Before the flood

Flood management organisations are set to benefit following funding awarded to researchers at the University of Aberdeen.

Flood management has become a national priority. In addition to high profile flooding in larger water courses, there are numerous local problems associated with small streams, culverts and sewers which are giving cause for concern.

Now, flood management organisations are set to benefit following funding which has been awarded to researchers at the University of Aberdeen.

The team, from the College of Physical Sciences, have been awarded almost £190,000 towards developing a novel methodology based on drag reduction technology suitable for use in culverts and streams. The concept involves lateral bars added to the bottom and/or the sides of a conduit which can be specifically placed to increase the flow capacity of the channel at a critical, pre-determined level.

The team have received a grant from the Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept (PoC) Fund, which supports leading-edge technologies in Scotland’s academic institutions, and aims to help export innovation from the lab into the global marketplace.

The technology being developed should be capable of deployment in culverts and streams with the aim of increasing their flow capacity near the critical flood condition. This deployment is intended to reduce the frequency of floods at particular locations.

Dr. Dubravka Pokrajac, Lecturer, Environmental Hydraulics, has worked at the University for 6 years and is leading the Aberdeen team involved in the project.

“When water is flowing in a river, stones and rocks make the water move less slowly. With the new technology, bars are put across the flume bed (similar to tree trunks across a river bed) and it is hoped that this breaks up the turbulence and will enable the water to flow more quickly and thus the level wouldn’t be so high during a flood,” she said.

The technology has been repeatedly confirmed in the laboratory but is previously untried in channel conveyance problems. The challenge of the project is to reproduce the effect in larger channels, which would establish the practicality of the technique for use in a wide range of situations in the real world.

The capability of being able to increase flow at particular points within a catchment system would also be beneficial in co-ordinating and planning integrated regional flood management strategies.

This development has high commercial potential and will potentially benefit flood management organisations like the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, local authorities, and associated stakeholder groups such as consultant engineers.

“All preliminary investigations lead us to believe that our technology is a major breakthrough for channel conveyance problems and presents a radical break with conventional approaches to flood alleviation,”  added Pokrajac.

“The Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding will allow us to begin to develop this product and investigate its full potential as a new approach to help facilitate flood alleviation. The concept, once proven, will be a major step forward in flood prevention being capable of addressing problems in both large water courses and smaller, localised problem areas.”