Skip to main content

Drought and Flood Risk Management for Parliamentarians

Enrollment in this course is by invitation only

Why This Course?

Water, the most abundant substance on Earth, holds unparalleled importance in both earth science processes and our societal and economic well-being. This natural resource is the lifeblood of our planet, essential for sustaining all forms of life, supporting agricultural, energy, and industrial production. However, its unsustainable use or the consequences of climate-induced shortages can result in severe production losses and environmental harm. Paradoxically, an excess of water, such as flooding, can also wreak havoc on society and ecosystems. Striking a delicate balance between water supply and demand, ensuring water quality, and mitigating flood and drought risks are constant imperatives in water management.

Addressing these multifaceted challenges necessitates new approaches to water management. Crafting effective water policies is a formidable task, one that involves a complex, time-consuming process that spans from the national to the local level. Within this intricate process, the scientific understanding of water systems and their socio-economic dynamics plays a pivotal role. Scientists can offer policy makers invaluable insights into the socio-economic repercussions of floods and droughts, facilitating the development of proactive disaster management strategies. This course serves as the foundational framework for such endeavors, focusing on drought and flood disaster management.

The urgency of comprehending the hydrological processes underpinning these extreme events has never been greater. Factors like population growth, pollution, deforestation, and climate change are placing increasing stress on societies, ecosystems, and economies. Uncertainty about future trends further compounds the challenges of water management. In this context, risk-based techniques offer valuable tools for addressing these uncertainties and making informed decisions.

Course Layout

This course primarily concentrates on freshwater resources in continental areas, as they are of paramount importance for our society. It comprises five parts, each addressing different aspects of drought and flood management:

  1. Drought and Flood Impact Processes: This module explores the scientific underpinnings of the factors contributing to the risk of hydrological extremes.
  2. Hazard: Delving into the nature of these extreme events, this module examines the inherent hazards associated with floods and droughts.
  3. Exposure: Understanding the regions and populations susceptible to these hazards is crucial, making this module pivotal in assessing the scope of potential impacts.
  4. Vulnerability: Here, the course delves into the vulnerabilities that can exacerbate the consequences of floods and droughts, shedding light on areas where proactive interventions can be most effective.
  5. Pro-Active Disaster Risk Reduction Measures and Policies: The final module showcases examples of strategies and policies aimed at mitigating the risks associated with extreme hydrological events.

In summary, this course is a vital step toward equipping individuals and organizations with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the complex terrain of water management in an era of increasing uncertainty and environmental change.

Learning Objectives

The general aim of this course is to provide the student with a base level of knowledge of drought and flood processes as well as methods to structure and analyse water management issues and options that enables her/him to study scientific literature on the disaster risk management of these two hydrological extremes. After the course the students should understand how floods and droughts influence our society and what role water management and policy plays in addressing and tackling these issues. This course provides students a multi-disciplinary understanding of water management, including the physical dimensions of the problem and how they are affected by stressors such as socio-economic development, climate change and land use change.

Course Schedule

Module 1: Introduction into flood and drought disaster risk and impact

  • Webinar on harmful impacts as manifestation of the disaster risk hydrological extremes pose societies and ecosystems
  • Drought and flood disaster risk: the drivers
  • Practical application: system understanding of drought/flood risk/impact

Module 2: Flood and drought hazards – two sides of the same coin?

  • Floods: where does the water come from
  • The creeping phenomenon of droughts and its propagation through the hydrological cycle
  • The interaction between flood- and drought hazards and human's influence on the water cycle

Module 3: Exposure to hydrological extremes – who or what is at risk?

  • The situation of people, infrastructure, housing, production capacities and other tangible human assets located in hazard-prone areas
  • Vulnerability, susceptibility coping capacity, resilience
  • Physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes which increase the vulnerability of an individual, a community, assets or systems to the impacts of hazards

Module 4: Risk assessment - estimating the impacts of floods and droughts

  • The INFROM model
  • Probabilistic disaster risk metrics
  • Loss and damage curves

Module 5: Disaster Risk Reduction - how to build resilience for both floods and droughts?

  • The disaster risk management cycle
  • Case study on disaster risk reduction using nature-based solutions
  • Early Warning Systems at various scales

Module 6: Disaster Risk Management - the governance of flood and drought risks?

  • Webinar on the EPIC approach
  • Feedbacks in management: Human-water system and the need for a holistic approach
  • Webinar: Reflection on the use of risk assessment for data-driven policy making

Course Staff

Course Staff Image #1

Marthe Wens

Marthe Wens is a PhD researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Being part of the Water and Climate research group in the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU Amsterdam, her research concerns the integration of adaptation and mitigation behavior in drought risk and impact analysis

Course Staff Image #2

Anne van Loon

Dr Anne Van Loon is an Associate Professor in Drought Risk within the Water and Climate Risk group at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). She is a hydrologist and interdisciplinary drought (and flood) risk scientist, interested in the relationship between water, people and the environment. She uses mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative data analysis, modelling, workshops) to understand hydrological processes and their interaction with human activities, especially in relation to drought management and changes in water use and vulnerability.

Course Staff Image #2

Jan Cools

Dr. Jan Cools is associated to the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His projects typically integrate natural/engineering sciences with governance and environmental economics. He is an expert on climate adaptation and water resources management. He recently authored a UNESCO publication on 'best practices on flood and drought risk management'.

Course Staff Image #2

Hans de Moel

Dr. Hans de Moel works as an assistant professor in the field of natural hazard risk management, climate change and adaptation at the Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University, Amsterdam. He aims to look in an integrated way at the natural system with its hazards, the impacts it can have on society and how this relates to the management of these hazards.

Course Staff Image #2

Ana Clara Cassanti

Ana has experience in teaching and research at the high school level and developing educational programmes in Brazil. She also worked with sustainability and sustainability certification for companies. More recently, she continued to develop her skills in the topic of knowledge, education, and engagement related to climate change adaptation with her work at the international organization Global Center on Adaptation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.