Predicting an answer to the threat of flooding

The latest advances in computer flood modeling and animation that could help to improve the way we protect the UK's towns and cities from flooding will be highlighted at this year's BA Festival of Science in Norwich.

By improving the prediction and visualisation of the speed, direction and extent of water flow during potential flooding events, this research will help inform investment in flood defence and drainage infrastructure, where new developments should be sited and, where necessary, evacuation planning.

Developed by the multidisciplinary Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC), these animations are based not only on state-of-the-art computer modeling tools identified and adapted by consortium researchers, but also on data pinpointing how land in and around UK towns and cities is used, such as for agricultural, industrial or residential purposes. Land-use can have a crucial impact on the severity of flooding events because agricultural practices, such as choice of crop and livestock density, can influence how much water runs off the land.

"Because the animations we are developing take into account not just the shape and contours of the land but also the way it is actually used, they provide additional information that can be used to assess the risk of flooding to people and property," says Garry Pender, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, who is leading the research.

Professor Pender's team is placing particular emphasis on acquiring reliable, up-to-date digital information describing rivers' catchments as well as their shapes. Recent developments in data collection using airborne mapping systems, such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), have significantly reduced the cost of collecting information of this kind.

This unprecedented combination of cutting-edge computer modeling capability and up-to-date information on land use offers the prospect of a major leap forward in flood management. During his presentation at the BA Festival, Professor Pender will demonstrate some of the computer animations that his team has already developed, which show test applications of the systems to hypothetical flood scenarios in Glasgow and London.

Professor Pender will also summarise the consortium's progress in other areas and emphasise the multidisciplinary character of its work. The consortium is integrating, for the first time, engineering, land-use management, social sciences, decision support, and the provision of information to inform government policy to effectively target all the key aspects of flood-risk management, from flood forecasting to the environmental impact of flooding events.

"The overall aim of the consortium is to ensure that the UK is better equipped than ever before to manage the effects of flooding," says Professor Pender.


The Flood Risk Management Research Consortium is a collaborative initiative supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Scottish Executive, UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR), and the Rivers Agency (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland).

Notes for Editors:

The 4-year work programme of the Flood Risk Management Research Consortium is due to run until 2008. Overall funding from all sources totals more than 5.5M. The consortium includes: the University of Bristol, Heriot-Watt University, University of Nottingham, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, Imperial College London, University of Lancaster and HR Wallingford. More information on the consortium can be found at

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) uses a laser to measure the distance between the aircraft and the ground, cost-effectively producing terrain maps suitable for assessing flood risk.

This year's BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) Festival of Science takes place in Norwich from 2nd - 9th September. Hosted by Norwich Research Park, the overall theme is 'People, Science and Society'. The event is one of the UK's biggest science festivals and attracts around 400 of the best scientists and science communicators from home and abroad who reveal the latest developments in research to a general audience. For more information, visit

Garry Pender, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, will be giving a presentation on the topic "What can engineers do to prevent flooding in our towns and cities?" at 14.00 on Friday 8th September at LT3, Lecture Theatre building. Professor Pender will also be taking part in a press conference at 9am at the BA Festival on 8th September where he will be discussing his work.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than 575 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC:

For more information contact during the BA festival:

Professor Garry Pender via the EPSRC press office. Images are also available from the EPSRC Press Office.

Contact details for Professor Garry Pender, School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, once the festival has finished - for further enquiries regarding his research, tel: 0131 451 3312, e-mail: [email protected]

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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