Project: Floodcrowd

Flooding, though a naturally-occurring process worldwide, can cause damage on a variety of scales. Obviously, in more severe cases, a flood can cause structural damage, bodily injury, or death. Even on a smaller scale, though, a flooded street can cause you to be late for work, or a submerged park or field can lead to a cancelled rugby match. Water back-ups are just a part of life, right? Well, Floodcrowd is harnessing the power of citizen science to see what can be done about preventing and controlling future floods in the United Kingdom.

Many flooding events have been previously unreported, especially in rural parts of the U.K. Floodcrowd aims to improve knowledge about floods by asking those who have witnessed floods to share their experiences and pictures. This program was begun as part of a PhD research project as Loughborough University, however, it has become a truly valuable resource for public officials aiming to assess flood risks in various communities, understand the effects of storms, evaluate current flood-prevention infrastructure, etc.

Researchers and participants are already seeing positive results from this crowd-sourced data. In December 2015, a storm hit north-west England which brought torrential rains and extensive flooding, killing one man and leaving thousands without power. The village of Carlisle was hit particularly badly, after key flood defenses failed. In the days after the flooding, Floodcrowd partnered with a Colorado-based company called Tomnod, making satellite map images public to encourage as many people as possible to view and tag a small section for signs of flood damage, including water markings on buildings. Over 700 people helped tag 13,000 affected areas! That’s some pretty extensive public participation! The information gleaned from this campaign is now being used to prevent future flooding in this area–citizen science being used for practical solutions. Pretty cool!

So back to the present–how do you get involved? Well, reporting a flood event on Floodcrowd’s site couldn’t be easier–just fill out this simple form here. You’ll be asked to include your location, the date and time of your observation, the type of flood you’re witnessing, a picture, and any other notes you’d like to include. The flood doesn’t have to be happening currently. No matter how old or recent, how big or small, Floodcrowd wants your observations! You can also check out the map of past flood records and see if there are any in your area. Hopefully, with Floodcrowd, wide-spread citizen participation can make dangerous–or even just inconvenient–flooding a thing of the past in U.K. communities!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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