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11-01-2022

Flood protection in Germany

Written by Karst Beens

Last year we explained how the Netherlands protects itself against a flood. The reason for this was the floods that affected the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium You can read all the information about it here.

But looking back at last year and the events, we also wanted to take a closer look at flood protection in Germany. The events have also made it clear to us that we can also do our part with our drones. You can read more about how we see this happening next. First, let’s briefly explain what happened in July 2021. Then we will take a closer look at flood protection in Germany.

What happened in July 2021?

In July 2021, heavy and continuous rain broke out in the regions of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia. This resulted in more water than the rivers could withstand. Especially the Arthal, Rhineland-Palatinate, was affected. To show how quickly everything happened, we show how the situation in the Arthal changed. The WDR (West German Broadcasting) even developed an hourly summary of the events.

On Wednesday morning, the government had already warned of heavy storms, consisting of heavy and continuous rain. The flood control centres were also informed directly. At around 11 a.m., Rhineland-Palatinate declared the second-highest risk level, red, for some areas.

Then, at 5 p.m., the state environmental agency declared the highest risk level, purple. The ‘crisis team’ was then formed. A crisis team is a meeting of experts in which the resolution of an emergency is discussed.

At 19.30, the high water level of 2021 has already exceeded the level of the 2016 flood. The State Environmental Agency also continues to adjust its water level forecast.

At 9 pm, the water level was measured for the last time. At first, it was assumed that this was due to a power failure. Later, it turned out that the house to which the measuring device was attached had been washed away.

The rain continued all night. In the picture you can see how the water level rose in one night.

Landesamt sah den Pegelstand von sieben Metern um 20 Uhr voraus – Evakuierungsaufruf erfolgte um 23.09 Uhr - Rheinland-Pfalz - Rhein-Zeitung

The effects, however, only became clear the next day. Already in the morning, 1,300 people were missing.

Arthal after the floods:

Hochwasser im Ahrtal: Warum kam die Warnung so spät? | tagesschau.de

Flood protection in Germany

Many people still wonder why warnings about the floods were issued so late. Unfortunately, we can’t answer that either. Nevertheless, we asked ourselves how flood protection works in Germany and whether we could perhaps contribute to it.

However, flood protection in Germany is not generally regulated, but can be determined by each federal state itself. But there are also plans that go beyond the federal state. One example is the flood risk management plans for the Rhine catchment area. These apply to various federal states on the Rhine, but also internationally.

The general objectives of flood management are as follows (Quelle: IKRS, 2014)

Bericht zur Koordinierung der Hochwasserrisikomanagementplanung - PDF Kostenfreier Download

Prevention: In order to avoid further disasters, special care is taken to ensure that no buildings are erected in risk areas. In addition, buildings already constructed in these areas are adapted to the circumstances. The last point is the promotion of appropriate land use. Here, for example, the type of vegetation in the risk areas must be taken into account. Large plants prevent water from draining away and can lead to waterlogging.

Protection: Protection should ensure that floods are reduced in certain regions. This protection can be structural or non-structural. The best-known examples of flood protection are dams and walls. However, there are also flood retention basins to dampen the flood wave. To do this, the excess inflow is temporarily stored and slowly released again. Other construction measures include dams, which are constructed similarly to flood retention basins but can also be used to supply drinking water.

Preparedness: Preparedness refers primarily to informing the population. In the first instance, it is about informing people in affected situations about the risks and the correct behaviour.

Of course, we cannot help in all these areas. And we don’t want to presume to say that we can prevent big catastrophes like the one in July. Nevertheless, it got us thinking and we think that even small help is important, especially since floods will happen again and more often. You can read about how we want to do our part and how you can help as a private person in our blog next week.

 

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