The 20th century was characterized by an increase in the intensity of floods in the headwaters of river basins. Floods are known to cause significant economic losses in infrastructure, changes in the geographic landscape, or, in the worst cases, loss of human lives.
In August 2002, Europe experienced the most severe flood in the last hundred years. Torrential rains during the summer affected several countries, including the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, and Russia. Approximately 250,000 people were directly affected throughout Europe, and the damages were estimated at 20 billion dollars. In Russia, the most affected region was the southern part of the country, including the Stavropol region, Krasnodar, and the republics of Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria, where 104 people lost their lives.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf of Mexico, causing major floods in the US states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The levees around the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, broke, resulting in widespread flooding. The majority of the city’s population was evacuated. This catastrophe claimed 1,193 lives, and the economic damage was estimated at 60 billion dollars.
In Spain, on August 7, 1996, an intense storm in the headwaters of the Arás ravine caused a major flash flood that devastated the Las Nieves campsite located near the confluence with the Gállego River. Eighty-seven people lost their lives, and 183 were injured, in addition to significant material damages.
These are just a few examples of extreme floods. Factors such as extreme precipitation, late snowmelt, or soil saturation can contribute to the severity of a flood event.
Weather forecasting, hydrological modeling, and river monitoring are some of the tools that contribute to the prediction and monitoring of these natural phenomena.
Public institutions, aware of the severe damages caused by floods and obliged to prevent such situations, have launched the Risqhydro project: a network of hydrological sensors for flood risk alert.
Risqhydro is a cross-border project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and promoted by the Provincial Council of Lleida. It involves the participation of the Comarcal Councils of Alt Urgell, Alta Ribagorça, Pallars Jussà, Pallars Sobirà, the Conselh Generau d’Aran, and the Communauté de Communes du Canton de Saint Béat in France.
The project leaders chose Smarty River to install a network of 32 hydrological stations and a web platform as an Early Flood Risk Alert Service (SAPI). The network provides real-time monitoring of river conditions and rainfall in the headwaters of the basins. It offers information and warnings to the relevant authorities, who then communicate the flood risk situation to the affected populations in the Catalan and French Pyrenees regions.
The Risqhydro network consists of 32 hydrological stations equipped with radar technology for reliable and precise river level measurements, rainfall intensity gauges, ambient temperature and relative humidity sensors, data transmission stations connected to the cloud, photovoltaic power supply, and a web platform for sensor monitoring and data consultation.
Benefits of the Risqhydro network
The Risqhydro network allows remote and real-time monitoring of river levels and precipitation in the headwaters of basins. Its robust and low-maintenance installation can be deployed in locations where accurate and reliable data is required.
The project is a turnkey solution, including sensor stations, installation, communication systems, and the web platform.
Compared to conventional flow measurement and hydrological monitoring methods, the costs are significantly lower, offering a favorable cost-benefit ratio that is considered by public administrations.
The network provides hydrological and flood risk information to the general population, tailored to the information channels made available by technology.
Obtaining information that supports risk management decisions, which may affect a large number of people and assets, brings tangible social benefits to institutions and citizens.
The Risqhydro network is integrated with the CECAT (Catalonia Coordination Center), part of the Interior Department of the Government of Catalonia.