Implementation of flood early warning system for the Velika Morava river (Serbia)

Published: 24 April 2020

Because of the high probability of flooding in the Velika Morava river basin, the Serbian government (or, more strictly speaking, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, on behalf of the Republic Hydro-Meteorological Service of Serbia, RHMSS) asked Deltares to develop a real-time flood early warning system. The system was delivered on Wednesday, 22 April.

Velika Morava river basin

The Velika Morava (38,200 km2) is Serbia’s largest river. There is a high risk of flooding in the surrounding areas, particularly the low-lying sections, near the river. Dike protection along the river is not complete and, in some locations, melting ice and snow lead to high water levels. There have been several floods in recent years resulting in major damage and casualties.

Delft-FEWS

Deltares built the new Velika Morava Flood Forecasting and Warning System (VM-FFWS) on the basis of the Delft-FEWS software. Delft-FEWS consists of an advanced set of configurable modules that are used to build a forecasting system for operational water management tailored to the specific requirements of an individual organisation. VM-FFWS draws on existing sources of data such as precipitation, temperature and water levels imported from telemetry systems, as well as precipitation radar and weather forecasts (individual and grouped) from various Serbian and European meteorological institutes. All data are automatically entered, validated and processed to produce input for two hydrological models. The simulated river discharges from these models are then worked up with error-correction modules and visualised in clear and interactive screens for the RHMSS hydrologists.

Hydrological models

The project involved the development of two advanced hydrological models that transform data about rain, snow, temperature and evaporation in the river basin into discharge levels: a semi-distributed HEC-HMS model from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the fully distributed WFLOW model from Deltares. The models have been extensively calibrated using different hydrological conditions, and they run operationally in the VM-FFWS.

Klaas Jan van Heeringen, Deltares project manager: ‘This system allows the modellers and operational water managers of the RHMSS to generate their river forecasts professionally and efficiently. It also provides them with numerous options for integrating hydrological knowledge methods and software developments from the international Delft-FEWS users community and applying them in their own working procedures. As far as we are concerned, they have all they need for several years into the future and we will be happy to help them if needed.’

Training

Deltares will continue to train the modellers, water managers, and RHMSS IT specialists in the time to come so that they can develop their own skills and knowledge for using and maintaining the system.

Collaboration

Deltares teamed up with local partners Mihailo Anđelić and Centar Građevinskog fakulteta (the Geo-engineering Centre of Zagreb University) on this project. The system was also assessed and approved by the World Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management in Serbia.