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Saving lives and safeguarding water

We are developing accurate and reliable models to safeguard people against global water risks.

Two houses completely flooded

NASA's Earth Observatory estimates two billion people are likely to be vulnerable to flooding by 2050. Our researchers recognised the need for more accurate models to predict flood risk and water quality levels for a range of extreme events.

The research has also been driven by changes to planning laws concerning floodplains, increased flood insurance excesses, and increasing demands for improved water quality in rivers, estuaries and coastal basins.

There’s a critical need for accurate and reliable models to predict the movement of floodwater, and its contents, in the event of flood defences being breached.

Professor Roger Falconer Director of Hydro-environmental Research Centre

Studying the flows

Researchers in the Hydro-environmental Research Centre, led by Professor Roger Falconer, integrated and refined existing models to give more accurate solutions for dam breaks and embankment breach flows. The refinements also led to the ability to simulate the effects of flooding in urban environments, treating buildings as impermeable rather than solid to replicate the effect of flooding on built-up floodplains.

Further models have included evidence gathered from laboratory experiments on the motion of scaled cars and model people in rivers under flood conditions. These are important, but not always obvious, factors in flood risk management. These empirical equations have been developed for a range of vehicles and have been included in the numerical models for commercial flood risk hazard mapping.


The widely-used hydro-environmental numerical model developed is called DIVAST - Depth Integrated Velocities and Solute Transport. The original hydrodynamic version of DIVAST was developed by Professor Roger Falconer.

Mapping risk

The impacts of the research are marked environmental, health, economic and industrial benefits. It is used by major organisations around the world on large-scale projects and, in particular, for mitigation planning against national and international risks associated with floods and water quality.

In Romania the models have been used to map flood risk over 700km of the Siret River and its major tributaries, following a major event in 2005 resulting in fatalities. In the Philippines the research is helping to map potential flood risk scenarios across the country.

The models have also been used to show the viability of Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City - a major coastal waterway development in Kuwait.

Meet our experts

Professor Roger Falconer

Professor Roger Falconer

Emeritus Professor

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