GIS technology critical in flood battle

Mar 07, 2013

Cutting-edge mapping technology is critical for successfully 'flood proofing' the nation, according to one of Australia's most reputable water management advisors.

The message comes as calls for a nationwide approach to flood mapping have increased after extreme weather in New South Wales and Queensland over the past summer resulted in the second flood crisis for the east coast in as many years.

Areas such as Bundaberg and Grafton saw hundreds of millimetres of rain fall in single days, resulting in mass evacuations and more than half a billion dollars in insurance claims.

Speaking to an audience of more than 200 spatial professionals in Melbourne today, Water Technology Senior Principal Spatial Analyst Georgina Race said Geographic Information System (GIS) technology was integral to both preparing and responding to future flood events.

“GIS technology enables us to map the massive amounts of data that must be taken into consideration when projecting the outcome of large rainfall events,” Ms Race said.

“This data includes land elevation and characteristics, past flood levels, infrastructure building information and seawater levels.

“The technology brings all this information together and allows us to run modelling of the impacts of various rainfall scenarios – such as storm events, sea level rises and even new building and infrastructure developments – to understand the level of inundation that may take place.

“Once inundation is understood, people – from businesses, governments and even the general public – can make better decisions about how to put mitigation measures in place, where to build, how to manage emergency response, and determine numerous other measures that can help reduce the effects of flooding.”

Using world-leading GIS technology from intelligent mapping consultants Esri Australia and hydrodynamic modelling, Water Technology provides flood and consultation services to a range of organisations from developers and insurers, to emergency services and all levels of government.

Esri Australia flood mapping expert Gary Johnson said pressure was building on local governments and developers to better utilise flood modelling to minimise the future flood risk.

“Flood modelling is crucial for local, state and federal governments to develop better planning strategies to deal with flood issues,” Mr Johnson said.

“Modelling can influence behaviours, ranging from property purchase decisions to motivating flood preparedness, so it’s critical that any flood mapping developed is spot-on.

“GIS technology is the only tool that can integrate the diverse range of spatial and modelling information available to create the most accurate picture of flooding and flood risk.

“During crises, GIS technology can deliver accurate, real-time data to the public and emergency services personnel during evacuation and response phases.”

Mr Johnson said the modelling was also valuable for insurance companies, who use the technology to better understand risk.

“Layering detailed flood models over residential or commercial property data enables insurers to more accurately and efficiently determine risk,” Mr Johnson said.

“The improvement in cover benefits both customers and insurers by reducing uncertainty, increasing competition, and ultimately driving transparency in providing householders with the information they need on living in flood-prone areas.”