Strategy Flood Control

The floods of 2002 and 2005 have shown that floods can destroy protective structures in spite of all efforts. Perfect flood control does not exist.

On the basis of the insights gained three main targets are defined and pursued for flood control

Target 1: Protection of human lives

Saving human lives has top priority. Important infrastructural facilities such as hospitals and other lines of supply require a higher level of protection than replaceable material values. Measures to evacuate and to safeguard persons are always to be included in the planning.

Target 2: Taking necessary flood control measures
Protective structures to safeguard existing settlements will be necessary also in future. They can only fulfil their functions if they are permanently maintained and checked for their efficiency.

Target 3: Protection of bodies of water
Only rarely do bodies of water swell to destructive floods. Their functions for nature and recreation should always be taken into consideration when planning measures. In many cases both sides - flood control and nature - can profit due to synergy effects.

The strategic orientation of flood control in Austria is based on many decades of experience, but resorts also to insights which have been gained in the course of the process of coping with the most recent flood disasters. The future tasks are first and foremost a more intensive integrated flood management with citizen’s participation, but also technical and content-related further development. 

Survey of the 10 strategies of flood protection for Austria

1. Demonstrating the limits of protection and the responsibilities of those involved
The limits of protection and the responsibilities of those involved must be demonstrated. Only the will to cooperate renders a damage control in the interest of the community possible.
Flood protection concerns everyone.

2. Promoting hazard knowledge and hazards awareness
Hazards awareness means knowing the danger and neither forgetting nor suppressing this knowledge, but taking it appropriately into consideration in all actions.

3. Ensuring a site-adapted use by means of land-use planning
The type of land-use has to be adapted to the characteristics of the site and not the site to the type-of land-use. Inundation areas should be available for retention, which goes frequently hand in hand with an improvement of the ecological situation of the river landscape.

4. Promoting incentive systems for individual precaution
Basically everybody is responsible by herself/himself for the protection of her/his property. And thus it can be reasonably expected by every individual to make an individual contribution to the prevention of floods. With good information, and, if appropriate, suitable incentives, which don’t have to be particularly expensive, a lot of things can be achieved in this respect.

5. Identifying flood-relevant negative developments
e.g. loss of retention areas, acceleration of run-off, uneven solids balance, instable riverbed location, etc.

6. Coordinating the planning made by the public sector
Many conflicts of interest can be avoided by the coordination of all relevant planning activities. The services of the Federal Government and the Federal Provinces must act as models in this respect.

7. Protective measures, where necessary
Even if in future flood protection will be primarily guaranteed by measures with an impact on spatial development it will still be necessary also in future to protect living environments and economic areas by means of technical protective structures.

8. Further developing emergency planning and disaster control measures
In the same way as fire protection doesn’t replace the fire brigade protective construction cannot replace emergency planning. However, even comprehensive control measures can never guarantee absolute security. It will always be necessary to complement their effect by emergency planning and disaster control measures.

9. Ensuring financial provisions
Like nature not protecting against the event as such, but taking precautions for a rapid regeneration, humans must ensure by means of savings, insurance, public or private assistance the restart after the event.

10. Improving early warning
Modern technologies improve the possibilities to predict the process and the intensity of flood events. By timely warning damage can be avoided or minimised.

All planning activities and measures of the Federal Water Engineering Administration (Bundeswasserbauverwaltung) can be assigned to three technical fields. In this context measures are implemented within the framework of “precautionary flood prevention”, which result in a reduction of runoff peaks and runoff velocities. Because the best flood protection is the one which prevents floods even from occurring. Natural water retention in wetlands and unbuilt valley areas reduce the flood risk at the root. The higher the natural retention and the seepage, the lower the downstream flood levels. “Technical flood protection as the main task of the Federal Water Engineering Administration (Bundeswasserbauverwaltung) concerns the construction of protective structures in or at the streamlet and in the flooding area. Where humans and material values must be protected technical flood protection measures in the form of quays, dams, retention basins, etc. are indispensable. However, the possibilities are limited and the security gained is relative. Major floods can still occur. Finally “flood prevention” relies on measures to reduce the potential of damage by means of area-related (land-use) measures, construction (flood-adapted construction), behaviour (warning and alert), and risk prevention (insurances). In spite of preventive and technical flood protection there still remains a residual risk, which can only be minimized by means of the right prevention at all levels of the society.

published at 17.07.2018, Kommunikation und Service (Abteilung Präs. 5)