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Flood Forecasting Centre trials GeoSmart’s groundwater data service

Our ground breaking new exploratory service will develop options for improved advance warning of groundwater flooding to the public and business community.

The Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC – a working partnership between the Environment Agency and the Met Office) offers a specialist hydrometeorology service, delivering forecasts for river, surface water, tidal/coastal and groundwater flooding in England and Wales. They provide the best possible intelligence and support to the Category 1 and 2 emergency response community, Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales flood warnings and Met Office severe weather warning services.

In the trials, we analyse Environment Agency hydrometry data to calculate and model rising groundwater levels to inform how they could affect catchments and therefore population centres in the vicinity and downstream in the coming days.

By assessing real time borehole data, probability and trend data and comparing to the typical average, our hydrogeology experts aim to confidently predict severity levels within the catchment.

The pilot study is designed to assess the effectiveness of the groundwater flood forecast service and to assess its potential as an operational system for use by the FFC.

While the effects of surface water runoff from flooding into rivers due to heavy rainfall are more immediate and understood, it is not the whole picture. Subject to soil conditions, groundwater flooding can occur up to 30 days after a surface flooding event, as the water takes time to percolate and move through the landscape, until it emerges in key risk areas. With nowhere to go, it can rise through floorboards, air bricks and into sewer systems.

Indeed, water companies are now scrutinised in their management of foul sewerage through flood episodes given the potential human and environmental health impacts when sewers becomes inundated.

“This pilot study is a true first of its kind” says Stuart Pearce, Managing Director of GeoSmart. “By working closely with the Flood Forecasting Centre we are pooling our scientific expertise to explore ways of providing a national overview of groundwater flooding”.

“We hope by harnessing open data in this way, we can help to enable communities, critical infrastructure and utilities plan resilience measures and support authorities in their response through the flooding cycle.”