NFRIP Update

Update No.1 July 2013

A photo of a shopping strip with sandbags piled up to a metre high against shop doors to protect businesses against flood waters; the photo shows water currently just covering the footpaths.

Sandbagging against the rising waters of
the Brisbane River, Queensland floods
2011. Photo Jono Haysom, 2011.

The impact of floods on Australian communities was the subject of the 2011 National Disaster Insurance Review (NDIR). The review highlighted the need for consumers to be aware of the natural disaster risks they may face.

In response to the NDIR recommendations, the Australian Government committed $12m, over four years, to the National Flood Risk Information Project (NFRIP) with the aim of improving the quality, availability and accessibility of flood information across Australia.

To meet this objective NFRIP will undertake three core activities, the project will:

  • Work towards making flood study mapping information freely available from a central location through an online flood information portal.
  • Analyse Geoscience Australia's historic archive of satellite imagery to derive water observations to help understand where flooding may have occurred in the past.
  • Improve the quality of future flood information by completing the revision of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR).

What will the portal do?

A screen capture of the search results page generated by the portal. In this conceptual example the results are displayed as a map with flood extents shown over an aerial photograph of a fictitious place (Skipper Cover). Flood study search results are listed in box to the left displaying the types of results found.

A conceptual example of map display for
the Australian Flood Risk Information Portal.

A map derived from satellite images coloured to show the number of times an area has been exposed to water. In the centre of the map is an area with defined straight edges. This shows where flood levees have protected the town of Kerang from flooding. Also shown is a large area to the top of the image representing a dam, and patches spread liberally across the map show areas where water has been seen less than five times over the period of analysis.

Water observations derived from satellite
imagery around Kerang, Victoria.

The portal will provide free access to authoritative flood studies and associated GIS flood mapping data to enable users to undertake their own analysis of the likelihood of flooding at a given location. Centralising this information will make it easier for planners, the public, insurers and engineering consultants to find out what flood mapping information exists, and to undertake their own risk assessments.

Geoscience Australia will host the portal, and is leading its technical development. The Attorney-General's Department is leading the policy development and whole of government coordination.

The portal will make it easier to find existing flood mapping information

In developing the portal, Geoscience Australia is working with data custodians to populate the portal with flood study information (including maps showing flood extent, and water depth).

Geoscience Australia is also processing and making accessible the agency's historical archive of Landsat imagery from 1987 to 2012 to derive historic water observations. While this information doesn't directly identify flood extents, it provides an indication of where flooding may occur, and therefore is valuable in remote areas where flood studies have not been completed.

Phase 1: July'November 2012

The first phase of the project was completed in November 2012. It delivered on three significant outputs.
  • An enhanced Australian Flood Studies Database, including an expansion of the search capability and direct access to an increased number of flood studies.
  • An initial set of maps for three trial areas showing observations of water over the last ten years, derived from satellite imagery.
  • An agreement with Engineers Australia allowing the finalisation of the revision to ARR.

What is the ARR?

The ARR is a series of guidelines and datasets fundamental for flood modelling. It is used to estimate design flood characteristics. Last updated in 1987, the completion of the ARR revision will result in more accurate flood studies and mapping into the future. This information underpins flood risk management in Australia and will be made freely available through the portal.

Progress of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff

A significant deliverable of this project is the revision of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff [ PDF 23KB External site link], Geoscience Australia has signed a contract with Engineers Australia to manage the completion of this work. The complete revision covers over 20 projects External site link. Projects cover rainfall and storm patterns, catchment modelling, urban drainage system hydraulics, safety criteria, coastal processes and risk assessment and design life. The revision has been managed across three stages, with Stage 1 and Stage 2 largely complete. Geoscience Australia is funding Stage 3. To date for Stage 3, Engineers Australia has initiated Project 7 (Baseflow for catchment simulation) and Project 18 (Interaction of coastal processes and severe weather events). Engineers Australia will contract relevant experts in the university and private sector against each Project.

Phase 2: November 2012-November 2013

In Phase 2 Geoscience Australia has engaged with key stakeholders through workshops and information sessions.

The first technical workshop was held on 21 March. Technical experts from all the States and Territories met to discuss: the proposed approach and functionality of the portal, data entry process, data model and the presentation of the satellite observations. Information gathered through this process is helping Geoscience Australia to finalise the technical specifications of the project. This technical workshop was followed by the first round of national consultations with decision-makers across States and Territory Governments. To date the project team has met with officers from multiple agencies across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, as well as the Insurance Council of Australia. There are sessions planned for the other jurisdictions in the coming months.

The aim of these sessions has been to update jurisdictions on progress of the project, to expedite the provision of existing flood mapping data for publication in the portal, and to discuss potential pilot areas for trialling and demonstrating the portal tools.

Progress of satellite imagery analysis

The analysis of Geoscience Australia's Landsat Thematic Mapper archive to derive water observations is progressing well. This activity will deliver Water Observations from Space (WOfS) to inform where flooding may have occurred. The historic archive incorporates observations from Landsat-5 from 1987 to 2011, and Landsat-7 from 2000 to present. The analysis uses an algorithm to determine where water is or is not present on the image. Water presence will be calculated for every available Landsat observation in the archive, and displayed as a summary showing how many times water was observed for every point in Australia in a 25m x 25m grid.

Phase 1 of the project delivered three trial areas of WOfS as a proof of concept in November 2012. The team has since adapted the code used to deliver the Phase 1 outputs, into a fast, standard analysis applicable across the entire archive. Water observations for priority areas across Australia delivered as a web service to the NFRIP portal are scheduled for completion by the end of Phase 2, in November 2013.

NFRIP Phase 2 will deliver:

  • Further enhancements to Australian Flood Studies Database to enable the display and download of flood mapping.
  • Publication of guidelines and standards related to data entry.
  • Improvements to data entry and retrieval capabilities.
  • Pilot areas to test and demonstrate the portal tools.
  • Completion of the analysis of satellite observations for priority areas.
  • Progress towards the completion of the ARR revision.

What data is currently available?

To date there are now 1362 publicly searchable flood study entries in the Australian Flood Studies Database, of these entries 55% have an attached document. The current entries are distributed across the States and Territories as follows:

Australian Flood Studies Database
Jurisdiction No. of Studies Studies with attached reports No. Attachments
ACT 14 1 3
NSW 695 215 344
NT 51 5 11
QLD 101 13 21
SA 43 6 11
TAS 20 0 0
VIC 359 281 316
WA 84 25 37
Totals 1362 546 743

Data custodians are invited to enter their studies into this national database. For more details on contributing studies contact

Studies can be added to the database through a web application. Future enhancements will enable data to be uploaded through webservices.

Pilot Studies

Stakeholder consultations have identified data custodian concerns relating to publication of flood maps. Some of these concerns relate to the legal implications of releasing information and how maps can be best presented to limit misinterpretation and misuse of the data by users. Custodians are also interested in directly influencing many of the technical aspects of information exchange.

To this end Geoscience Australia will run a pilot program to test and fine tune the system prior to public release. The pilot approach will explore potential solutions to any technical and communication issues. Geoscience Australia will work with custodians who have identified information that can be released and develop a working system. Geoscience Australia will consult with pilot custodians during design of features to manage and display information, and provide support for their use.

To date two States have confirmed their interest to participate in the pilot. Tasmania have expressed a willingness to trial data exchange through webservices. Victoria has indicated that they will provide a set of flood study maps to test the map display services offered through the portal.

Other States and Territories are invited to participate.

This pilot approach has been adopted to mitigate risks that:

  • flood inundation maps may not be presented to the general public in an appropriate way;
  • web services may not be implemented in an easy-to-use manner;
  • the Data Entry application may not support metadata creation in the most effective way;
  • custodians may form the view that it is not possible to share inundation maps.

Some anticipated benefits for pilot data custodians include:

  • directly influence detailed design and portal content;
  • influence the future focus of portal development;
  • lead participation is a national flood information initiative, and;
  • demonstrate the benefits from earlier work to improve their management of GIS data.

NFRIP Phase 3 and 4

NFRIP will be completed over four years with the finalisation of the project scheduled for June 2016. Phase 3 will see further enhancements to the database and a focus on populating the portal with flood mapping information. During Phase 3 national coverage for satellite imagery will be completed and this work will transition to a business-as-usual for Geoscience Australia. Progress towards the completion of ARR projects will also continue.

Phase 4 will focus primarily on data collection and the completion of ARR revision. The portal and associated maintenance will transition to business-as-usual. During this last Phase Geoscience Australia will also scope the potential extension of the database to include data on more hazards after June 2016.

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