A flood forecasting and warning system for riparian countries in the Sava River Basin

Published: 10 June 2016

Deltares along with Royal HaskoningDHV, Eptisa, the Hydro-Engineering Institute of Sarajevo and Mihailo Andjelic have joined forces to help riparian countries in the Sava river basin located Eastern Europe to establish a Flood Forecasting and Warning System (FFWS). This consortium, led by Deltares, combines the best international expertise in flood and drought forecasting and early warning with strong local expertise and good working relationships with national and regional authorities.


Better information leads to better decisions

In response to floods and droughts, the consortium will – alongside the World Bank – develop a joint, operational flood forecasting and early warning system for the riparian countries in the Sava River Basin. Better information will lead to better decisions and the resulting Flood Forecasting and Warning System (Sava-FFWS) will enable the five countries involved to take the right management decisions and implement operational measures to prevent and mitigate severe flood and drought situations on the basis of accurate forecasts of flows and discharges with a long lead time.

Special project

The Sava-FFWS is a very special project because the Sava river basin (97,700 km2) is shared by five countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, while a very small area of the basin area also extends to Albania. Each country has its own models, monitoring systems, forecasting systems, water authorities and interests. An effective FFWS has to bridge the differences and support collaboration in the field of water management.

Disastrous floods in 2014

Between 14 and 20 May 2014, there were disastrous floods in the Sava basin that resulted in 79 casualties and substantial economic damage in Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Serbia. Assessments of the total damage in the area range up to 3.8 billion Euros. The events led to a major international aid campaign, with numerous countries, organisations and individuals sending humanitarian, material and monetary support to the affected areas.

Hanneke Schuurmans of Royal HaskoningDHV, hydrometeorologist and project leader on this project: “Through our involvement in EU and UN missions, directly after the floods of 2014, we have seen the devastating impact within the Sava river basin. Safer communities in future – spread across five countries – are our biggest win through this flood Forecasting and Warning System as a partner in this consortium. Royal HaskoningDHV’s main contribution is the integration of multiple numerical hydrological and hydraulic models within the Sava river basin that forecast the expected water levels and flood extents.”

Severe droughts

The Balkan region has recently suffered from not only flooding but also from severe droughts. 2012 was one of the driest years in the past four decades. And in 2015, the year after the major floods, the area was afflicted by droughts that caused wildfires, destroyed forests, affected electricity supplies and caused enormous agricultural damage.

About the project

The Sava project will start on 21 June with a meeting in Zagreb of the stakeholders from the five countries and it will end in August 2018. The principal aim of the project will be to deliver support that will allow balanced decisions to be taken during floods and droughts.

Klaas-Jan van Heeringen from Deltares (project leader of the consortium): “Deltares will manage the project and provide the Delft-FEWS software, the platform on which the FFWS will be built. The system consists of multiple numerical hydrological and hydraulic models to simulate the expected flows and water levels throughout the Sava river basin. This project brings together all the current state-of-the art knowledge about hydrological forecasting itself, as well as the expertise required to use a system like this effectively if conditions get challenging”.

The efforts of the consortium will focus on three aspects: how to establish an effective organisational structure, delivering the right information at the right time and to the right place, and training for the relevant stakeholders.