Aqueduct project: Development of the Global Flood Risk Analyzer

River flooding will affect more people and cause significantly more damage by 2030, as climate change and socioeconomic development accelerate, according to the first-ever public analysis of current and future river-flood risks worldwide. River flooding affects 21 million people worldwide and affects $96 billion in GDP each year. The analysis is made by a new tool: ‘the Aqueduct Global Flood Risk Analyzer’, developed by Deltares and partners.

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This Analyzer, which is available online, tracks potential GDP loss, affected population, and urban damage from river floods for every state, country, and river basin in the world. It has been developed by a consortium of the American World Resources Institute (WRI), together with Deltares, VU University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Deltares (flood risk expert Hessel Winsemius) played an important role in analysing all datasets and is responsible for the flood simulations in the tool.

Hessel Winsemius: “ Through the Global Flood Risk Analyzer, our complex data becomes available to a non-specialist audience, far beyond the research arena. The Analyzer transforms “data” into actionable information, informing users which developments in their region are causing risk to increase and the advantages flood protection may deliver.”

Top 11 countries most affected population
The Analyzer is based on a considerably large dataset of global scale river flood hazard and risk. The Analyzer shows the impact of flood risks on affected population, affected GDP, and urban damage. The top 11 countries  (ranked by affected population) are India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Brazil. The tool estimates future risks as well. While 21 million people are affected annually now, that number is projected to increase roughly 2.4 times to 54 million by 2030, driven largely by climate change.

A tool for awareness and action
The risks may increase, but public and private sector decision makers can do more to prevent catastrophic damage before it happens. The Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer’s global-scale risk assessments have a wide range of potential applications:

  • International development and financing organizations like the World Bank can prioritize investments in promising natural disaster risk-reduction strategies.
  • International national disaster risk-reduction monitoring organizations like can evaluate baseline risk conditions and monitor progress of risk reduction activities.
  • (Re-) insurance companies can rapidly assess risk and projected risk trends across their portfolios and explain the importance of insurance to potential clients.
  • Multinational companies can assess risks to their global manufacturing facilities and supply chains and prioritize locations for further analysis and risk mitigation actions.

The results of the Analyzer show a first impression of flood risks and should be used to focus attention on particular vulnerable areas and open dialogues about the risks and how they can be managed. To further dimension specific flood protection measures, more detailed and locally fine-tuned models would be required.

Next steps: coastal flood risk and effectiveness of interventions
The flood analyzer’s capabilities will expand significantly in the project’s later stages. Besides river flood risk, global coastal flood risk will be assessed as well, and the feasibility and effectiveness of interventions that reduce flood risk, such as dikes, emergency water-retaining systems, mangrove reintroduction, improved land-use planning and building codes will be added.