Flanders Flood Early Warning System

Flanders Environment Agency

The Flanders Environment Agency is the governmental body in charge of all the unnavigable waterways in Flanders. Part of their responsibilities is managing the water levels in the waterways they control to prevent flooding. They are the responsible authority for informing the public of expected water levels and flood risk, which in extreme cases might lead to evacuations.

To forecast the water levels the Flanders Environmental Agency uses numerous hydrological and hydrodynamic models. Recently they had these models updated from classical hydrological models to conceptual models. These models calculate orders of magnitude faster than the original models with almost no decrease in model accuracy. The Flanders Environmental Agency now aims to use these models for their operational flood forecasting. They have selected Delft-FEWS as their operational modeling platform to control these models and supply them with real-time measurements and weather forecast.

In 2021 the Flanders Environment Agency asked Nelen & Schuurmans to act as a partner in setting up their Delft-FEWS system. In this project, we don’t only have the role of system designer but we are also working alongside the Flemish team of water managers to also teach them how to set up their FEWS system. The team will gradually take full responsibility and ownership over their system so they have to be knowledgeable about all the aspects of Delft-FEWS. We as Nelen & Schuurmans are able to share our broad knowledge on Delft-FEWS and set up the Flemish system alongside the Flemish Environment Agency.

The challenge

The main objective of the project is to build a Delft-FEWS flood forecasting system from scratch. The novel conceptual models that were developed are unique for the Flemish Environment Agency. They are now only available for a small catchment area called the Demerbekken. The other catchment areas are still under development. This also means that no model adapters for Delft-FEWS were available and that no best practices for coupling this modeling software exist yet.

A second objective is to educate the Flanders Environment Agency on how to set up a Flood forecasting system in Delft-FEWS. Three hydrologists are designated as FEWS experts and are fully involved in the development process. In this interdisciplinary team we are teaching them about FEWS and building their system simultaneously!

A final objective of the project is to completely operationalize the Flood forecasting in the Azure Cloud. All the Delft-FEWS components, such as the database, forecasting servers and the clients are hosted in Microsoft Azure. This requires a different set-up on some key aspects of the system than when using more traditional on-premise hosting.

Our solution

We developed a Delft-FEWS system for the Demerbekken catchment area. The Demerbekken acts as a blueprint for the other catchment areas which will be added to the system later. By first designing the system for a small part of Flanders we had the freedom to experiment with different configuration options without having to undo a lot of work if we chose a different approach.

Setting up a new flood early warning system always poses a challenge regarding the collection of measurement and weather forecast data. Luckily the Flemish Environment Agency has a very well-structured information system called Wiski. This allows us not only to import measurement data in FEWS but even create part of our system configuration based on the data system that is already in place. This saves the team a lot of work regarding data management and keeps the FEWS system updated with the developments that are happening outside.

The outcome

The most important outcomes of this project are:

  • Newly developed Delft-FEWS systems
  • Fully trained team within the Flanders Environment Agency to take ownership of the Delft-FEWS systems
  • Long-term partnership for consulting questions around the Delft-FEWS system
All cases

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