Department Urban Water Management


Open access urban flooding experiments with alternative data acquisition methods


Pluvial flash floods are a growing hazard to property and inhabitants' well-being in urban areas. However, the lack of appropriate data collection methods is often cited as an impediment for reliable flood modelling, thereby hindering the improvement of flood risk mapping and early warning systems. The potential of surveillance infrastructure and social media is starting to draw attention for this purpose.

In the floodX project, 22 controlled urban flash floods were generated in a flood response training facility and monitored with state-of-the-art sensors as well as standard surveillance cameras. With these data, it is possible to explore the use of video data and computer vision for urban flood monitoring and modelling. The floodX project stands out as the largest documented flood experiment of its kind, providing both conventional measurements and video data in parallel and at high temporal resolution.



Experiment description

The experiments were conducted at a special facility in a military training village in Wangen an der Aare (Bern, CH). The facility was specifically designed to reproduce urban flood phenomena such as manhole surcharge and basement flooding. Flood events were contained in a 25x25 m area that includes a simple configurable sewer network and a building. Water used for the flooding experiments is stored in a 450 m3 reservoir located 10 meters above the level of the facility.

Sensors used in the experiment

Sensor Type



Pressure sensor

Water level measurement


Ultrasonic water level sensor

Water level measurement



Shallow surface flow velocity measurement


Ultrasonic flow sensor

Flow and pressure measurement in partially filled and surcharged pipes


Surveillance camera 

For surface flow estimation, water level estimation and manhole surcharge


Magnetic-Inductive pipe profiler

Discharge into facility


Temperature sensorManhole overflow detection4

Data preview

The data from the experiments (excluding video and image data) can be explored on the following platform:

In the Media


Moy de Vitry, M., Dicht, S., and Leitão, J. P.: floodX: urban flash flood experiments monitored with conventional and alternative sensors, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 9, 657-666,, 2017.


Dr. Joao Paulo Leitao Senior scientist (Group Leader) Tel. +41 58 765 6714 Send Mail
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