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Discrepancies in flood modelling approaches in transboundary river systems: legacy of the past or well-grounded choices?
Flood modelling in transnational rivers requires efficient cross-border collaboration among the riparian countries. Currently, each country/region usually uses a different hydraulic modelling approach, which may hinder the modelling of the entire river. For the sake of accurate and consistent river modelling there is a necessity for the establishment of a framework that fosters international collaborations. This study investigates the current hydraulic modelling approach across the whole length of the River Meuse, the main course of which crosses three north-western European countries. The numerical models used by French, Belgian, and Dutch agencies and authorities were interconnected by exchanging boundary conditions at the borders. At the central part of the river, the Belgian hydraulic model assumed steady flow conditions, while the rest of the river was modelled in unsteady mode. Results for various flood scenarios revealed a distinctive pattern of water depths at the Belgian-Dutch border. To clarify whether this is a bias induced by the change in modelling approach at the border (steady vs. unsteady), we remodelled a stretch of the river across the Belgian-Dutch border using a consistent unsteady modelling approach. The steady and unsteady approaches led to similar patterns across the border, hence discarding the hypothesis of a bias resulting from a change in the employed model. Instead, the pattern in water depths was attributed to a change in the topography of the Meuse Valley, where there is a transition from a narrow steep corridor with limited water storing capacity in Ardennes massif to wide floodplains in the Dutch lowlands. The associated flood damping for the 100-year discharge is less than 1% in the Ardennes and exceeds 15% in the Dutch lowlands. It can be inferred that the current differences in regional hydraulic modelling approaches for the River Meuse are generally well-grounded and not just a legacy of the past.