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Flood Control and Disaster Management

Flood control refers to all methods used to reduce or prevent the detrimental effects
of flood waters (Wikipedia). Some of the common techniques used for flood control are installation
of rock berms, rock rip-raps, sandbags, maintaining normal slopes with vegetation or application of
soil cements on steeper slopes and construction or expansion of drainage channels. Other methods
include levees, dikes, dams, retention or detention basins. After the Katrina Disaster that happened
in 2005, some areas prefer not to have levees as flood controls. Communities preferred
improvement of drainage structures with detention basins near the sites.

Causes of Floods
Floods are caused by many factors: heavy precipitation, severe winds over water, unusual high
tides, tsunamis, or failure of dams, levels, retention ponds, or other structures that contained the

Periodic floods occur on many rivers, forming a surrounding region known as the flood plain.

During times of rain or snow, some of the water is retained in ponds or soil, some is absorbed by
grass and vegetation, some evaporates, and the rest travels over the land as surface runoff. Floods
occur when ponds, lakes, riverbeds, soil, and vegetation cannot absorb all the water. Water then
runs off the land in quantities that cannot be carried within stream channels or retained in natural
ponds, lakes, and man-made reservoirs. About 30 percent of all precipitation is in the form of runoff
small and that amount might be increased by water from melting snow. River flooding is often
caused by heavy rain, sometimes increased by melting snow. Aflood that rises rapidly, with little or
no advance warning, is called a flash flood. Flash floods usually result from intense rainfall over a
relatively small area, or if the area was already saturated from previous precipitation.

Severe winds over water

Even when rainfall is relatively light, the shorelines of lakes and bays can be flooded by severe
winds—such as during hurricanes—that blow water into the shore areas.

Unusual high tides

Coastal areas are sometimes flooded by unusually high tides, such as spring tides, especially when
compounded by high winds and storm surges.

Effects of Floods
Flooding has many impacts. It damages property and endangers the lives of humans and other
species. Rapid water runoff causes soil erosion and concomitant sediment deposition elsewhere
(such as further downstream or down a coast). The spawning grounds for fish and other wildlife
habitats can become polluted or completely destroyed. Some prolonged high floods can delay traffic
in areas which lack elevated roadways. Floods can interfere with drainage and economic use of
lands, such as interfering with farming. Structural damage can occur in bridge abutments, bank
lines, sewer lines, and other structures within floodways. Waterway navigation and hydroelectric
power are often impaired. Financial losses due to floods are typically millions of dollars each year.

Control of Floods
Some methods of flood control have been practiced since ancient times.1 These methods include
planting vegetation to retain extra water, terracing hillsides to slow flow downhill, and the
construction of floodways (man-made channels to divert floodwater).1 Other techniques include the
construction of levees, dikes, dams, reservoirs1 or retention ponds to hold extra water during times
of flooding.

Methods of Control
In many countries, rivers prone to floods are often carefully managed. Defences such as
levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. When
these defences fail, emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are used.
Coastal flooding has been addressed in Europe and the Americas with coastal defences, such as sea
walls, beach nourishment, and barrier islands.
A dike is another method of flood protection. A dike lowers the risk of having floods compared to
other methods. It can help prevent damage; however it is better to combine dikes with
other flood control methods to reduce the risk of a collapsed dike.

A weir, also known as a lowhead dam, is most often used to create millponds, but on the Humber
River in Toronto, a weir was built near Raymore Drive to prevent a recurrence of the flooding
caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which destroyed nearly two fifths of the street.

London is protected from flooding by a huge mechanical barrier across the River Thames, which is
raised when the water level reaches a certain point.
Venice has a similar arrangement, although it is already unable to cope with very high tides. The
defenses of both London and Venice will be rendered inadequate if sea levels continue to rise.

The largest and most elaborate flood defenses can be found in the Netherlands, where they are
referred to as Delta Works with the Oosterschelde dam as its crowning achievement. These works
were built in response to the North Sea flood of 1953, in the southwestern part of the Netherlands.
The Dutch had already built one of the world's largest dams in the north of the country:
the Afsluitdijk (closing occurred in 1932).

Flood blocking the road in Jerusalem

Currently the Saint Petersburg Flood Prevention Facility Complex is to be finished by 2008, in Russia,
to protect Saint Petersburg from storm surges. It also has a main traffic function, as it completes
a ring road around Saint Petersburg. Eleven dams extend for 25.4 kilometres and stand eight metres
above water level.

Another elaborate system of floodway defenses can be found in the Canadian province of Manitoba.
The Red River flows northward from the United States, passing through the city of Winnipeg (where
it meets the Assiniboine River) and into Lake Winnipeg. As is the case with all north-flowing rivers in
the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, snowmelt in southern sections may cause river
levels to rise before northern sections have had a chance to completely thaw. This can lead to
devastating flooding, as occurred in Winnipeg during the spring of 1950. To protect the city from
future floods, the Manitoba government undertook the construction of a massive system of
diversions, dikes, and floodways (including the Red River Floodway and the Portage Diversion). The
system kept Winnipeg safe during the 1997 flood which devastated many communities upriver from
Winnipeg, including Grand Forks, North Dakota and Ste. Agathe, Manitoba.
In the U.S., the New Orleans Metropolitan Area, 35% of which sits below sea level, is protected by
hundreds of miles of levees and flood gates. This system failed catastrophically, with numerous
breaks, during Hurricane Katrina in the city proper and in eastern sections of the Metro Area,
resulting in the inundation of approximately 50% of the Metropolitan area, ranging from a few
inches to twenty feet in coastal communities.
In an act of successful flood prevention, the Federal Government of the United States offered to buy
out flood-prone properties in the United States in order to prevent repeated disasters after the
1993 flood across the Midwest. Several communities accepted and the government, in partnership
with the state, bought 25,000 properties which they converted into wetlands. These wetlands act as
a sponge in storms and in 1995, when the floods returned, the government did not have to expend
resources in those areas.2

In China, flood diversion areas are rural areas that are deliberately flooded in emergencies in order
to protect cities.3
Many have proposed that loss of vegetation (deforestation) will lead to a risk increase. With natural
forest cover, flood duration should decrease.[citation needed] Deforestation amplifies the incidents
and severity of floods.4

Flood clean-up safety

Clean-up activities following floods often pose hazards to workers and volunteers involved in the
effort. Potential dangers include electrical hazards, carbon
monoxide exposure, musculoskeletal hazards, heat or cold stress, motor vehicle-related
dangers, fire, drowning, and exposure to hazardous materials.5 Because flooded disaster sites are
unstable, clean-up workers might encounter sharp jagged debris, biological hazards in
theflood water, exposed electrical lines, blood or other body fluids, and animal and human remains.
In planning for and reacting to flood disasters, managers provide workers with hard hats, goggles,
heavy work gloves, life jackets, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles.6

Europe is at the forefront of the flood control technology. With many countries around Europe at or
below the sea level, the problems of floods and rising sea levels are ever increasing. Countries like
the Netherlands with projects such as the Zuiderzee works and the Delta works could prove to be
important models for other countries around the world to follow. These sorts of humongous projects
could be key in combating the increasing effects of global climate change such as: rising sea levels,
an increase in the frequency and severity of some natural disasters, and even increased durations of
dry or rainy seasons.7
The tremendous amount of damage that Katrina did to New Orleans could have been mostly
prevented if New Orleans had such an intricate flood control system as the Netherlands. The result
of Katrina was that the state of Louisiana sent politicians to the Netherlands to take a tour of the
complex and highly developed flood control system in place in the Netherlands.8 Many countries
around the world are also at or below sea level and the worst part about that is the fact that a
significant amount of the global population lives on or near to the coastal shores. Even though many
of these projects around the world are designed to fight floods like a 100 or even 10,000 year flood;
these projects can still prove to be key instruments in the fight against global climate change. The
Netherlands is the world leader in flood control and has been battling the sea for centuries and new
ways to deal with water are constantly being developed and tested. Projects such as the
underground storage of water, storing water in reservoirs in large parking garages9, and even
something as simple as turning a playground during normal conditions into a small lake during
heavy rainfall weather all show how the Netherlands is actively trying to combat the increasing
dangers of rising sea levels.10 In Rotterdam there is even a project to construct a floating housing
development of 120 acres, which of course will be unaffected by rising sea
levels.11 These flood control systems do not always have to be solely to prevent floods but can also
be used to combat droughts. China has recently gone to the Netherlands and requested their help in
combating the large scale drought that is occurring around China. The Dutch are going to help China
develop a drought warning system as well as new water management programs and contribute
to flood defense research. Flood control will become an ever increasing issue in world politics and as
more and more countries start feeling the effects of a global increase in the sea level then it will be
time for action and the Netherlands will certainly be at the forefront of this action and furthermore
used as an example for many countries when it is time for them to start dealing with issues of the

Benefits of Flooding
There are many disruptive effects of flooding on human settlements and economic activities.
However, flooding can bring benefits, such as making soil more fertile and providing nutrients in
which it is deficient. Periodic flooding was essential to the well-being of ancient communities along
the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers, the Nile River, the Indus River, the Ganges and the Yellow River, among
others. The viability for hydrologically based renewable sources of energy is higher in flood-prone

The International Water Association Publishing, Flood Control and Disaster Management
Methods Used To Control Floods

Floods can cause many problems and in serious cases, lives may be taken as well. This is why it is
important to take preventive measures to stop the floods from happening in the first place. Flood
control is referred to as measures taken to prevent floods from happening.

In order to decide the most efficient method, one must first understand what is causing the flood in the
first place. Floods may be caused by a number of reasons such as: severe winds over water, tsunamis,
heavy rainfall, failure of flood control measures and highly accelerated snowmelt.

Flooding can also indirectly occur through hazards like forest fires which remove precious vegetation
that is useful for absorbing rainfall. When there is rainfall, the water is either absorbed by the vegetation
or retained in ponds, soil or rivers. However, there is a certain limit that the water can be contained.
Once rainfall exceeds the limit, the rest of the water travels across the land. This is known as surface
runoff. The surface runoff is usually one of the reasons that flash floods occur. Flash floods are floods
where the water level rises very quickly, proving little or no warning at all.

Why prevent floods?

Flooding has many negative impacts, from damaging property to even taking lives. Flooding also
transports other sediments to other places. This pollutes the habitats that wildlife may reside in. If the
floods are to make their way into urban areas then it may cause disruption to traffic, interfere with
drainage and electrical systems. This causes millions of dollars in damage. Thus, it would be less costly
and safe to prevent the flood from happening in the first place.

Methods used to prevent floods

Dams are one way that can be used for flood control. Dams are barriers that control the flow of water
from a big water source such as a river or reservoir. Unlike other barriers, damns are used to retain
water. The advantage with dams is that they are able to generate electricity through hydropower.

Another type of method of flood control that can be used would be flood gates. Flood gates are systems
that have adjustable gates to control the flow rate of a river. The water can either be stored or routed
depending on the situation. Also, flood gates can also lower the water levels from canal channels or the
main river channel. This allows more water to flow into a storage area if a flood is being predicted.
The next method that can be used for flood control would be a flood wall. Similar to dams, flood walls
serve the purpose of containing water of rivers or other water channels. However, flood walls are only
temporary. They are used in areas where there is limited space or if a construction of other barriers
would interfere with the surrounding environment. Flood walls are made out of fabricated concrete
materials. These flood walls may sometimes have flood gates which allow people and vehicles to pass
through. They are only closed in case of a flood.
In Asian countries, flood diversion is used to divert the flood away from more populated cities. However,
due to the growing problem of deforestation, which is the removal of natural vegetation for agricultural
purposes, the area has been less effective in absorbing the water from the floods. To tackle the problem,
more measures to reduce deforestation should be taken. To fix the damage land, reforestation should
also be done. However, it will take an extremely long time for the trees to grow.

To control coastal flooding, there are some methods such as sea walls, beach nourishment and barrier
islands that can be built along to coast to prevent flooding from the ocean. Sea walls are built along the
coast to prevent high tides from flooding the area. However, seawalls may corrode over time and
collapse. Beach nourishment is the addition of sand to the existing coast so that the tides will not reach
the populated areas that quickly. However, it is a costly method that takes a considerable amount of
time to complete.

Nevertheless, it is always better to spend more money preventing floods from occurring than suffering
the loss of your family and friends. Prevention is always better than cure.


The Green Book, Flood Control
Severe Weather 101: Flood Detection

Flash floods tend to be associated with many types of storms, all capable of producing excessive rainfall
amounts over a particular area, so detection remains a challenge. Sometimes a flash flood threat is
overshadowed by other severe weather events happening at the same time. The main tools used to
detect heavy rainfall associated with flash floods are satellite, lightning observing systems, radar, and
rain gauges.


WSR-88D radars graphically display detected precipitation on a map. Radar can show the location of the
intense rainfall cores, and estimate the duration of rainfall. Radar can also track the evolution of storm
systems over time. Forecasters are able to watch existing storm cells intensify, and see when new cells
begin to develop. Animation of radar provides specific information on the movement of storm systems
and helps in the assessment of the flash flood threat.

Currently, the NWS uses products developed for WSR-88D radars to aid in issuing flash flood
statements, watches, or warnings. One product estimates one-hour precipitation accumulation to assess
rainfall intensities for flash flood warnings, urban flood statements and special weather statements.
Another product estimates accumulated rainfall, continuously updated, since the last one-hour break in
precipitation. This product is used to locate flood potential over urban or rural areas, estimate total
basin runoff and provide rainfall accumulations for the duration of the event.

What we do: NSSL developed and implemented the real-time Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor system in 2004,
integrating data from multiple radar networks, surface and upper air observations, lightning detection
systems, satellite and numerical weather prediction models. The data is used to estimate and forecast
precipitation locations, amounts, and types.

MRMS was transitioned into operations at the National Center for Environmental Prediction in 2014 and
provided severe weather and precipitation products for improved decision-making capability within
NOAA. The operational MRMS QPE products have high resolution and rapid updating capabilities. The
products are also used for verification of satellite rain products and for verification of quantitative rain
forecasts from numerical weather prediction models. MRMS serves as a powerful tool for the creation
and evaluation of new techniques, strategies and applications to better QPE. As new concepts are
developed, they can be tested by easily plugged in and out of MRMS. This process facilitates a rapid
science-to-operations transition of new MRMS applications and products for flood and flash flood
predictions and water resources management.

Rain gauges provide the most accurate method of measuring rainfall at a single geographic point. To
have operational value, the rain gauge report must be available in real time, and automated reporting
networks are increasing. Real-time rain gauge networks are most useful for flash flood detection when
WSR-88D rainfall estimates can be compared with the actual rain gauge values to determine the
accuracy of the radar estimate.

The Flooded Locations And Simulated Hydrographs project (FLASH) was launched in early 2012 to
improve the accuracy and timing of flash flood warnings. FLASH introduces a new paradigm in flash
flood prediction, using MRMS and producing flash flood forecasts with products generated as frequently
as every 2 minutes. The primary goal of FLASH is to improve accuracy, timing, specificity, and severity
levels of flash flood warnings in the U.S., thus saving lives and protecting infrastructure. The FLASH team
is comprised of researchers and students who use an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to
achieve the goal. The FLASH system was transitioned to the National Weather Service in November


Estimates of rainfall from satellite data are less direct and less accurate than either gauges or radar, but
have the advantage of high resolution and complete coverage over oceans, mountainous regions, and
sparsely populated areas where other sources of rainfall data are not available. Since flash flood events
often originate with heavy rainfall in sparsely instrumented areas that goes undetected, satellite-derived
rainfall can be a critical tool for identifying hazards from smaller-scale rainfall and flood events.


You may notice a stream starting to rise quickly and become muddy. Sometimes flood debris
temporarily blocks the water flow upstream. When it breaks free the debris may release a “wall of
water” downstream. You may hear a roaring sound upstream as a flood wave moves rapidly toward you.
People are often caught off guard because rain may not be heavy or falling at all where they are.


The National Severe Storms Laboratory, Severe Weather 101: Flood Detection