Developing Smart City technologies for urban flood monitoring and response

Flooding is easily the most damaging natural hazard around the world, occurring more frequently than all other natural disasters combined and prevalent across most regions of the world. Most flood damage occurs in our urban cityscapes, where large impermeable surfaces, costly urban structures, and high population concentrations come together to put both people and property at grave risk. Each year, thousands of citizens are killed or injured during flooding encounters, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to private and public property.

“Smart City” technologies have the potential to dramatically reduce the impacts of urban flooding by making monitoring and assessment of flooding an integral, automated, and adaptive part of modern city infrastructure. A smart city can provide “all points” real-time monitoring and flooding prediction during severe rainfall events, can warn individual citizens imminently in harm’s way, and can help optimize first response. Later, city managers could comprehensively “replay” flooding events to expose and improve weaknesses in stormwater infrastructure, allowing rapid, data-driven reduction of flooding risks.

FloodAware is a multi-university project to explore the Smart City vision by developing and testing a real-time flood detection, reporting, and communication technologies for cities and local communities.  FloodAware integrates urban cameras, sensors, social media and direct citizen reporting into a comprehensive dynamic flood monitoring network, combining these data streams to drive real-time modeling and prediction of imminent flooding, and keeping both authorities and citizens apprised of current and expected flooding risks. The project is supported by the National Science Foundation's Smart and Connected Communities program (award 1831475).

Collaboration with community partners is a central feature of FloodAware, including city, county and state entities, as well as NOAA and the National Weather service.  A specific goal of FloodAware is to not only research and develop technologies, but also to actually deploy our flood monitoring system in pilot municipalities across the country.  If you are a local or regional flood response coordinator and would like to discuss how get your municipality or organization involved, please contact our lead investigator, Dr. Mikhail Chester.  To learn more about the FloodAware team, please visit the About Us page.

Why does urban flooding matter?

Urban flooding is the most pervasive natural event threatening citizens in cities worldwide, present almost anytime there is significant rainfall in or around a metropolis.  The difference between a few puddles for children to play in and extensive damage to property, injury, and loss of life can hinge on just a few minutes of intensive rainfall.

$3.75B Annual U.S.
Flood Damage
99% U.S. counties
1996 – 2019**
119 Average U.S.
1959 – 1991**
$52K Average flood
claim payout by
National Flood
Insurance Program


ADOT logo