An early flood warning app designed for the city of Accra, in Ghana, will make all the difference to the city’s resilience, its people and their future wellbeing, posits Royal HaskoningDHV global business line for water director Anke Mastenbroek.
The app is a notable example of a smart water solution pioneered by Royal HaskoningDHV. As floods and storms are the natural disaster with the highest impact, the company is developing a general flood service for both private and government clients in order to make their assets flood resilient. Owing to its expertise in designing water systems and combining engineering expertise with data knowledge, the independent international engineering and project management consultancy is ranked as one of the top ten water companies in the world, Mastenbroek says.
“All the data from rainfall, sewer systems and hydraulic systems was collected to set up a model that predicts flood extents in Accra. This vast array of information and knowledge has been transformed into something vital and workable. The app is linked to this system and provides an early warning to Accranians about upcoming flash floods. The immediacy and accessibility of this proactive warning system gives them a window for preparedness that the reactive warning systems via radio and motorbike, from house-to-house, cannot match,” she says.
This app, launched on September 16, 2016, was developed, in conjunction with the Ghana National Disaster Management Organisation, by the company’s experts, together with its partners Infoplaza and water management consultancy Nelen & Schuurmans. The project was financed by Via Water, a Dutch initiative that seeks innovations to deal with the water challenges faced by African cities.
Mastenbroek refers to a huge flood experienced in Ghana in 2015 – during which 150 people died – as a catalyst for this app being developed. One of the solutions envisaged was to make data available to warn of imminent floods, which they successfully executed. This is an important development in view of increased urbanisation over the past decade leading to more frequent flash floods. These are especially dangerous at night, inflicting loss of life, illness and general devastation, owing to polluted water after flooding and material damage.
While it obviously does not prevent floods from occurring, it does mitigate the risks involved and prevent causalities. Eventually, permanent measures to prevent flooding are envisioned, but this is a relatively cheap, simple stopgap solution for a very complex problem, the first step before long-term, integrated measures can be developed and implemented.O
ne should not underestimate the financial damage that floods cause, for industries as well. With a changing climate, managing risks has never been more critical. An impact assessment, knowing which assets are most vulnerable, is becoming essential. With the correct prevention measures, including early warning, downtime at sites can be prevented, emphasises Mastenbroek.