OU Study Demonstrates Interactive Engagement to Enhance Understanding and Preparedness for Future Flooding Events
NORMAN — A University of Oklahoma research team was completing a project to determine if visual animation of watersheds subject to increased flooding would be a preferable way to convey information to decision makers when record-breaking floods of May 2015 emphasized the significance of the project. Using Geographic Information Systems, hydrologic modeling, animated visual imagery and the Internet, the team effectively demonstrated how interactive engagement among key groups enhanced understanding and preparedness for future flooding events.
“When designing effective strategies for local planners and managers, familiarity with local watershed hydrology is important. Equally as important, the expanded use of watershed modeling and visualization techniques can prove useful for adaptation planning and management,” said Mark Meo, principal investigator on the project and professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.
Meo and team members Scott Greene, professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; and Yang Hong and Baxter Vieux, professors in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, Gallogly College of Engineering, adopted a stakeholder-based protocol that engaged local floodplain managers and watershed stakeholders in five cities in Oklahoma and Texas: Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Austin, Dallas and Houston, Texas.
The urban floodplain manager in each city selected a watershed for study. The OU team analyzed the selected watersheds and presented the results to the floodplain managers and staff. Completion of the analysis of the watersheds was animated for the presentation. The floodplain managers distributed a web-based survey to a small group of key stakeholders. The survey asked respondents to view the animations and judge their usefulness and credibility compared to more conventional approaches, such as charts and hydrographs.
The survey results indicated over 80 percent of stakeholders agreed hydrologic models and images are effective in discussions about capital improvement projects. More than 75 percent agreed that hydrologic models enable the public to understand increases in flooding due to increases in precipitation. With only slight differences between Oklahoma and Texas stakeholders, respondents were very favorably inclined toward the use of animations in floodplain management. Over 70 percent of respondents indicated that animations were more effective than maps, with two-thirds indicating they would like to see more watershed animations. About half of the respondents indicated they preferred animations over maps and charts.
The project was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sectoral Applications Research Program on Water. For more information about this study, visit the Urban Flooding project website at http://eos.ou.edu/hazards/urbanflooding/.