FLOODsite – Integrated Flood Risk Analysis and Management Methodologies

(Integrated Project)


Department of Economics

Dr. Volker Meyer
Dr. Frank Messner (until 9/2007)

Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology

Department Computational Landscape Ecology

Department of Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis and Management

Gerald Wenk


EU (6th Framework Programme)


03/2004 − 02/2009


Flooding is the most widely distributed of all natural hazards across Europe, threatening millions of people and causing distress and damage wherever it happens. Previous research has improved understanding of individual factors but many complex interactions need to be addressed for flood mitigation in practice. Thus the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Commission includes an integrated project on flood risk management, called FLOODsite. To achieve the goal of integrated flood risk management, between 2004 and 2009 FLOODsite brought together managers, researchers and practitioners from a range of research and commercial organisations as well as practitioners. The FLOODsite project covered the physical, environmental, ecological and socio-economic aspects of flooding from rivers, estuaries and the sea. Detailed case studies were carried out in different European pilot sites, among them Elbe, Tisza, Scheldt, Thames and Ebro river catchments as well as the German bight.

Within FLOODsite, the Division of Social Sciences of the UFZ (ÖKUS) was coordinating the socio-economic sub-theme on vulnerability. It aimed at improving methods to specify and quantify flood vulnerability as well as to critically test the applicability of the concept of vulnerability to disastrous flood events European welfare states. Thus, it delivered a practical contribution to flood risk management which was applied in several European regions. Major objectives of this sub-theme were: the formulation of guidelines for a harmonised flood damage evaluation methodology for tangible – and partly intangible – damages; the development of an approach to assess ecological effects of contamination; the development of a multi-criteria approach for decision support; the analysis of factors influencing damage formation and mitigation with specific focus on preparatory measures, social networks and knowledge assets as well as the formulation of recommendations for flood risk management with the people at risk. The main point of reference of the FLOODsite Tasks 9-11 was the 2002 Mulde flood. The project was finished in February 2009.

Scientific Approach

Task 9: Methods of flood damage evaluation

In this task guidelines for flood damage evaluation methods in the EU were developed. First, a comparative study was carried out to review scientifically based flood damage evaluation methods currently used in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Germany. Based on a literature review and expert interviews the state-of-the-art methods used in practice as well as the role of damage evaluation in flood defence planning in the different countries were investigated.

Based on these findings a guideline document for socio-economic flood damage evaluation was elaborated in cooperation with partners from the U.K. (FHRC Flood Hazard Research Centre) and the Netherlands (WL Delft) by not only considering tangible damages on assets but also environmental damages as well as social effects. Regarding the diversity of objectives and data in different EU countries, the guidelines do not suggest one unified method across Europe but recommend specific approaches of evaluation techniques.

Task 10: Innovative methods to refine the understanding, modelling and evaluation of flood vulnerability

The overall objective of this work package was to focus on innovative methods to understand, model and evaluate flood damages and other flood losses. Four sub-objectives were important in this context. First, research was undertaken to develop a methodology for mapping loss-of-life risks. Second, a model to estimate the effectiveness of flood forecasting and warning systems in terms of damage saved was advanced (both done by FHRC). Third, the research examined and modelled the effects of floods on ecological systems and species, considering effects of inundation and pollution loads (WL Delft). Fourth, since the evaluation of flood damages and flood risk must often be done with several criteria and with a high degree of uncertainty involved, the research focused on the methodological foundation of multi-criteria evaluation to evaluate flood damage and flood risk under uncertainty, referring in particular to GIS-based damage models as well as to risk mapping related to loss of life and ecological risks (UFZ).

Task 11: Risk perception, community behaviour and social resilience

The main focus of this Task was on the perceptions, evaluations and the actual behaviour of residents of flood-prone (and recently flood-affected) communities. In particular, the interdependencies between subjective risk perception and individual preparedness on the one hand, and the role of different social networks during and after a flood, on the other, were investigated. A cross-national comparison between Germany (Mulde river), Italy (Adige/Sarca and Tagliamento rivers) and the United Kingdom (Thames river) provides knowledge about appropriate, accepted and possible mitigation measures from a bottom-up perspective which was mirrored with the perspective of decision-makers. The methodology included interviews with decision-makers and flood-related organisations, focus groups as well as standardised questionnaire surveys and in-depth interviews with people affected by recent floods, hence both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

The empirical research revealed a considerable cleavage between the scientific understanding of flood risk and its management on the one hand, and the risk constructions of the population, which influence their actions and behaviours, on the other hand. While decision-makers and a number of researchers assume that the public needs and also wants to be involved in risk management (e.g. by applying preparatory measures, participating in awareness campaigns or consulting flood risk maps), large parts of the public are not aware of this demand and regard the allocation of responsibility rather differently. The majority of residents neither feel involved nor expect to be involved in decision-making processes concerning flood risk: Flood protection is a public duty, this is the dominant view, and not a private one. We therefore regard the ambitious new paradigm of flood risk management as both a great challenge and a long-term task for practitioners, policy-makers and researchers since all of them will increasingly be required to talk to and with the people at risk and to listen to them if the actual outcome is to include them in decision-making processes and overall risk governance. Based on our empirical results, recommendations for flood risk management with the people at risk were formulated – thus translating some of our main findings about risk awareness, actual behaviour and social vulnerability into the language of those in charge of flood risk management in order to come to a true dialogue and improved preparedness.


Task 9 (completed):

Messner F., Meyer V., 2006: Flood damage, vulnerability and risk perception – challenges for flood damage research. In: Jochen Schanze, Evzen Zeman, Jiri Marsalek (eds.), Flood Risk Management - Hazards, Vulnerability and Mitigation Measures, Nato Science Series, Springer Publisher.

Task 10 (completed):

Meyer V, Haase D, Scheuer S (2008) A multicriteria flood risk assessment and mapping approach. In: Samuels P, Huntington S, Allsorp W, Harrop J (eds) Flood Risk Management: Research and Practice. Proceedings of the Conference "FloodRisk 2008", October 2008, Oxford.

Meyer V, Haase D, Scheuer S (2008) Flood Risk Assessment in European River Basins – Concept, Methods and Challenges. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (accepted).

Meyer V, Scheuer S, Haase D (2008) A multicriteria approach for flood risk mapping exemplified at the Mulde river, Germany. Natural Hazards (online first).

Task 11 (completed):

Steinführer, Annett; Kuhlicke, Christian; De Marchi, Bruna; Scolobig, Anna; Tapsell, Sue; Tunstall, Sylvia (2009): Local Communities at Risk from Flooding: Social Vulnerability, Resilience and Recommendations for Flood Risk Management in Europe. Leipzig: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, 88 pp.
Task11_Broschuere_7-09 (11.3 MB)

Kuhlicke C, Steinführer A, De Marchi B, Scolobig A (accepted), Risk Management, Participation and Public Perceptions. In: Jochen Schanze et al. (Hg.): Understanding Natural Disasters – Contribution to Risk in Europe. EU-Medin, Springer, Berlin, ca. 10 pp.

Steinführer A, Kuhlicke C, De Marchi B, Scolobig A, Tapsell S, Tunstall S (2008). Towards flood risk management with the people at risk: from scientific analysis to practice recommendations (and back). In: Samuels P, Huntington S, Allsop W, Harrop J (Eds.). Flood Risk Management: Research and Practice. CD-Rom. Leiden: CRC Press/Balkema, 945-955.

Kuhlicke C, Steinführer A (2007), Wider die Fixiertheit im Denken – Risikodialoge über Naturgefahren. Reaktion auf B. Merz, R. Emmermann (2006), Zum Umgang mit Naturgefahren in Deutschland: Vom Reagieren zum Risikomanagement, GAIA, 16/2, 91-92.

Kuhlicke C, Steinführer A (2006), Wie vorbereitet ist die Bevölkerung auf ein Hochwasserrisikomanagement? Lehren aus dem Hochwasser 2002. In: Jüpner R (Hg.), Beiträge zur Konferenz „Strategien und Instrumente zur Verbesserung des vorbeugenden Hochwasserschutzes“. Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Wasserwirtschaft und Ökotechnologie (IWO) der Hochschule Magdeburg – Stendal; 6, Shaker, Aachen, 45-53.