Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Review article
26 Jul 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Citizen observations contributing to flood modelling: opportunities and challenges
Thaine Herman Assumpção1, Ioana Popescu1, Andreja Jonoski1, and Dimitri P. Solomatine1,2 1Integrated Water Systems and Governance, IHE Delft, Delft, The Netherlands
2Water Resources Section, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Abstract. Citizen contributions to science have been successfully implemented in many fields – and water resources is one of them. Through citizens, it is possible to collect data and obtain a more integrated decision-making process. Specifically, data scarcity has always been an issue in flood modelling, which has been addressed in the last decades by remote sensing and is already being discussed in a citizen science scenario. In this context, this article aims to review the literature on the topic and analyse the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The literature on monitoring, mapping and modelling, was evaluated according to the flood-related variable citizens contributed to. Pros and cons of the collection/analysis methods were summarised. Then, pertinent publications were mapped into the flood modelling cycle, considering how citizen data properties (spatial and temporal coverage, uncertainty and volume) are related to its integration into modelling. It was clear that the number of studies in the area is rising. There are positive experiences reported in collection and analysis methods, for instance with velocity and land cover, and also when modelling is concerned, for example by using social media mining. However, matching the data properties necessary for each part of the modelling cycle with citizen generated data is still challenging. Nevertheless, the concept that citizen contributions can be used for simulation and forecasting is proved and further work lies in continuing developing and improving not only methods for collection and analysis but certainly for integration into models as well. Finally, in view of recent automated sensors and satellite technologies, it is through studies as the ones analysed in this article that the value of citizen contributions is demonstrated.

Citation: Herman Assumpção, T., Popescu, I., Jonoski, A., and Solomatine, D. P.: Citizen observations contributing to flood modelling: opportunities and challenges, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Thaine Herman Assumpção et al.
Thaine Herman Assumpção et al.


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Short summary
Citizens can contribute to science by providing data, analyzing them and as such contributing to decision-making processes. For example, citizens have collected water levels from gauges, which are important when simulating/forecasting floods, where data is usually scarce. Present study reviewed such contributions and concluded that integration of citizen data may not be easy due to their spatio-temporal characteristics, but still, citizen data proved valuable and can be used in flood modelling.
Citizens can contribute to science by providing data, analyzing them and as such contributing to...