Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Research article
09 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 09 Dec 2015

Geohydrological hazards and urban development in the Mediterranean area: an example from Genoa (Liguria, Italy)

F. Faccini, F. Luino, A. Sacchini, L. Turconi, and J. V. De Graff

Abstract. The metropolitan area and the city of Genoa has become a national and international case study for geohydrological risk, mainly due to the frequency of floods. In 2014, there were landslides again, as well as flash floods that have particularly caused casualties and economic damage. The weather features of the Gulf of Genoa and the geomorphological–environmental setting of the Ligurian coastal land are the predisposing factors that determine heavy rains and their resulting effects on the ground.

This study analysed the characteristics of the main meteorological disasters that have hit Genoa since the start of the 20th century; changes in the rainfall regime are evaluated and the main stages of urbanization of the area are detailed, with the resulting changes to the drainage network, in order to identify the main causes of this high geohydrological risk. To this end, scientists have used climate data recorded at the station of Genoa University, in operation since 1833, and at Ponte Carrega station, located in the middle reach of the Bisagno stream, a well-known watercourse because of its frequent floods. Urban sprawl was evaluated through a multi-temporal mapping comparison, using maps available from the beginning of the 19th century up to the current regional technical maps.

The average air temperature in Genoa shows a statistically significant increase, while the number of rainy days displays an equally clear decrease over time. The total annual rain value does not seem to indicate rather noticeable changes. The intensity of rain in Genoa expressed as rainfall rate, i.e.~the ratio of annual rainfall and number of rainy days, shows statistically significant growth.

The geohydrological vulnerability in Genoa has increased over time due to urban development which has established modifications in land use, from agricultural to urban, especially in the valley floor. Waterways have been confined and reduced to artificial channels, often covered in their final stretch; in some cases they have even been totally removed. These actions should be at least partially reversed in order to reduce the presently high hydrological risk.

Short summary
Genoa serves as a case study for geohydrological risks. Cloudbursts of a few hours seem to have a rainfall intensity greater than in the past; this causes an increase in hydrometric levels of the watercourses that quickly reach alarming values, close to overflowing. This factor, added to growing urbanization, has inevitably produced a general trend of increasing risk. Urbanization is particularly notable regarding the narrowing process in all cross sections of Genoa's watercourses.
Final-revised paper