Water, Water, Everywhere!

    The Challenge

    Develop a tool that provides emergency management personnel with an up-to-date flood-risk map for an area of interest.


    Flooding is a pervasive natural hazard with devastating consequences on people’s lives, homes, and livelihoods. Mapping floodwater extent for active floods is critical for local and regional officials, and also for disaster relief workers who are trying to determine where to focus their efforts.  Additionally, it can be critical to monitor vulnerable regions for water pollution, or the spread of water-borne illnesses like cholera.

    Your challenge is to develop a tool that displays an up-to-date flood-risk map for an area of interest and is easy for the public to use and understand.  The ideal solution should be general enough to apply to any area worldwide for which sufficient relevant data are available.

    This challenge addresses the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to engage all countries and all stakeholders in a collaborative partnership.  The SDGs aim to build a better future for all people by achieving sustainable development in three dimensions – economic, social, and environmental – in the spirit of strengthened global solidarity:

    • Goal 1.5:  By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.
    • Goal 11.5: By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.
    • Goal 13.1:  Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.


    Consider combining satellite, airborne, in situ and/or simulation data from different sources. These may include:

    • Meteorological/rain forecasts
    • Geological and geometric characteristics of the terrain
    • Soil moisture content
    • Proximity to a river and/or dam, and saturation level of that river and/or dam
    • Riverbed conditions
    • Presence of bridges and other flow-disrupting structures
    • Urban sewage and drainage infrastructure
    • Flood model outcomes
    • Flooding history of the area

    Consider overlaying data on human factors that influence flood-related hazards, such as:

    • Population density
    • Endemic diseases, particularly water-borne illnesses and vector-borne diseases
    • Local presence of hazardous chemicals or other dangerous materials
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