One of the main research activities of Flanders Hydraulics Research is to understand, explain and simulate the water discharge in rivers and canals, taking into account all the features of the waterway. Our focus is on the management of surface water, but in collaboration with other partners, we are also committed to a comprehensive approach, including rainwater and groundwater.
Flanders Hydraulics Research’s expertise extends from flood models to water availability studies. Scenario analyses of the current or future state often play a central role in these, especially in terms of calculations and analysis.
We support Flemish policy makers and managers of navigable waterways and the coastal zone. Our knowledge is used to develop (local and international) water regulations in the field, to make strategic plans and to improve the operational management.
Flanders Hydraulics Research develops a wide range of activities in the field of floods. These include the operational tasks of the Hydrological Information Centre (HIC) as well as measurement campaigns during high-water situations or helicopter flights to quickly assess the situation.
Moreover, Flanders Hydraulics Research has invested in flooding studies for quite some time, mainly through numerical models. We start with a detailed representation of the current state of the river, its structures (and their management), dykes, etc. to quantify the rise of the water level and storms in the tidal area. This allows us to clearly identify the extent of floods, water depths, current velocities, etc.
We provide an updated model of all navigable waterways in Flanders and the coastal zone to quickly respond to new advice and research topics. In this manner, we can modify the boundary parameters to study e.g. the effects of climate change. Or we can study the effects of an intervention prior to the implementation by adjusting the model.
The increasing processing power of computers allows us to develop models that include a continuously growing area. We can therefore study the combined effects of storms and high river discharges, and their relationship.
Not all floods result in the same consequences. Certain areas, such as flood control areas (FCA) or controlled reduced tide (CRT) areas ), are even constructed with the aim to allow them to flood more or less regularly. That is the reason we develop our flood maps using hydraulic models combined with damage models to determine the economic, environmental and social risks.
Hydrological Information Centre
The Hydrological Information Centre (HIC) is part of Flanders Hydraulics Research and is responsible for the ongoing operational services for policy makers and managers of Flemish waterways and for the public. It provides specific products and services such as high- and low-water reports, real-time water levels and river flows, and forecasts of discharges and water levels (from the next few hours up to 10 days in the future). The HIC also organises helicopter flights during floods to identify the affected areas. Sediment and water samples from continuous measurements or measurement campaigns are analysed in the sediment laboratory of Flanders Hydraulics Research.
Development of forecasting & warning systems
The HIC uses accurate forecast models provided by the latest measurement information from its own measurement network, but also utilises similar measurements and predictions from Wallonia, Brussels, France and the Netherlands in addition to meteorological forecasts. Several times per day, the water levels and discharges are predicted for the next 48 hours. Continuous monitoring ensures the operation of the measurement network and the availability of the measurements and predictions. When significant rainfall or high water levels occur in tidal areas with an increased risk of flooding, constant monitoring of the water system is provided. A permanent team of experts is also in direct contact with all the relevant agencies. This team is responsible for preparing flood messages and communicating them with the crisis centres. To improve access to the predictions, flood messages and all other HIC products by professional agencies and the public, the HIC has developed the website www.waterinfo.be together with the Flemish water managers. All real-time measurements and predictions from all agencies, including interpretations of the current and expected situation, will be made available on this site.
In Flanders, a large number of people live within a limited area. Our water availability is also low compared to most other European countries. It is therefore an important exercise to achieve an optimal allocation of the available water including many complex parameters.
As technical experts, we provide support to policy makers and managers of navigable waterways and the coastal zone.
Flanders Hydraulics Research is represented in work groups for water management and policies in Flanders, Belgium and internationally. Our focus is on the international river basin districts of the Scheldt and the Meuse, however we also help develop integrated water policy for other river basins within and outside of Europe.
For large projects, such as the Sigma Plan or the Integrated Coastal Safety Plan, we provide technical support during the entire process: from development of the vision and the initial ideas to the final plan and the implementation in the field. As an independent knowledge centre, we support scenarios for individual measures and measure programmes with figures.
The European Flood Directive (2007/60/ EC) and the Decree on Integrated Water Policy are important references. Every six years, Flanders Hydraulics Research creates a full set of maps for all navigable waterways and in doing so goes beyond what is strictly required for European reporting. We want to not only comply with the rules, but offer policy makers and managers the best possible insight into the studied water system.
Low water strategies
- realise an action plan in case of water shortages in the Albertkanaal and the Kempische kanalen. This plan aims to formulate appropriate solutions for the different sectors (navigation, agriculture, industry, drinking water facilities, electricity generation);
- measures to deal with the impact of climate change on river flows and water levels;
- preparation of monthly low water reports for the period April to October.
- design of CRT’s and FCA’s which are planned in the new Sigma Plan;
- realisation of the Integrated Coastal Security Plan;
- optimization calculations for the weirs on the Dender;
- a method to determine the breach sensitivity of Flemish dikes;
- development of a softwaretool LATIS to determine damage- and risk analysis.
Our HIC team works on projects on:
- updating the website www.waterinfo.be. This site provides info on the water levels in Flemish waterways.
- management and validation of the measured data;
- forecasts of water levels and discharges based on these data and numerical models;
- the dissemination of this information to the administrators of the Flemish waterways, citizens and official bodies.