EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Flood Early Warning and Hazard Mapping for Railway and Dam Management

Heather J. Murdock, Antje Otto, Anna Heidenreich, and Annegret H. Thieken
Heather J. Murdock et al.
  • Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Floods in Europe regularly cause damage and disruption to communities and infrastructure. The extreme flood of July 2021 which affected Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands provides an example of a flood event with a rapid onset time with corresponding short warning times and high uncertainty. This was a flood event with high velocities and volumes of debris. In addition to casualties there was extensive damage and disruption to infrastructure including roads, rail, water supply, and power transmission. Some negative impacts can be mitigated through the use of flood early warning systems (FEWS) and spatial planning using hazard maps. For such risk reducing measures, it is important to understand what challenges remain towards implementation. For example, challenges may differ between actors with different mandates and capacities.   

Infrastructure operators have an important role in flood risk management as the functioning of critical infrastructure (CI) is of high importance for society. CI in this context includes infrastructure, such as dams and railroad which we focus on, whose failure or impairment results in lasting disruptions to the overall system. Is it therefore possible that the prevention of damage and disruption to CI can reduce risk for society as a whole? Flood early warning information can support early action including moving mobile assets to higher ground, preventative closures, or protecting critical parts of a network with mobile flood barriers. Little empirical data exists, however, to address this question. It is therefore unclear to what extent flood risk management measures have become integrated into CI management by infrastructure operators.   

In this study we conduct expert interviews with CI operators in Germany and Belgium to investigate: (1) what FEWS information CI operators use, (2) how has it been applied during past flood events, particularly in 2021, (3) what information is shared with other stakeholders in an emergency context, (4) what flood hazard maps do operators currently use, and (5) how are flood hazard maps integrated into infrastructure planning. Our focus on dam and railway operators is due to the important role they play in water management and regional transportation, respectively. The interviews are transcribed and coded using MaxQDA to address the five points mentioned above. The empirical basis of this research can help to shed light on the effectiveness of available information to reduce risk in an emergency management context as well as for infrastructure planning. 

How to cite: Murdock, H. J., Otto, A., Heidenreich, A., and Thieken, A. H.: Flood Early Warning and Hazard Mapping for Railway and Dam Management, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8724,, 2023.