Decision-support tool for managing flood risk to infrastructure using satellite data

Scotland, UK

The challenge to people and the environment

Our cities are more at risk of flooding and subsidence due to fast-changing human and natural environmental pressures like population growth and climate change.

Growing populations in city regions and the affects of climate change mean the threat of flooding and subsidence will continue to increase. The growing number of news stories from across the world covering flood devastation to people and the environment is proof of this.

We need to come up with new and innovative ways to predict and manage risk flood and subsidence risk.

Identifying a solution: Earth observation data

Technological advances such as satellite-derived Earth observation data can help cities better predict the environmental impact of change – and build resilience. This type of data allows for hyper-detailed mapping, monitoring and analysis of the natural landscapes and the built environment.

We partnered with Scottish Canals, and Rezatec, a provider of geospatial data analytics, to design and deliver a pilot investigation with a focus on a key aspect of resilience development: flooding and subsidence risks to infrastructure and asset management. We called this the Urban Resilience Geo-Data platform (URGED platform). The project was co-funded by the European Space Agency and in partnership with Rezatec.

The pilot’s objectives: URGED would demonstrate the value of satellite data sources in enabling strategic investment and decision-making to support more resilient critical infrastructure asset management and development pathways

The aim was to make a profound contribution to city-regional economic, environmental and human wellbeing.

This predictive decision-support tool for urban design and planning would cover:

  • identification of flood hazard
  • assessment of exposure to flood hazard
  • relative estimation of urban flood vulnerability
  • updated flood risk associated with urban, rural land cover scenarios

The rewards: enabling cities to become more resilient to environmental and social changes

Incorporating new satellite data sources to machine learning technology and techniques can help cities to withstand environmental and social challenges. It can also boost new commercial opportunity and economic development.

The approach

The Resilience Brokers team was responsible for overall project coordination and report development. Rezatec (UK Services) Ltd provided analysis and Earth Observation expertise, and the services of the URGED platform. Scottish Canals shared datasets and detailed requirements.

As Andrew Simmons of Resilience Brokers explains: “Earth observation data and other information play increasingly important roles in research, policy and decision making for cities, notably in areas of urban resilience and climate-change adaptation.”

Tools and techniques used

The pilot investigation using data, and analytics to effectively support asset management and resilience for a well-defined study location was applied to the Scottish Canals asset network. Tools and techniques used included:

  • EO, raster analyses: ERDAS Imagine, Harris ENVI and SARscapeand SNAP;
  • Vector data mgt: FME, QGIS, GDAL and PostGIS;
  • Hydrological analyses: MIKE FLOOD, WhiteBox;
  • Time series and forecasting: R-Shiny / R-Studio.

This resulted in the following outputs: Soil subsidence, soil moisture, downslope risk analysis report.

Target user communities

URGED targeted three user communities and their uses:

  1. Water Utilities use URGED for monitoring ground movement, vegetation encroachment and pipeline risk — for better pip management.
  2. Urban Infrastructure Management, to identify locations where potential infrastructure failure may result in significant damage to built-up areas.
  3. Town /City Authorities, to map Urban Green Spaces, which have an important role providing recreation and tourism locations; controlling urban climate including temperature and air quality; and increasing the health and wellbeing in the city population.

Pilot results and next steps

Results showed the efficacy of how satellite monitoring of critical assets can help with risk assessments and resilient infrastructure management.

EO data can give infrastructure and utility managers a greater understanding of risks, in this case of flooding and slope risks, in order to better plan and maintain their assets and networks. He concluded with the case for investing in EO data leading to greater infrastructure productivity, which through integrated planning can translate into a saving of up to 40% of the cost of the infrastructure needed to deliver the Sendai Framework and Global Goals.

Following the delivery of the pilot, Scottish Canals are considering to adopt this tool as a part of their asset management approach.

Rezatec have developed a commercial offering using the URGED platform and have designed a digital interface for the resilience.io platform.


Contact us about this project

Any questions about this project? Get in touch with us at team@resiliencebrokers.org