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Challenge / Goal

Urban pluvial floods occur when heavy rainfall exceeds the capacity of a city’s drainage system. In the case of extreme rainfall, rapid and abundant rainwater runoff from sealed surfaces is the dominating mechanism that leads to pluvial flooding.  Due to their rapid onset and their localised nature, such floods cause significant damage to a city’s natural and built environment, and are difficult to manage. 

To prevent such events, it is important to understand and predict when and where flooding might happen. To do so, local authorities need high resolution information and models for rapid and timely simulation of flood forecasts. 


This is why we created the FloodCitiSense mobile and web app. Developed with citizens and city authorities, the app aims at feeding such models with a large, spatially explicit database. This includes real-time observations of rainfall intensity and collected information on the impacts of pluvial flooding. You can learn more about our app in the video.

Citizen participation

In each city, we set up Urban Living Labs together with citizens, local institutions and other stakeholders to co- create the various solutions developed during the project.
In pilot cities, citizens played  central, active role by gathering the necessary alternative rainfall data to fulfil the need for spatially distributed measurements.
--> With the FloodCitiSense app (available in Plastore & Appstore), citizens can make reports of rainfall intensity and impacts on the go.
--> Citizens placed low-cost rainfall sensors at home to help fill the gaps in cities, network of official rain gauges.

Two citizen observations were organized in each pilot city, in the summer of 2018 and in the winter of 2019, respectively. Each workshop recruited 15-25 participants, training them to ensemble the rainfall sensors and to use the FloodCitiSense App.  As a result, about 60 first-generation sensors and 60 second-generations sensors have been installed in Birmingham, Brussels, and Rotterdam. Local citizens also learned to use the self-designed app to report urban flooding by sending photos and texts.

Citizens also took part in the final progress and final evaluations of the project. 


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Time period

Planning time: 1 to 2 years

Implementation time: 2 to 5 years


City authorities and citizens from the 3 pilot cities. Citizens have been actively involved in the monitoring of rainfall and pluvial flooding, making use of low-cost sensors and web-based technologies. Project partners: VUB-HYDR (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of hydrology and hydraulic engineering); TU Delft (Delft University of Technology); - ICL (Imperial College London); IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis); VUB-SMIT (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology); EGEB (Etats Généraux de l'Eau à Bruxelles); LGiU (Local Government information Unit); RainPlusPLus Ltd.; RPS Group; Disdrometrics B.V. > now: BluChain; TaipeiTech (National Taipei University of Technology).

Service providers

The project coordinator VUB-HYDR and the app developper IASSA collaborate to keep the app available for up to 1 year after the end of the project. Flood reports can be created everywhere around the world, but there is no will at this stage to extend the notification feature beyond the pilot cities. The coding for the app is open source (Github).

End users

Citizens and city authorities

    Main benefits

  • Increasing safety

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