Large-scale assessment of flood risk and the effects of mitigation measures along the Elbe River

Jean-Luc de Kok, Malte Grossmann

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The downstream effects of flood risk mitigation measures and the necessity to develop flood risk management strategies that are effective on a basin scale call for a flood risk assessment methodology that can be applied at the scale of a large river. We present an example of a rapid flood risk assessment methodology for the Elbe River. A 1D hydraulic routing model is extended by including the effect of planned (regulated and unregulated) and unintended retention (dike breaches) on the peak water levels. We further add an inundation model for dike breaches due to dike overtopping and a macroscale economic approach to assess the flood damage. The flexible approach to model the effects of measures by means of volume storage functions allows for rapid assessment of combinations of retention measures of various proposed dimensions and at multiple locations. The method allows for the comparison of the flood risk at the scale of the main river trajectory, which has not been possible for the Elbe River to date. The model is applied to a series of exemplary flood risk mitigation measures to show the downstream effects and the additive effects of combinations of measures on the flood risk along the river. We further demonstrate the increase in the downstream flood risk resulting from unilateral decisions to increase the dike height at upstream locations. As expected, the results underline the potential effectiveness of increased retention along the river. The effects of controlled retention at the most upstream possible location and largest possible extent generate the most pronounced reduction of average annual damage. As expected, the effect of uncontrolled retention with dike relocations is significantly lower.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-166
Number of pages24
JournalNatural hazards
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Elbe
  • Retention
  • Flood risk
  • IR-86445


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