EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Complementing urban rainfall/flood monitoring using low-cost citizen observatories: first result and challenges

Boud Verbeiren1,2, Kim Tondeur1, Solomon Seyoum1, and David Pireaux2
Boud Verbeiren et al.
  • 1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2Brussels Company for Water Management (SBGE/BMWB), Direction Exploitation, Brussels, Belgium

Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology is evolving rapidly and within the frame of the project we are exploring the potential of low-cost citizen observatories for the monitoring of intense rainfall and pluvial flooding in three pilot cities: Brussels, Rotterdam and Birmingham. In this presentation we focus on the Brussels pilot in which we evaluate the added value of low-cost rainfall sensors (developed by Disdrometrics, Delft – The Netherlands) to complement the existing network with 16 professional rain gauge ( – Open data). The main objective is to obtain a higher density of rainfall measurements enabling to capture, in near real-time, intense rainfall events. Due to the high degree of imperviousness of the city landscape intense rainfall is often the trigger for a fast hydrological response, sometimes causing pluvial flooding in Brussels. The low-cost rainfall sensors are disdrometers, counting the number and estimating the size of raindrops. The low-cost sensors make use of LoRa technology to send their data in near real-time to the central database. In Brussels 20 low-cost sensors were installed with help of citizens, mainly aiming at filling the “gaps” of the existing rain gauge network. To enable direct evaluation some of the low-cost sensors where installed next to professional rain gauges. We evaluate the performance of the low-cost sensor by (1) direct comparison (intensity and volumes) with the professional rain gauges of the network, (2) comparing the spatial pattern of measured rainfall intensities, with and without low-cost sensors, to radar rainfall maps and (3) the reliability of the low-cost measurements. In this contribution we will focus on the first results from the test phase (October 2019 – January 2020). Next we also elaborate on the challenges involved in the deployment of a network of low-cost sensors. The project is a close collaboration with TU Delft, Imperial College London, IIASA, Disdrometrics, VUB SMIT-imec, LGiU, EGEB and is funded within the ERA-NET Smart Urban Future programme (Urban Europe ENSUF).

How to cite: Verbeiren, B., Tondeur, K., Seyoum, S., and Pireaux, D.: Complementing urban rainfall/flood monitoring using low-cost citizen observatories: first result and challenges, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-10884,, 2020


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