Five Steps Government Can Take to Better Predict and Prevent Flooding

By Tyson Echentile, IoT Global Leader, SAS

By 2030, it’s estimated that the number of people affected by annual flooding events will more than double to 147 million globally with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating more than $40 billion in damage to urban infrastructure worldwide from flooding. Increases in land development across the globe combined with changing weather patterns have caused more frequent flooding events that are impacting both coastal and inland communities, some of which were not previously prone to flooding. Regardless of locale, these events often wreak havoc on communities, leading to infrastructure and property loss, road closures that disrupt essential services, compromised ecosystems, and even casualties.

Currently, many government entities rely on their citizens to report flooding before initiating an emergency response, leaving little or no time to react — with damage having already been sustained and safety compromised. Some municipalities benefit from having their own storm water management team that study the topography of the land, assess past flooding events, and conduct hydrologic simulations. But these exercises are mostly focused on historical events, leveraging outdated flood maps, and involving a static environment, that cannot provide insights during an actual flooding event. These are a few of the reasons why municipalities continue to be reactive to the world’s #1 natural disaster, leaving communities exposed to reoccurring loss year after year.

Municipalities must embrace technology to kick the “break-fix mentality” and move towards a predictive and proactive approach to better protect their communities. An emphasis on real-time monitoring of waterways and infrastructure — such as buildings, homes, and roads as well as critical assets essential to flood mitigation such as canals, culverts, and pumps — is a step in the right direction. Leveraging cost effective IoT sensors to monitor stream levels, rain gauges that measure localized rainfall, soil probes that monitor soil saturation and composition, or tidal buoys outfitted with a multitude of sensors from wind speed to tidal flow can quickly improve situational awareness and provide stormwater teams with valuable information.

By combining these IoT sensors with historical flood data, traditional flood maps, weather forecasts, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), government entities can further mitigate the impacts of flooding and move closer towards a proactive approach to flood mitigation. However, many municipalities do not have their own stormwater team, nor can we expect stormwater experts to analyze these data feeds 24×7. Instead, municipalities can best protect their citizens and infrastructure by combining both realtime and historical data with advanced analytics to automate alerting, predict equipment failures using machine learning techniques, and develop advanced flood detection models. In addition, these analytical models and insights can be combined with traditional physics-based modeling techniques and simulations to better equip municipalities to make more informed decisions around major infrastructure changes to mitigate flood and provide recommendations on land development projects that might be wprone to flooding.

Here are 5 key capabilities Governments need to better plan, predict and respond to flood:

1. Identify the gaps in your current strategy for identifying, managing, and responding to flooding events and the economic impact this will have if improvements are not made.

2. Develop a strategy that will improve situational awareness specific to your locale, regardless of your geographic location, position along a watershed, or proximity to a large body of water.

3. Implement technology (hardware & software) that will provide real-time monitoring and drive a better and more informed decision-making processes.

4. Leverage machine learning, AI, and other advanced analytics techniques that combine multiple data sources and deliver automated alerts, advanced flood forecasts, and other actionable insights.

5. Disseminate information to better prepare and guide all stakeholders before, during, and after a flooding event including citizens, business owners, emergency responders, and transportation management teams.

If you’re community is facing challenges associated with complex coordination, lack of situational awareness, and an increasing frequency in flooding events, you’re not alone. Check out my new video from the 2021 SAS Global Forum to learn more about how SAS and our partners are working with municipalities around the world to better prepare, predict, and respond to the worlds #1 natural disaster.

About SAS in IoT
SAS empowers organizations to create and sustain business value from diverse IoT data and initiatives, whether that data is at the edge, in the cloud, or anywhere in between. Our robust, scalable, and open edge-to-cloud analytics platform delivers deep expertise in advanced analytics – including AI, machine learning, deep learning, and streaming analytics – to help customers reduce risk and boost business performance. Learn more about our industry and technology solutions at