Articles | Volume 18, issue 12
Research article
23 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 23 Dec 2014

The KULTURisk Regional Risk Assessment methodology for water-related natural hazards – Part 1: Physical–environmental assessment

P. Ronco, V. Gallina, S. Torresan, A. Zabeo, E. Semenzin, A. Critto, and A. Marcomini

Abstract. In recent years, the frequency of catastrophes induced by natural hazards has increased, and flood events in particular have been recognized as one of the most threatening water-related disasters. Severe floods have occurred in Europe over the last decade, causing loss of life, displacement of people and heavy economic losses. Flood disasters are growing in frequency as a consequence of many factors, both climatic and non-climatic. Indeed, the current increase of water-related disasters can be mainly attributed to the increase of exposure (elements potentially at risk in flood-prone area) and vulnerability (i.e. economic, social, geographic, cultural and physical/environmental characteristics of the exposure). Besides these factors, the undeniable effect of climate change is projected to strongly modify the usual pattern of the hydrological cycle by intensifying the frequency and severity of flood events at the local, regional and global scale. Within this context, the need for developing effective and pro-active strategies, tools and actions which allow one to assess and (possibly) to reduce the flood risks that threatens different relevant receptors becomes urgent. Several methodologies to assess the risk posed by water-related natural hazards have been proposed so far, but very few of them can be adopted to implement the last European Flood Directive (FD). This paper is intended to introduce and present a state-of-the-art Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) methodology to appraise the risk posed by floods from a physical–environmental perspective. The methodology, developed within the recently completed FP7-KULTURisk Project (Knowledge-based approach to develop a cULTUre of Risk prevention – KR) is flexible and can be adapted to different case studies (i.e. plain rivers, mountain torrents, urban and coastal areas) and spatial scales (i.e. from catchment to the urban scale). The FD compliant KR-RRA methodology is based on the concept of risk being function of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. It integrates the outputs of various hydrodynamic models with site-specific bio-geophysical and socio-economic indicators (e.g. slope, land cover, population density, economic activities etc.) to develop tailored risk indexes and GIS-based maps for each of the selected receptors (i.e. people, buildings, infrastructure, agriculture, natural and semi-natural systems, cultural heritage) in the considered region. It further compares the baseline scenario with alternative scenarios, where different structural and/or non-structural mitigation measures are planned and eventually implemented. As demonstrated in the companion paper (Part 2, Ronco et al., 2014), risk maps, along with related statistics, allow one to identify and classify, on a relative scale, areas at risk which are more likely to be affected by floods and support the development of strategic adaptation and prevention measures to minimizing flood impacts. In addition, the outcomes of the RRA can be eventually used for a further socio-economic assessment, considering the tangible and intangible costs as well as the human dimension of vulnerability.

Short summary
This paper proposes a methodology, shaped by the EU Flood Directive, for the integrated assessment of flood risk at the regional scale for multiple receptors (i.e. people, economic activities, natural and semi-natural systems and cultural heritage) based on the subsequent assessment of hazards, exposure and vulnerability. By means of MCDA and GIS tools, it supports the ranking of the area, sub-areas and hotspots at risk, in order to evaluate the benefits of different risk prevention scenarios.