Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
04 Mar 2009
 | 04 Mar 2009

Flood maps in Europe – methods, availability and use

H. de Moel, J. van Alphen, and J. C. J. H. Aerts

Abstract. To support the transition from traditional flood defence strategies to a flood risk management approach at the basin scale in Europe, the EU has adopted a new Directive (2007/60/EC) at the end of 2007. One of the major tasks which member states must carry out in order to comply with this Directive is to map flood hazards and risks in their territory, which will form the basis of future flood risk management plans. This paper gives an overview of existing flood mapping practices in 29 countries in Europe and shows what maps are already available and how such maps are used. Roughly half of the countries considered have maps covering as good as their entire territory, and another third have maps covering significant parts of their territory. Only five countries have very limited or no flood maps available yet. Of the different flood maps distinguished, it appears that flood extent maps are the most commonly produced floods maps (in 23 countries), but flood depth maps are also regularly created (in seven countries). Very few countries have developed flood risk maps that include information on the consequences of flooding. The available flood maps are mostly developed by governmental organizations and primarily used for emergency planning, spatial planning, and awareness raising. In spatial planning, flood zones delimited on flood maps mainly serve as guidelines and are not binding. Even in the few countries (e.g. France, Poland) where there is a legal basis to regulate floodplain developments using flood zones, practical problems are often faced which reduce the mitigating effect of such binding legislation. Flood maps, also mainly extent maps, are also created by the insurance industry in Europe and used to determine insurability, differentiate premiums, or to assess long-term financial solvency. Finally, flood maps are also produced by international river commissions. With respect to the EU Flood Directive, many countries already have a good starting point to map their flood hazards. A flood risk based map that includes consequences, however, has yet to be developed by most countries.