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Content archived on 2024-05-14

Flood risk reduction by space borne recognition of indicators of ex cess runoff generating areas


Floods are among the major natural hazards affecting landscapes, agriculture and human activity. They cause recurrent losses of yields, of revenue and sometimes of human life. They also contribute to the erosion and destruction of soils, to loss of fertilisers and to the spreading of pollutants. Although hydrological models can help to forecast runoff and flood behaviour, generation of floods, especially the strong ones, is highly dependent on the physical characteristics of the upstream drainage basin. These characteristics are usually govemed by physiography, permeability, crusting and saturation of soils and surface materials, as well as by vegetation cover and human intervention on the landscape such as agricultural practices and urbanisation. Several regional authorities as the Regional Council of the Upper Normandy Region or ERSAL, the regional board for agricultural development in Lombardia have adopted similar strategy for the regional management of excess surface-water runoff, with the aim of reducing its consequences. This strategy involves the regional actors and, among them, those representing the Ministry of Agriculture, whose mission is to bring into play agricultural policies on the regional level and to see that there is a greater consideration of agro-environmental components in policy making.
The main objectives of this strategy is to restrict or control the risks associated with surface runoff, erosion and deterioration of the quality of agricultural waters that supply aquifers and to work towards the joint management of catchment basins. A regional approach is one of the prerequisites for concerted actions at various scale of investigation, from individual plots, through catchment basins, to an entire agricultural unit and an administrative region.
The Commission, namely DG6, is also deeply concerned by the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on the environment, it hopes to see a reduction in intensive agricultural practices. Therefore, DG6 wishes to encourage the increased consideration of agro-environmental components, and to become intimately involved in the policy to reduce natural risks, more specifically, drought, forest fires and flooding.
Existing remote sensing and GIS techniques have the capability to identify some of the key indicators in the hydrological behaviour such as vegetation cover affecting erosive power of rainfall, and sub-basin shapes and morphometry affecting flood concentration time.
The FLOODGEN project is drawn for answering to the requirements of those two kinds of customers: (1) regional authorities (in France and Italy), which represent potential users of information extracted from remote sensing data for their main concern of regional assessment (2) The second customer, DG6-A2, has previous experience with the products of remote sensing but their request is new and no systematic information have been distributed until now on this topic.
The first aim of FLOODGEN is to use remote sensing for mapping the upslream contributing agricultural areas in the form of risk categories for the noodzones located downstream. The second aim is to design and test a remote sensing based decision support tool that can be used to modulate Ihe set-aside policy in order to reduce flood risks in the downstream areas. Thanks to this tool high risk sub-basins could then be identified as priority areas for corrective interventions such as reforestation or setting aside agricultural land if the model shows a possible improvement from such actions. Besides this central aclivity the consortium proposes a methodological research targeted on the potcntial interest of new sensors for the same purpose (radar, high spatial resolution with optical sensors, new index using the middle infra-red range).
The consortium involves partners from Member States and from foreigll States and will take advantage of the specific skill of every partner: two regional uscrs (DRAF from France and ERSAL frolll Italy), four Universities or educational organisms (CARTEL Irom Canada, Univ.of Lyon2 from France, Univ of Trier from Germany, EPFL from Switzerland), a research organism (It\lRA from France) and a semi-public Company (BRGM) as coordinator of tlle project. This project also associates private company (viasat from Canada) as sub-contractor involved in the module dedicated to the preparation of new sensors (i.e radar). As customers or tinal end-users, the DRAF, ERSAL and the DG6-A2 have pronounced their agreement for a high involvment in the definition of requirement and the assessment of results

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