Expert of the Week   for  07 - 13 Jul 2014

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Giacomo Teruggi

Project Officer, Associated Programme on Flood Management (APFM) and Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP)

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Expertise:  Integrated Flood Management, i.e. combining technical aspects (usually confined to engineering) with social, environmental and policy issues related to the management of floods.

Holding a MSc in Hydraulics, Hydrology and Environmental Engineering, Giacomo Teruggi is engaged in WMO Climate and Water Department since 2004. For the past five years he has been taking care of the APFM activities, particularly focusing on capacity building, while at the same time assisting in the setup of the Integrated Drought Management Programme, launched in March 2013.

Integrated Flood Management (IFM): a holistic approach to minimize loss of life and to make better use of flood plains

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QQuestion by Mr Monty Cruz

Is integrated flood management similar in approach to integrated watershed management?

Mr Monty Cruz Student | Student

APosted on 16 Jul 2014

There are clearly some similarities between the two approaches.

According to the definition given by ICIMOD ( “Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) provides a framework to integrate natural resource management with community livelihoods in a sustainable way”.

Integrated Flood Management (IFM) integrates land and water resources development in a river basin, within the context of Integrated Water Resources Management, with a view to maximizing the efficient use of floodplains and to minimizing loss of life. 

Both approaches are encompassed under the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), defined by the Global Water Partnership as “a process which promotes the coordinated management and development of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems”. This approach recognizes that a single intervention has implications for the system as a whole, and that the integration of development and flood management can yield multiple benefits from a single intervention

In IFM, land-use planning and water management are combined in one synthesized plan with a certain common field, to enable the sharing of information between land-use planning and water management authorities. The rationale for this integration, common to IWM, is that the use of land has impacts upon both water quantity and quality. The three main elements of river basin management – water quantity, water quality, and the processes of erosion and deposition – are inherently linked and are the primary reasons for which IFM adopts an approach based on river basins. 

Moreover, Integrated Flood Management takes a participatory, cross-sectoral and transparent approach to decision-making. The defining characteristic of IFM is integration, expressed simultaneously in different forms: an appropriate mix of strategies, carefully selected points of interventions, and appropriate types of interventions (structural or non-structural, short- or long-term). An Integrated Flood Management plan should address the following six key elements that follow logically for managing floods in the context of an IWRM approach:

  • Manage the water cycle as a whole;
  • Integrate land and water management;
  • Manage risk and uncertainty;
  • Adopt a best mix of strategies;
  • Ensure a participatory approach; and
  • Adopt integrated hazard management approaches.

Further information on the relation between IWRM, IFM and IWM can be found in the IFM concept paper, available at

QQuestion by Mr reza hami

we have runoff problem in our city . the positive aspect is that the city streets are slope and the water rain will go off very soon . but if rain continues the flood will go to peoples home basement. what should we do?

Mr reza hami manager | azarnejat
Iran, Islamic Rep of

APosted on 10 Jul 2014

As it seems quite urgent, I’ll reply in a shorter way: Clearly you seem to have an urban flood management issue due to heavy precipitation. In terms of immediate response, you’ll need to put in practice precise flood proofing and emergency measures to secure avoiding: 
1) Loss of human lives and 
2) Damages to goods and disruption of normal activities 
As per my reply of yesterday about Thailand, I do not have enough elements from where I am to tell you if you’d have to, for example, use sandbags, or evacuate houses, or else. I can only point you out that there are a couple of IFM Tools dealing with these issues (even if they are more tailored to the planning phase), from which you could get some ideas about what to do: the first one is the Tool on Flood Proofing ( and the one on flood emergency planning (   
At a later stage, once the emergency passed, you may wish to consider other specific IFM Tools focusing on Urban Flood Management ( also considering climate change ( APFM together with CapNet has also developed a training manual on Urban Flood Management ( and we periodically deliver training courses upon requests received through our IFM HelpDesk (
For the time being, I wish you Best of luck! 

QQuestion by Dr Takeo Okubo

Dear Mr. Terrugi,
I am studying flood risk prevention in Thailand and would like to ask your opinion on how best avoid a repeat of the 2011 flood disaster in Central Thailand. Its either drought or floods in Thailand every year. Thanks.

Dr Takeo Okubo Researcher | Ritsumeikan University

APosted on 09 Jul 2014

Dear Dr Okubo,
the question is complex, and I do not have currently enough elements to provide you THE solution. Integrated Flood Management (IFM) is not about “pulling out the rabbit from the cylinder hat”, but rather finding the best mix of strategies that would adapt to the local situation. As such, to propose solutions for Thailand aiming to avoid a situation like 2011 is a task that needs a proper assessment of the losses and of “what went wrong” in the past event: right now I don’t have enough information on this, and therefore my apologies if, in the following, I will keep to a very broad and general level.

Quoting the Concept Paper on Integrated Flood Management (, “IFM integrates and mixes strategies in a multi-sectorial approach, balancing development needs with environmental concerns through an adaptive management approach”.

Besides buzzwords, this translates into considering flood risk management not only as a purely technical or engineering problem (i.e. “how tall shall I build my levee” or “how accurate should be my forecast”), but considering other aspects related to economy, sociology, and policy.
You are probably familiar with UNISDR definition of risk as “The combination of the probability of an  event and its negative consequences” ( according to this, flood related disasters are therefore due to the combination of:
- a hazard, i.e. a hydro-meteorological extreme event
- exposure, often due to a poor (if not unexistent) land use planning, and little implementation (and maintenance!) of structural measures; and
- vulnerability, due to lack of awareness of people living in flood-prone areas, or to the improper use of flood prone areas for developing purposes (without mentioning specifically any bad examples: it is quite common to find new development of industrial, commercial, or residential areas in zones historically known as flood prone; sometimes this is even reflected in the place toponymy!)

The traditional approach to flood management has usually focused on structural measures, keeping the water in the river bed, and therefore aiming at reducing exposure. At the same time, this has led to a false sense of security of the people living behind these structural measures, exacerbating therefore damages when the flood overflows the levee (allow me in this regard to quote William Hammond Hall, first State Engineer of California in the 1880s, when he said that “There are two types of levees, those that have been overtopped by floodwaters, and those that will be”).

On the other hand, notwithstanding duly recognition of the importance of structural measures, IFM integrates other multi-disciplinary solutions (ranging from technical to social, environmental and policy issues) acting on:
- Undestanding the hazard, e.g. through flood forecasting, hydrological modelling, flood mapping, etc.
- Reducing the exposure, not only through structural measures (and their maintenance!) but also through promotion of building standards to ensure flood proofing
- Increasing resilience of people and assets at risk, therefore reducing vulnerability, through activities involving the population (e.g. early warnings, civil defense plans, awareness raising and education to risk) and policy issues (to regulate land use in such a way to optimize opportunities conciling flood management and development).

Additional info on the above topics (flood forecasting and warly warning , flood mapping , flood proofing, land use planning, etc.) are available from the IFM Tools, which you can download for free at the address These IFM Tools, far from being exhaustive manuals, consitute an entry point to each specific topic, providing references to other available resources and know-how. Otherwise, for a wider and more general presentation of the different aspects of IFM, you may wish to consider the main policy series on IFM (available at

QQuestion by Mr Jyotiraj Patra

Dear Giacomo,

I am working on science-policy interface for flood disaster risk management in India. In your opinion, how could we better improve coordination among scientists, policy makers and disaster management practitioners?


Mr Jyotiraj Patra Research Award Recipient (RAR) | International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

APosted on 08 Jul 2014

Dear Raj,
The issue of the science-policy interface is already per se a quite complex issue, which becomes even more complicated if you consider also additional stakeholders, such as the disaster management sector, the population at risk, the media, etc.
In my experience, proper communication between these parties is often a neglected issue. If the recent trend in the scientific sector is to provide to the users hydrometeorological products (such as flood forecasting and early warning, flood maps, or any other decision-support system), it is not always granted that these same products are presented by the scientific community in such a way that the user could understand or make any use of them.
The key of a proper coordination lies with understanding each other, therefore particular effort should be put to avoid “lost in translation” issues. Moreover, a good way to achieve synergies between science and policy is for the scientific community to “get in the shoes” of policy makers, and try to understand which are their objectives. 
To make a practical example, I could mention you the “OECD Review on Flood Risk Management of the Seine River in Ile-de-France region” ( study starts from a scientific assessment on potential flood losses in Paris and Ile-de-France, describing the procedure in detail. Moreover, on the basis of the outcomes of this flood loss assessment, the paper then makes a series of proposals for better flood management.By focusing on the potential impacts of a major flood event, the study gets the attention of policy makers, who have then a quantifiable potential loss on which to act. To overcome the “lost in translation issue”, a smaller executive summary has also been produced from the main paper. Similarly, press releases at the use of the media have been produced, to avoid that the message gets misinterpreted and wrongly disseminated.
However, it is not always granted for the scientific community to find the best way to communicate with different stakeholders, such as the media or policy makers. As such, the support of specific experts in the field of communication or policy making may be of extreme benefit to overcome the existing communication gap. 
In order to identify the existing policy gaps in a specific legal framework, the Associated Programme on Flood Management (APFM), in close cooperation with the Dundee University UNESCO Centre on Water Law, has developed a Rapid Legal Assessment Tool (part C of this document This tool constitutes a good example of cooperation in mutual understanding between flood managers and policy makers, and can be seen a first checklist towards reflecting best flood management practices in policies. 
In the Associated Programme on Flood Management we are currently working on a similar Tool on “Role of the Media in flood management” (expected to be published in autumn this year), and in the next year we should produce another on “how to talk to policy makers”. 

Stay tuned with APFM for further info!  

EDIT: you may find interesting also the European Commission's CSI-SPI Activity report 2010-2012 on the Science-policy interface in support of the water framework directive (you can find it for free browsing their bookshop

QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Some countries (for instance in Western Europe) have committed to invest in long-term strategies to deal with floods in an ecologically-sound fashion. Would similar strategies be a cost effective solution in other nations that have less resources ?

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Program Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 08 Jul 2014

Generally speaking, there is a common misconception to perceive environmental issues as a “fashion” for rich countries, which would not be suitable for implementation in least developed countries: this idea is far from the true, especially considering the benefits obtained from the provision of ecosystem services.  
To make an example, wetlands, and especially those in floodplain environments, can deliver a wide array of hydrological and ecosystem services. Wetlands have in fact a significant influence on the hydrological cycle: they influence it by their storage capacity for water, by exchange with groundwater (either in terms of recharge or in terms of transmission loss), and by their high evaporation rate (wetlands evaporate more water than other types of land, therefore reducing average annual river flows). 
Flood attenuation is one of the most important wetland functions.This flood attenuation service occurs primarily on large flood plains in the lower reaches of river basins, where floodwater is stored in large hollows and depressions. Additionally to this reduction of the flood peak, the flood wave is also slowed and reduced by resistance caused by the roughness of the wetland vegetation, thus delaying and reducing floods downstream.
Resulting often from periodic flooding and fluctuation of hydrological regimes of rivers and their floodplains, wetlands are naturally dynamic ecosystems. Therefore, the use of wetlands for flood attenuation ensures maintenance of the dynamic ecological functioning, sustaining the delivery of the many benefits floodplain wetlands provide to those people whose livelihoods depend on flood-recession agriculture and pasturage for fish production.
Notwithstanding the constraint caused by specific climates (prone to mosquito-borne diseases), wetlands represent a valid alternatives to more costly structural measures, such as dams and dykes, that would also need to consider land use planning and river morphology issues in order not to become a burden, rather than a solution.
It is indeed true that traditional flood management has been focusing a lot on keeping the water in rivers separated from its floodplain, not factoring the natural behaviour of the riverine ecosystem and all the related exchange of sediment and nutrients. In the long term, these measures have had a negative impact in terms of impoverishment of soils and loss of ecosystems. 
In terms of reference materials, you can find more information about use of wetlands and river restoration in the APFM Tool “Conservation and restoration of rivers and floodplains” (, whereas regarding more wider considerations about flood management and river morphology the policy paper on “Environmental Aspects of Integrated Flood Management” ( gives a general picture.
Also, linking to the previous question about the science-policy interface, allow me to point out a guide for decision makers on ecosystem services, developed by the World Resources Institute ( Another tool potentially useful to advocate for the importance of ecosystem services are the “Recommendations on payments for ecosystem services”, developed by UNECE (