08 Nov 2021
08 Nov 2021
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

A global open-source database of flood-protection levees on river deltas (openDELvE)

Joey O'Dell1, Jaap H. Nienhuis1, Jana R. Cox1, Douglas A. Edmonds2, and Paolo Scussolini3 Joey O'Dell et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, Universiteit Utrecht, Postbus 80.115, 3508 TC Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington, 1001 East 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-1405, United States of America
  • 3Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1111, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands

Abstract. Flood-protection levees have been built along rivers and coastlines globally. Current datasets, however, are generally confined to territorial boundaries (national datasets) and are not always easily accessible, posing limitations for hydrologic models and assessments of flood hazard. Here we present our work to develop a single, open-source global river delta levee data environment (openDELvE) which aims to bridge a data deficiency by collecting and standardising global flood-protection levee data for river deltas. In openDELvE we have aggregated data from national databases as well as data stored in reports, maps, and satellite imagery. The database identifies the river delta land areas that the levees have been designed to protect, and where additional data is available, we record the extent and design specifications of the levees themselves (e.g., levee height, crest width, construction material) in a harmonised format. openDELvE currently contains 5,089 km of levees on deltas, and 44,733.505 km2 of leveed area in 1,601 polygons. For the 152 deltas included in openDELvE, on average 19 % of their habitable land area is confined by verifiable flood-protection levees. Globally, we estimate that between 5 % and 54 % of all delta land is confined by flood-protection levees. The data is aligned to the recent standards of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reuse of scientific data (FAIR) and is open-source. openDELvE is made public on an interactive platform (, which includes a community-driven revision tool to encourage inclusion of new levee data and continuous improvement and refinement of open-source levee data.

Joey O'Dell et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2021-291', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Nov 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Joey O'Dell, 14 Feb 2022
      • AC2: 'Reply on AC1', Joey O'Dell, 14 Feb 2022
  • CC1: 'Comment on nhess-2021-291: openDELvE', Hamed Moftakhari, 07 Feb 2022
    • AC4: 'Reply on CC1', Joey O'Dell, 14 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on nhess-2021-291', Hamed Moftakhari, 08 Feb 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Joey O'Dell, 14 Feb 2022

Joey O'Dell et al.

Data sets

openDELvE Website O'Dell, J., Nienhuis, J. H., Cox, J. R., Edmonds, D. A., and Scussolini, P.

openDELvE Research Data Store O'Dell, J., Nienhuis, J. H., Cox, J. R., Edmonds, D. A., and Scussolini, P.

Joey O'Dell et al.


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Short summary
Humans build levees to move flood water to a safer place so that a specific area does not flood as often. We can use simulations to predict flooding and rises in sea level, but without a global list of levee locations, these are less accurate. We have looked through documents to find levees, and checked that they exist using satellite imagery. However we cannot find information on every levee that exists. We hope that our global database for levees can be extended in the future.