The risk of flooding of small watercourses is a major problem in several Italian urban areas. Urbanisation, with a consequent decrease of soil permeability and loss of space for river and stream beds, is increasing the likelihood of flooding and the severity of its effects. Furthermore, climate change is likely to make severe rainfall events and flash flooding more common. Despite its dramatic and damaging effects, the risk of flooding of small watercourses in urban areas is often underestimated, and few prevention and mitigation measures have been undertaken.
The main objective of the RainBO life project was the improvement of knowledge, methods and tools for the understanding and forecasting of the potential impact of heavy rains, especially with regard to the hydrological response of small basins and to the vulnerability of assets in the urbanarea. Additional objectives included: developing an information system to provide territorial and census data, risks maps and information on critical infrastructure and buildings; implementing advanced infrastructure for environmental monitoring; creating hydro-geological models based on fields of precipitation for the forecasting of flash floods in small basis; and developing a flexible and scalable software platform to integrate data and models.
RainBO Life successfully developed a system based on advanced measurement tools and a communication platform, in order to reduce flood risks and support the resilience of local communities. An innovative tool based on sensors and microwave communication links, and advanced computer simulations, provided the basis for forecasting and monitoring of intense rainfall events that impact on the municipality of Bologna. This was integrated with a flood alert system, especially focused on vulnerable urban areas.
The project team studied the state-of-the-art on extreme rainfall phenomena and assessed the potential needs of users of the forecasting and monitoring tool. They then created datasets with territorial data, risk maps and information on vulnerable infrastructures and buildings in the Emilia-Romagna region. The tool required the collection of microwave links data and the design of an algorithm for their elaboration. This was the projects main innovation, making it possible to monitor rainfall in "real time" to obtain more accurate and more frequently updated meteorological data than before.
The RainBO platform was validated in two pilot areas in the Emilia-Romagna region: i) the Ravone River basin and the Municipality of Bologna and ii) the Parma River basin and the city of Parma. The developed system provided information that supports risk assessment and monitoring by public entities to prevent and reduce the impacts of extreme events on vulnerable urban areas and infrastructures. The system enables the monitoring of the evolution of rainfall events, to better diagnose actual weather conditions and to support emergency management in case of potential flash floods. The system simulates weather scenarios by means of climate and hydrological models, assessing the potential impacts of intense rainfalls in small basins. The flood risk is expected to be reduced by 70% in the territories where the hydrological monitoring approach based on the RainBO platform will be applied.
Benefits achieved during the projects lifetime, due to the testing of the RainBO system, are related to an area ofabout 60 km2 in the Ravone and Parma river basins. Here, the use of the platform was approved through an official agreement involving seven municipalities, besides Bologna and Parma who were already involved at the start of the project. This area is expected to more than double in the three years after the project end, and could possibly reach the whole Emilia-Romagna region (22 450 km2) in the long term, considering the effective involvement of the regional authorities.
The monitoring tools developed by the project are flexible and therefore adaptable to different urban areas and are replicable at various scales. The projects results were effectively disseminated, to encourage other administrations in implement the tools. In this regard, the project team established contacts with five other Italian regions (Piemonte, Liguria, Toscana, Lombardia, and Province of Trento) interested in implementing the system.Regarding policy, the project supports the implementation of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change and the related Italian Strategy. Moreover, the projects outcomes help implement the Risk Management Plans required by the Floods Directive. The project also implements the Climate Adaptation Plan for the City of Bologna, which was set up by the previous LIFE project, BLUEAP. The RainBO system showed that it is possible to reduce the hydraulic risks caused by episodes of intense rainfall and higher vulnerability of territories. In the long run, this will lead to significant economic benefits as money will not be spent repairing damage to residential buildings and productive sectors. The costs of damage caused by extreme flooding events in the Emilia-Romagna region amounts to around 288 000 000 per year. Also, the number of injuries and fatalities are expected to decrease thanks to the support provided to local authorities in urban planning and in the increase of resilience of communities.
Moreover, local companies working in the field of telecommunication and data processing are expected to be involved in the activities, and will access know-how and innovative skills, increasing their economic competitiveness.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).