Floods are natural phenomena that on the one hand are essential for the survival and health of the ecosystem while on the other hand can critically and permanently affect citizens, businesses and agriculture. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’ (CRED), flooding is one of the most important natural hazards in Europe in terms of economic loss. In 2012, of the 905 natural catastrophes worldwide 36% were hydrological (floods), affecting millions of people’s well-being and livelihood, especially in developing countries where poverty and food insecurity issues further aggravate the situation. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), floods are the single most widespread and increasing disaster risk to urban settlements of all sizes. In addition, urban flood risks are expected to increase significantly in the future as a result of climate change and demographic growth: the former is likely to increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme storm events, while the latter will increase exposure and vulnerability of humans as well as urban settlements.
Against this serious backdrop, nowadays European and worldwide urban environments are confronted with increasingly complex issues in terms of flood risk management and resilience. Specialists and experts in the field of water resources management and disaster risk response as well as urban planners, decision makers and industrial professionals are called upon the important task to reconsider traditional methodologies in favour of innovative and sustainable approaches which improve safety of exposed populations and reduce impact on natural environment. It is clear that the risk of flooding cannot be eliminated, but the reduction of vulnerability in flood-prone are can be achieved through a combination of elements organized around the concept of resilience.
Drawing from a definition proposed by the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), in the context of urban flooding "resilience is the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase this capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures”. In the near future, communities will have to adapt even more to increasing stressful environmental conditions, through disaster risk reduction and resilience building measures.
Since the year 2000, the European Commission has adopted eight Directives as legislative framework aimed at better manage water resources as well as reduce, through the right measures, the risks and impacts of floods to human well-being and the environment. Experience has shown that the most effective way is through the adoption of an integrated approach to flood management – one that recognizes both the opportunities provided by floodplains for socio-economic activities and that manages the associated risks – which is essential for the sustainable exploitation of water resources. The success of an urban planning project is thus based on adopting an across-sector approach and know-how based on:
Sound knowledge of legislative frameworks (Water Law and European Directives) and economics (micro-economics, public finance and government procurement);
- Fundamental knowledge of earth science (e.g. hydrosphere and atmosphere)
- Strong skills in numerical modeling and data processing;
- Experience of using analysis and synthesis tools and associated methodologies;
- Familiarity with decision support system (DSS) and communication techniques.
In light and in line with the above, the objective of the HydroEurope Project is to develop a unique set of pedagogic resources dedicated to the implementation of the resilience concept in flood risk management strategy. This set of resources (course material, exercises, data sets, modeling environment integrating numerical models and communication services) will be jointly elaborated by the project partners. The partners will integrate these new resources in a specific training module integrated within their master course and will intensively use an innovative project oriented pedagogic approach towards the participants. The development of the resources and their innovative use will allow promoting to young professionals the new approach for flood risk management based around the resilience concept. This project will be the first one to offer a specific training dedicated to resilience and flood management in Europe.