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Flood: New research outweighs mapping techniques

The CSIRO believes its cutting-edge dam modelling research could outstrip current flood-mapping technology, and is in discussions with insurers and government officials to bring it to Australia.

Although the research is only in the trial phase in China, scientist Mahesh Prakash says techniques perfected by CSIRO using simulation methods can show specific areas in flood-prone regions that will be most affected, right down to the detail of how high floodwater will rise at certain points.

“Modelling the water flow can indicate how long it will take for floodwaters to rise to dangerous levels, and therefore how much time is available to evacuate,” Dr Prakash told

He says it’s impossible to say whether this kind of research would have affected the outcome of the Queensland floods but believes it has the potential to help with planning for the future.

“It gives us very realistic water simulations, including difficult-to-model behaviours such as wave motion, fragmentation and splashing.”

“Our simulations show where the water would go, how fast it would reach important infrastructure such as power stations and the extent of inundation in major townships downstream.”

Dr Prakash says these new techniques can provide more detailed and accurate information than current methods of flood mapping.

Although mapping may be significant for showing where water will go in some events, it isn’t sufficient in providing effective information for modelling dynamic water flow events such as dam breaks or flash flooding.

Loss expert Allan Manning says the ability to accurately work out the effects of a flood would help insurers to price the risk more easily.

Dr Manning, MD of LMI Group, says the dams above Brisbane were so full there was no data to indicate at what rate the water should be released.

There has been no modelling done in the Brisbane valley since 1985 and he believes lack of knowledge delayed the earlier release of water.

“If there was dam modelling they could have known how much to release without causing the flooding,” he told

Insurance Council of Australia GM Risk and Disaster Planning Karl Sullivan says the modelling pioneered by the CSIRO would benefit the wider community, not just the insurance sector.

“That type of flood modelling gives greater clarity to property-owners and allows them to properly manage their risks,” he told

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