Creation and development

Development of HochwasserKompetenzCentrum (HKC)

Time and again in the media, we see terrible pictures of the consequences of extreme flooding events. People are affected, victims are mourned and substantial assets are lost. Fortunately, no human lives were lost in the Cologne region in the extreme events of 1993 and 1995. Nevertheless, the damage was considerable and there were serious losses of assets.

From this regional perspective, we must not only focus on the residents immediately along the Rhine but also take into account what happens in the catchment areas of the tributaries, as the Sieg, Erft, Agger and Wupper also record flooding events with significant consequences for residents. In recent years, this has resulted in massive efforts being made in our region to lessen the potential consequences of extreme flooding events. In Cologne alone, a flood protection concept has been instigated, on the basis of which investment totalling around 400 m Euro was made by the end of 2008 in structural drainage technology flood protection and in retention measures. Similar activities were initiated for example by the city of Bonn, the Agger association, the Erft association and the Wupper association. Some of the solution concepts here differ significantly, as adaptations to local marginal conditions are required. One very significant factor here is the advance warning time, which is up to 48 hours for the Rhine, whereas some tributaries of the Rhine have only a few hours for appropriate preparatory measures.

1920, Cologne downtown

1955, Flooding in Rodenkirchen

However, these preparatory measures concern not only the bodies directly responsible for flood protection, i.e. the cities and local authorities / water boards; in the context of protective measures on private property (e.g. property protection), far-reaching options emerge that can and should be used to minimise damage and avoid long-term production losses for every owner/business potentially affected. A key role here is played by communication and co-operation with the population affected, involving initiatives and aid organisations. As such, particularly in the Rhineland and in the Rhine catchment area, considerable experience has been accumulated in recent years and converted into practical flood protection projects.

Under the umbrella of HochwasserKompetenzCentrum, we want to tap into this experience, which comes from the perspective of stakeholders responsible and people affected. To this end, many regional forces (the universities of Cologne, Bonn and Aachen, flood-responsible cities, water boards and numerous companies from the Rhineland as well as insurance companies) have come together for the foundation preparations in order to take such a step. These regional roots are also manifested in the composition of our board.

However, if the overall spectrum of the subject of flooding is to be examined, we also need transregional specialists, as a broad range of additional knowledge exists here.

How HKC works

In the context of HKC, the required work is performed in four stages:

· Structuring of the overall issue of “flooding”

· Compilation of existing findings

· Interdisciplinary comparison of these findings

· Conception of application-based R + D projects

Initially, we find which details under the term “flooding” can be classified into structured groups of topics. With this somewhat abstract framework, we hope to ensure that a comprehensive structural platform is created, into which findings can then be classified.

In a subsequent step, with the aid of the members, we determine for which topics findings already exist. We want to identify as many sources as possible here. Only in a stage following this are the needs arising from the lessons learnt in theory and practice compared with the existing level of knowledge. We assume that gaps will be revealed here.

To fill these gaps, research and development projects will be defined. Here, HKC does not generally conduct research and development work itself but rather ensures that partners come together from the membership. HKC provides support with applications for funding.

The results from such projects are then made available to the members and to the public through HKC. If it seems useful based on their relevance, the findings may then also find their way into the DWA technical rules or – in the case of construction products – into the DIN standards.

By primarily combining all forces and with the support of all interested transregional institutions, HKC pursues the objective of developing the level of knowledge in flood protection including through research and development projects.