Real-Time Flood Forecasting for River Crossings


Mid-America Transportation

Amount of leveraged funding:




Services provided by IFC:

The IFC developed the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), which includes a real-time flood forecasting system that updates every 15 minutes and serves the entire state of Iowa. IFC researchers will now take this system beyond Iowa’s borders to explore strategic placement at river crossings.

“This research emphasizes the importance of full-cost accounting of flood impacts and the individuals who relay on these networks.” —Witold Krajewski

Project Description:

Example of flood waters propagating downstream during the fall 2016 floods that impacted eastern Iowa.

For several years, the IFC has been operating a real-time flood forecasting system that issues forecasts every 15 minutes for some 1,000 Iowa communities. Because most locations have no sensors to measure water flow or water level, there is a problem relating the forecasts to tangible effects that can help communities make decisions on how to prepare for an upcoming flood event. Currently, the IFC is using an index that indicates flood potential, severity, and timing. What is needed is a more holistic view of flood development and progression.

In 2018, this project proposes to develop two elements to improve the prediction of flood development and progression: visualization of the river flow in the river network upstream of a point of interest, and projected inundation mapping in the vicinity of the point of interest. IFC researchers have tested this system in Iowa, and it is ready to be expanded beyond the state.  Staff will develop a more intuitive platform to communicate forecast results to stakeholders, including 2D inundation maps of the area of interest and animations of flows in the river network to illustrate when and where floods will affect critical infrastructure.