Real-time, property-level surface water flood forecasting

Our research has developed the world鈥檚 first property-level surface water forecasting tool to save lives and livelihoods worldwide.

Cities around the globe are increasingly vulnerable to surface water flooding due to rapid urbanisation, infrastructure developments and more intense rainfall.

The CEO of the UK Environment Agency has described this type of flooding as “the biggest flood risk of all” (2018).

Flood losses can be mitigated with accurate flood forecasting, but existing systems are often not fit for purpose, limited by their spatial resolution and analytical abilities.

Our researchers have developed the world’s first real-time street-level surface-water flood forecasting technology. Drawing on almost two decades of research and validation in 50 cities across five continents, the technology commercialised though spinout company, , has the potential to save lives and livelihoods worldwide.

The company's stated mission is "to minimise the effect of flooding globally by enabling people and organisations to proactively mitigate its impacts."

We鈥檝e partnered with Previsico to monitor flood forecasts and install sensors which provide real time data to mitigate flood losses鈥 The results are looking really promising and we look forward to continuing work with Previsico.

United Utilities

Our impact

Improved forecasting capacity for surface water flooding

  • Technology is embedded in UK Cabinet Office portal in July 2020 – a world first for an emergency planning system
  • Expertise contributed to Defra’s Surface Water Action Plan 2018
  • Flood forecasting systems are in place in Macau and Kenya to support evacuation planning and the direction of disaster relief resources ahead of flood events

Improved emergency response during flooding

  • London Fire Brigade co-developed flood risk metrics and bespoke flood nowcasting tool
  • The University spinout company, Previsico, has global impact - supporting the decision making of governments, insurance companies, humanitarian organisations and first responders

Enabling global adoption

“Previsico’s technology allows us to use data intelligently and integrate it seamlessly into our risk management portal for customers. This provides very real value to our insureds.”
Carol Baker Head of Digital - Liberty Specialty Markets

  • Partnerships with IBM, Zurich and BT enable global adoption for maximum societal and economic impact
  • Recently established partnerships with Nexus Alpha, Everbridge, Liberty Group and Generali are extending the technology’s benefits to the USA

Healthy growth

  • Previsico – creation of 37 jobs in multiple countries, rising to 70 by 2025

Flood forecasting and prevention in Whalley, Lancashire

It can take years for communities to recover from the economic and emotional impacts of flooding. 海角社区 University spinout Previsico is empowering local action groups including Whalley, Lancashire which was devastated by flooding in 2015, to make sure it never happens again.

Our partnership with Previsico enables our customers to be better informed and able to mitigate the potentially devastating impacts of flood damage. I鈥檓 proud that we鈥檙e helping to build greater resilience in communities.

Amy Brettell Managing Director - Zurich Municipal

The research

We have pioneered research into real-time, street-level surface water flood nowcasting 鈥 a much-needed capability in a changing climate where weather is becoming increasingly uncertain and unfamiliar.

Our foremost contribution is our world-first, real-time surface water flood forecasting and sensor technology developed with local, national and international partners.

To date, our research has advanced knowledge in flood modelling, communicating flood risk information, evaluating the accuracy of flood nowcasting and its application to manage ‘hotspots’ for disadvantaged and vulnerable populations such as hospitals, care homes and schools.

This has resulted in the global commercialisation of third-generation technology, crucially aligned to UK Government's long-term resilience plan and the UN framework for disaster risk reduction. Adoption is steadily becoming more widespread.

The research has appeared in leading journals – including Nature, Nature Sustainability and the Journal of Hydrology – adding to global knowledge and supporting the work of other researchers world-wide.

This is ground-breaking work that will immensely assist our resilience community in making informed decisions for planning and response to flood events and impact.

Luana Avagliano Head of ResilienceDirect - Cabinet Office

Research funder

  • NERC

Development partners

Multiple local and national public sector resilience organisations, including:

  • Acies
  • Decartes
  • National Grid
  • Network Rail
  • United Utilities

Meet the experts

Photograph of Robert Wilby

Professor Rob Wilby

Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling