Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
 | Highlight paper
23 May 2012
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 23 May 2012

Drivers of flood risk change in residential areas

F. Elmer, J. Hoymann, D. Düthmann, S. Vorogushyn, and H. Kreibich

Abstract. The observed increase of direct flood damage over the last decades may be caused by changes in the meteorological drivers of floods, or by changing land-use patterns and socio-economic developments. It is still widely unknown to which extent these factors will contribute to future flood risk changes.

We survey the change of flood risk in terms of expected annual damage for residential buildings in the lower part of the Mulde River basin (Vereinigte Mulde) between 1990 and 2020 in 10-yr time steps based on measurements and model projections. For this purpose we consider the complete risk chain from climate impact via hydrological and hydraulic modelling to damage and risk estimation. We analyse what drives the changes in flood risk and quantify the contributions of these drivers: flood hazard change due to climate change, land-use change and changes in building values.

We estimate flood risk and building losses based on constant values and based on effective (inflation adjusted) values separately. For constant values, estimated building losses for the most extreme inundation scenario amount to more than 360 million € for all time steps. Based on effective values, damage estimates for the same inundation scenario decrease from 478 million € in 1990 to 361 million € in 2000 and 348 million € in 2020 (maximum land-use scenario). Using constant values, flood risk is 111% (effective values: 146%) of the 2000 estimate in 1990 and 121% (effective values: 115%) of the 2000 estimate for the maximum land-use scenario in 2020. The quantification of driver contributions reveals that land-use change in the form of urban sprawl in endangered areas is the main driver of flood risk in the study area. Climate induced flood hazard change is important but not a dominant factor of risk change in the study area. With the historical exception of the economic effects in Eastern Germany following the German reunification, value developments only have minor influence on the development of flood risk.