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Hydrology and Hydraulics

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Hydrology and Hydraulics

Floods are among the most frequent and destructive hazards worldwide. At the same time, fresh water scarcity is affecting an increasing number of people throughout the globe. Studying both these hydrologic extremes and extending the analysis up to the propagation of floods over land, first requires an understanding and calculation of the various components of the water cycle (surface runoff, evapotranspiration, groundwater recharge etc.). This information is then used to evaluate a river flow routing and dynamics in the channel and on the floodplain. In this way, it is possible to forecast these extreme events and establish strategies for the safeguard of both people and assets.

Department activities - The Hydrology and Hydraulics Department is specialized in floods forecasting and water resources management. Scientists of CIMA Research Foundation and ACROTEC Foundation carry out research activities to develop advanced measurement and modelling techniques, as well as data assimilation strategies to optimally merge observations and models’ outcomes. In particular, they work on: hydrological and hydraulics modelling, the use of satellite data to drive and correct model’s predictions, the mapping of hydraulic risk, the impact of climate change on the hydrological extremes (both floods and droughts), the estimation of rainfall from radar and ground sensors, the modelling of snowpack evolution and the creation of tools for hydrological nowcasting. Research outcomes are used in the diverse phases of the disaster risk cycle management, to issue warnings and to identify possible measures and interventions to reduce the impact of severe events, as well as to support a sustainable management of water resources.


Main tools - Thanks to the use of models developed in-house, researchers are able to provide an accurate understanding of the water cycle in river basins all over the world. Modelling tools are adapted and specialized to cope with a range of climates and features of the catchments. Researchers also have expertise in developing accurate forecasting and real-time monitoring, using local data or, in data-scarce regions, global datasets coupled with satellite information. Moreover, in order to analyze and study flood hazard, researchers have developed open source models (see box) specific for large-scale and real time applications.

Within this field, the Foundations have established collaborations with several national and international organizations, such as regional and national hydrometeorological offices in charge of managing hydro-meteorological risks, as well as United Nations Agencies, and the World Bank. The scope of these collaborations has focused on the effects of climate change on flood and drought impacts in various regions of the world. Of late, the hydrologic and hydraulics skills of the Foundations have also been applied for the situation assessments during crisis at the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) within the ARISTOTLE-ENHSP project.

  • Department's goals:
    • To develop hydrological modelling on a broad range of scales, from small basins to large rivers with extended flood plains, and over different territories and climates
    • To develop hydrological models and applications for flood forecasting, droughts monitoring, water resource management, hydropower production and climate change impact assessment
    • To quantify and to improve the accuracy of hydrological modelling trough data assimilation of satellite and ground data
    • To create real-time flood scenarios, even at the urban-scale
    • To develop tools for hydrological nowcasting and monitoring