is developed from the DEM with the
application of GIS. Areaelevation relations must be
defined for each sub-catchment connected to the street
network. The sub-catchments are assumed to be the
adjacent areas around manholes, where surface
flooding may spread. Fig. 8 shows a sample of an
areaelevation relation, which is used as input of the
urban flooding model, in order to simulate storage of
water next to the street system.
When surface flooding occurs, the flow along the
street can be in either direction along the street; it is
not necessary that the flow direction in the street
coincides with the street slope, or that it is the same as
in any buried pipe flow. After all, it is not necessary
that the layout of the streets matches that of the buried
pipe network.


Fig. 8. An example of an areaelevation relation.

8. Flow exchange between the street

and the pipe system
Water from the pipe system may flow to the streets
through a manhole when flooding takes place. On the
other hand, when water in the pipe system is drained,
surface flooding water in the street system can flow
through the manholes to the pipe system. In modelling
of urban flooding, the manhole may be described as a
broad crested weir, where the crest length of the weir is
represented by a perimeter of the manhole and the weir
crest is set to the bottom level of the street as described
in Fig. 9A and B. Discharge through manholes can also
be described by a common Weir equation, which
handles both free and submerged flows. The use of a
weir for the description of the connection between pipe
and street systems ensures that a restriction exists both
for water from streets entering the pipe system and for
water flowing from pipes to the streets.
When the sewer system becomes fully surcharged,
it may be more correct to shift the Weir equation to an
orifice equation, where the driving head is the
difference in head between the pressure in the sewer
and the water level on the surface. However,


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

Fig. 9. (A) The principle behind the application of a Weir formula for the description of the flow exchange between pipe and street system.
(B) Water flowing into a catch pit in Dhaka City. This is an illustration from real life of the principle behind the application of a Weir formula for
the description of the flow exchange between pipe and street system.

the orifice equation breaks down in cases where the

orifice is not full flowing, e.g. as in Fig. 9B.

9. Model requirements
Based on the discussion above of the physical
processes involved in urban flooding, the technical
requirements in an urban flood model can be
summarized as:
Dynamic flow description: when urban flooding
occurs, surface water can flow in both street and

pipe systems with flow exchange between these

two systems through manholes. This means that
simulation of backwater effects is needed in
modelling of urban flooding. By using a dynamic
wave model, the model includes backwater effects
and surcharge from manhole including rapid
change of water level.
Parallel flow routing: while surface flooding takes
place, water from the pipe system flows through
manholes or catch pits to street system. Flow along
the street (e.g. right above the pipes) can be in either
direction along the streets, i.e. it can flow following

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

a slope of the street or against it. It is not necessary

that the flow direction in the street has to be the same
as the flow direction in the pipe system.
GIS interface: GIS is important in simulation of
urban flooding. It is used as a tool to provide input
data and display simulation results. Surface storage
for simulating surface flooding can be calculated
by the application of GIS together with the DEM of
the study area, i.e. find areaelevation relation
from DEM. In addition, results of the simulation
can be easily understood in form of flood inundation maps. Model output in term of water level
along the streets are transferred to GIS and with the
interpolation routine, water surface is able to be
developed. Flood inundation maps can be generated by overlaying of water surface and DEM,
introducing flood depth map which is an easy
method to visualise flood situations.
The importance of these elements has also been
realized and pointed out by Maksimovic and Prodanovic (2001).

10. Other physical processes in urban catchments

exposed to flooding
Important physical processes like evaporation and
infiltration must be considered if they affect the urban
flood conditions. In some cities, evaporation and infiltration may be predominant, e.g. depending on the
season, the land use, location of the city, soil type, etc.
Evaporation happens on all surfaces exposed to precipitation, such as parks, buildings, houses and paved
area. However, the evaporation rate depends on temperature, wind and atmospheric pressure. To consider
whether evaporation should be included in the model
simulation, comparison of accumulated evaporation to
accumulated rainfall during the rain and flooding
periods is needed. Apirumanekul (2001) found that
evaporation was insignificant for the maximum flood
depth in Dhaka City during the October flood in 1996
and he found that the evaporation per unit city area was
approximately 0.5% of the accumulated rainfall during
the 3 days of flood. Hence, if only a little evaporation
takes place compared to the accumulated rainfall
(the volume of flood water), then it does not affect the
simulated maximum flooding.


The infiltration term is generally used for two

different processes in modelling of urban sewers, i.e.
it may be used for seepage from groundwater to the
pipe system or to describe seepage of surface flooding
water to pipe system and groundwater. The two cases
are discussed briefly.
Knowledge of the groundwater level is necessary
for determining the effect of infiltration into sewer
pipes. If the water table level is higher than the level
of the drainage pipes, infiltration from groundwater to
the pipe system may take place depending on the
condition of the pipes.
In highly urbanized areas, during small rain events
that do not generate flooding, often only a small
amount of water from rainfall and runoff infiltrates
the soil due to imperviousness of the surface.
However, infiltration from surface flooding to ground
water is one of the physical processes, which should
be considered. This type of infiltration rate depends on
other factors like:
land use typemost urban areas are commercial
areas, industrial areas and government office areas,
which comprise buildings, houses and paved
areasthis means that less infiltration may occur
in these areas,
soil typemore infiltration can occur in sandy soil
compared to clay or silt,
soil moisture contentif the soil moisture content
is high, infiltration is less than in dry soil.
For Dhaka City, most of the areas are commercial
areas and government office areas, which consist of
houses, buildings and paved areas and the soil is
clayey. Therefore, only a minor flood water infiltration takes place in the central part of Dhaka, e.g. the
infiltration rate of clay is in the order of 15 mm/day
(Daniel, 1980). The groundwater level in Dhaka City
is around 25 m below the ground surface (Khan and
Siddique, 1999). This is due to accelerated utilization
of ground water as a resource for supplying drinking
water to the city. At the same time the recharge to the
ground water has been reduced due to increased
impervious city areas, thus infiltration from groundwater to the pipe system has decreased.
In Playa de Gandia, Spain, the city is located along
the Mediterranean coastal areas and driven by the
booming tourist industry. Because of the intensive


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

impermeabilisation of urban catchments, there is less

infiltration of surface water to the pipe system. The
drainage conditions in the area are not very favourable.
The terrain is quite low, sandy and the groundwater
level is high. This means that infiltration effect (from
groundwater to pipe system) must be considered. Since
the city of Gandia is located over sandy soil, surface
flooding water can predominantly infiltrate to groundwater and hence the effect of infiltration to flooding
must be considered (Tomicic et al., 1999).

11. Calibration and verification

Calibration involves minimization of deviation
between observed data and simulated results by
adjusting parameters within the model. The urban
drainage model calibration can be carried out by
calibration of the surface runoff model and subsequently the pipe flow model is calibrated towards
measured flow and water level at the specific
locations. The surface runoff model can be calibrated
by adjusting hydrological parameters, for example
time of concentration, until the computed hydrograph
agrees closely to observed runoff data. Next, the
runoff hydrograph is used as input data for the pipe
flow model to simulate discharge and water level in
the pipe system by changing pipe flow parameter,
such as Manning number. This step is iterated until the
calculated discharge and water level outputs are
agreeably close to the observed data. The main
objectives in calibrating urban flooding models are
to match the flood extent and the flood depth.
The capacity of a drainage system normally
depends on pipe sizes and pumping capacity. However,
during flooding the capacity of the system may be
totally different because the water flows both in the
pipes and on the streets. During a flood, the flow
condition for a pipe might be pressurized flow, while
the flow condition for the street is open channel flow.
The pipe discharge is limited by pipe size and the
difference in head between the upstream and downstream end of the pipe, but street flow is only limited by
the width of the street and the slope of the water
surface. Fig. 10 shows water level and discharge on the
street and in the pipe from the simulation of a rain event
with a return period of 1 year for Bangkok, Thailand.
Water starts to flow in the pipe only in a positive

direction (downward). When the downstream node

floods, backwater effects retard the pipe flow because
of a reduced head difference. From this moment, flow
on streets will occur in a negative direction (upward).
However, the water from upstream still keeps flowing
downward. This upstream water will push both street
and pipe flows back to a positive direction. In Fig. 10, at
the end of the simulation, the discharge in the street is
an order of magnitude higher than the pipe flow. This
means that contribution to the drainage capacity from
the street network is extremely important to define the
flow capacity during urban flooding and that measuring
the flow in the pipes provide only a part of the
information required for calibration of an urban flood
model. Hence, in order to calibrate an urban flood
model it is not enough to have only a well calibrated
pipe network, but the flow paths, the flow extent and the
flow capacity of streets must also be estimated
Model verification is a process of testing the quality
of a calibrated model against observed data, using the
model parameters derived during the calibration.
Another set of data, for instance the water level in a
manhole, flow velocity and discharge in specific
locations in the pipe system should be recorded for
model verification purposes. Model verification may
be more cumbersome for urban flooding due to sparse
flood data. However, verification is still required in
order to have confidence in the modelling results.
Model validation requires comprehensive and
detailed field data sets. Ideally, these would include
rainfall as well as level and discharge measurements
at several locations both in the underground pipe
system and on the surface. Often the desire to model
urban flooding occurs after a flood incident, i.e. flow
gauges and water level meters are rarely in place to
measure flooding when it occurs. An exception to this
is the flood in Bangkok during October 2000, where
measurement during a flood incident paralysing
Bangkok was carried out (Chingnawan, 2003). If
high-tech equipment is not available, the areas
affected by flooding and the highest flood levels can
be cheaply recorded by tools such as resident gauges
and chalk gauges (Kolsky, 1998). Whenever the
collection of high quality data was not carried out
during a flood event the model may be verified by
comparing predicted and observed flood extent and
maximum water levelsthese data are typically

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299


Fig. 10. Illustration of the complexity of the flow conditions during the flood event as both the sewer flow and the street flow change direction
during the event: at tz13:10 the downstream node is flooded; at tz13:20 the head in the sewer pipe exceeds the water level in the overlapping

available. An example of a model verified against

observed flood extent is the flooding in Dhaka City
during October 1996 (Fig. 11). In addition the model
was compared to marks of highest flood levels where
the accuracy of the model was within 510 cma
very good result.

12. Result presentation and model application

The model results are geo-referenced and related
through a coordinate system linked to the DEM grid.
The results are presented in the GIS interface as flood
inundation maps, based on the water levels computed
by the urban drainage model. Flood inundation maps
provide a most effective medium for visualizing
The water levels on the surface mainly cause
flooding on the streets and the adjoining areas.

Output of the simulation in the form of simulated

water levels along the street system is transferred to GIS.
Using interpolation routines, continuous three-dimensional water surfaces can be constructed based on the
simulated street water level from the model and the
DEM. The DEM elevations are subsequently subtracted
from the water level surface delineating inundated areas
by flood extent and flood depth. Results (water levels)
from the simulation are available along the streets as
shown in Fig. 11, which shows a flood inundation map
for urban flooding in Dhaka City in 1996.
Based on the verified flood model for Dhaka a
number of alternative scenarios were evaluated to
reduce the flooding of the city. Surprisingly it was
found that provision of additional pumping capacity
had only a local effect. This was due to the fact that
the pipes in the most upstream part of the catchment
acted as bottlenecks and that the ground slopes in that
area were unfavourable for drainage the floods waters


O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

Fig. 11. Flood inundation (maximum flood depth) map for Dhaka City in September 1996the red bold lines show the flooded areas as they
were recorded by the local authorities.

in the streets. In other words, the small pipes were the

points controlling the drainage of the larger upstream
catchments. As a logical consequence it was found
that real time control of the pumping station had very
little impact on reduction of flooding.
For the Bangkok flood modelling study, the flood
inundation maps was overlaid on property maps of the
city (Fig. 12).
A cost function for flood damage per establishment
(in Thai baht) for the Sukhumvit 0.4 km2 area in
Bangkok has been developed by Tang et al. (1990) as:

where a, b, c are parameters given in Table 1,

estimated based on previous flood. Hence, even
though this is a simple empirical model, it provides
very useful information for the city planners concerning cost estimation of the flooding and the return of
the investment from implementation of alleviation

Flood damagebaht

Clearly the greatest inaccuracy of the described

approach lies in the treatment of street channels as
prismatic and of flow in those channels as onedimensional. Irregular street geometry and/or catch
pits situated in gutters on two sides of the road may

Z a C b  depth of flood in centimeters

C c  duration of flood in days

13. Drawbacks and limitations

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299


Fig. 12. Flood map for Bangkok on the top of a property mapsimulated for a rainfall with a 1 year return period.

lead to water in two parallel gutters flowing in

opposite directions. When the surface channel is
prismatic and the boundary conditions for it are close
to the real situation, the limit in validity of the 1D flow
assumption is not sharproughly speaking, it is
reasonably realistic as long as water remains within
the street profile. When the curbs are overtopped, not
only is the flow no longer 1D, but also the water
probably reaches pervious areas where roughness is
significantly higher, and where infiltration may be
Separation between the hydrological and hydraulic
phases of the runoff, outlined earlier, is absolutely
acceptable for simulation of events without flooding.
However, surface runoff parameters calibrated via
measurements during moderate rainfall, might not be
valid when the underground system cannot capture all
the runoff, since the excessive amounts of water on the
surface would induce both decreased hydrological
losses and quicker response (shorter concentration
times). In other words, storm sewer overflows interact
with surface runoff. One possible approach to handle
this was described by Djordjevic et al. (1999).
The Weir formula describing the link between the
pipe network and a surface channel network is only a
rough approximation of reality, because one such link
represents the holes on the manhole cover and/or

several catch pits. So, whichever expression is used to

relate discharge as a function of water levels at two
nodes (one in the manhole and another on the street),
it is never unique. Even in the situation when such a
detailed system description is achieved to have one
link representing only one catch pit (corresponding to
one manhole), depending on the type of the inlet
structure, it may have several openings that may work
in different regimes in time. Furthermore, during the
outflow the pressure force of the water rising in the
manhole may easily be able to lift and partly remove
the manhole cover (Guo, 1989). Consequently, the
surface flow might be strong enough to remove the
cover completely. In such situations, it is clearly very
complicated to include all those phenomena in the
Local losses in both free-surface and surcharged
manholes have been subject to extensive experimental
Table 1
Estimated flood damage function parameters for different land use
types in Bangkok (Tang et al., 1990)
Land use type







O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

and theoretical research (e.g. Pedersen and Mark,

1990), meaning that they can be included in the model
in a fairly accurate manner. However, even when the
flows in adjoining street channels are more or less
one-dimensional, local flow geometry at street junctions is always complex, so the energy equations for
surface nodes are less sound. In particular, this is the
case with supercritical flow, having in mind the
assumptions on the boundary conditions structure
inherent to sub-critical flow applied in the model.
It is likely that, during the flooding event, the
hydraulic grade lines will reach the ground level first
at nodes that are in local depression. At those
locations the water initially accumulates (filling the
surface storage) before a possible flow further downstream. In such cases, the actual lengths of joining
surface channels are in fact variablethey depend on
the water level in the storage, and this in turn is almost
impossible to include in the model.
Where open channels (e.g. small streams) are used
as part of a drainage system the chances are high that
during floods culverts or bridge openings become
partly clogged by large items brought by flooding
water and hence in this way obstructing the predefined
modelling assumptions.
A comparison was made between three different
model layouts for the Bangkok sewer system for a
rainfall event with a 1 year return period, i.e.
35 mm/h. The comparison included:
1. Simulation by application of a standard approach
in commercial urban drainage software as outlined
by Maksimovic (2000). In other words, no
provision of streets and surface routing/storage
outside the streets.
2. Simulation by application of a standard approach
as described just above but with streets added.
3. Simulation of the urban flooding as suggested in
this paper.
The maximum simulated water levels are reduced
by up to 60 cm when streets are included in the
modelproving the statement by Maksimovic (2000)
that a standard flood simulation without any concern
for the surface flood routing and flood storage heavily
overestimates the flood depth. The difference in
maximum flood depth between the model with and
without the provision of flood storage next to the

streets is in the order of 1020 cmbut the model

with the flood storage next to the streets gives a
significantly better picture of the real flood extent and
flood damaged areas, providing more accurate and
more valuable information.
Engineering predictions always imply some degree
of simplification. Urban flooding is certainly a very
complex phenomenon, but incapability to include all
details in modelling should not discourage attempts to
use a 1D approach, at least for internal floods caused by
heavy rainfall. Basically, the limitations mentioned in
this paper make it very difficult to accurately simulate
local conditions on a small scale, whereas simulation
of larger scale urban flooding based on the principles
outlined in this paper gives very promising results.

14. Conclusion
This paper has outlined the potential and
limitations of a special modelling technique, where
a hydrodynamic urban flood model built in two
layers describes the conditions both in the surcharged pipe system and flooding on the catchment
surface. It can be concluded that the modelling of
urban flooding is feasible on a large scale and the
model is a powerful tool combination with GIS.
Complex hydrological-hydraulic mechanisms are
encapsulated into the model and results can be
presented as easily understandable flood inundation
maps. This integrated approach for modelling of
urban flooding provides a methodology for systematic and consistent analyses of the causes for the
urban flooding together with evaluation of flood
alleviation schemes. It is believed that the method
presented in this paper, a combination of GIS and
1D hydrodynamic modelling, constitutes a cost
efficient system for planning and management of
drainage systems suffering from urban flooding.

15. Future perspectives

Today, a few studies have been carried out to
simulate urban flooding by application of mathematical models. In urban areas the flow paths on the
surface are often complex to define because of
crowded buildings, houses and roadsand during

O. Mark et al. / Journal of Hydrology 299 (2004) 284299

heavy flooding a 1D modelling approach may be

insufficient. Future approaches to modelling urban
flooding may use a hydrodynamic pipe flow model
below ground in conjunction with a full 2D hydrodynamic model in order to describe the surface flow.
The results of such a model would be usefully
compared with those of a 1D urban flood model to
provide insight for the selection of an appropriate
approach for modelling of urban flooding.

The last authors work on this paper was partly
supported by the U. K. Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Project No.
GR/R14712/01 (the Platform Grant).

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