Germany – Study Sees Improvements in Flood Risk Management Since 2002 Floods

A review of flood risk management in Germany has compared how the country coped in the wake of the 2013 floods with the situation after the major floods of 2002. The study found areas of considerable progress, but some areas, such as cross-border and interdisciplinary cooperation, still need improvement.

Widespread flooding in June 2013 caused damage costs of €6 to 8 billion in Germany. Eleven years earlier, the floods in August 2002 resulted in total damage of €11.6 billion and became the most expensive natural hazard event in Germany.

The 2002 floods marked a reorientation toward an integrated flood risk management system in Germany. According to the authors of the review, the floods of 2013 offered the opportunity to review how any new measures implemented since 2002 helped increase flood resilience, but also highlight what still needs to be done to achieve effective, integrated flood risk management.

The study “Review of the flood risk management system in Germany after the major flood in 2013” was carried out by experts from a number of Germany’s pre-eminent academic and research institutes, including the University of Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, and the German Committee for Disaster Reduction (DKKV).

The review found considerable improvements on many levels, in particular an increased consideration of flood hazards in spatial planning and urban development, comprehensive property-level mitigation and preparedness measures, more effective flood warnings and improved coordination of disaster response, and a more targeted maintenance of flood defense systems.

The review concludes that such improvements led to more effective flood management and to a reduction of damage during the 2013 floods. However, there remained areas still in need of improvement.

For example, the study found there remained a need for balanced and coordinated strategies for reducing and overcoming the impacts of flooding in large catchments, cross-border and interdisciplinary cooperation, the role of the general public in the different phases of flood risk management, as well as a transparent risk transfer system.

Recurring flood events reveal that flood risk management is a continuous task. Hence, risk drivers, such as climate change, land-use changes, economic developments, or demographic change and the resultant risks must be investigated at regular intervals, and risk reduction strategies and processes must be reassessed as well as adapted and implemented in a dialogue with all stakeholders.