Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Special issue:
Research article
14 May 2012
Research article |  | 14 May 2012

A holistic model for coastal flooding using system diagrams and the Source-Pathway-Receptor (SPR) concept

S. Narayan, S. Hanson, R. J. Nicholls, D. Clarke, P. Willems, V. Ntegeka, and J. Monbaliu

Abstract. Coastal flooding is a problem of increasing relevance in low-lying coastal regions worldwide. In addition to the anticipated increase in likelihood and magnitude of coastal floods due to climate change, there is rapid growth in coastal assets and infrastructure. Sustainable and integrated coastal flood management over large areas and varying coastline types cannot be simply treated as local combinations of flood defences and floodplains. Rather, a system level analysis of floodplains is required to structure the problem as a first step before applying quantitative models. In this paper such a model is developed using system diagrams and the Source-Pathway-Receptor (SPR) concept, to structure our understanding of large and complex coastal flood systems. A graphical systems model is proposed for the assessment of coastal flood systems with regard to individual elements and their topological relationships. Two examples are discussed – a unidirectional model for a large-scale flood system, and a multi-directional model for a smaller-scale system, both based on the Western Scheldt estuary. The models help to develop a comprehensive understanding of system elements and their relationships and provide a holistic overview of the coastal flood system. The approach shows that a system level analysis of floodplains is more effective than simple topographic maps when conveying complex information. The models are shown to be useful as an apriori approach for making the assumptions about flood mechanisms explicit and for informing inputs to numerical models.

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