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University of Bath

Mobilising Britain’s historical flood information in support of contemporary flood risk assessments

This project aims to investigate and assess the utility of documentary evidence of past flood events within contemporary flood risk assessments in Bath.

The project (funded by The Leverhulme Trust) aims to investigate and assess the utility of documentary evidence (e.g. newspaper articles, policy briefings, photographs, schematics) of past flood events within contemporary flood risk assessments. A thorough archive search has resulted in the recollection of data on the spatial distribution of past flood events and in the reconstruction of the flood policy history of the City of Bath. The findings feed into the development of hydraulic models representing historical changes in the channels and hydraulic structures of the River Avon. The hydraulic models translate flow into water levels, making use of the documentary evidence and historical data collected through the archive search. The propagation of errors occurring during this modelling process is captured in a series of novel, advanced statistical models.

The focus of the ongoing research is to prove whether it is worth the additional effort required to translate the documentary evidence of past flood events into a useful format for modern assessments. The augmented data series created from these efforts would allow an assessment of long-terms trends or shifts in flood risk.


The research idea underpinning the project has inspired the development of another project, which is led by the Research Associate on the project (Dr Chrysoula Papacharalampou).

The River is the Venue (RiV) project is funded by the Public Engagement Unit of the University of Bath and its team consists of a group of researchers, health-care and art professionals. It is a unique, inclusive project, which combines water science, art and information technologies. The RiV project has enabled local artists to communicate the flood history of the River Avon of the City of Bath through art installations, music compositions, puppet shows and workshops. As such, it has contributed a fresh and exciting perspective on the water heritage of the historic City of Bath.

Work conducted as part of both projects has resulted in a range of outreach activities (e.g. Festival of Nature, European Researchers Night, flood-themed workshops at local schools), flood-inspired artworks and expert workshops with key local stakeholders (e.g. Environment Agency, Bath & North East Somerset Council, The Bath Record Office: Archives and Local Stories). These diversified activities have succeeded in communicating research outputs to key stakeholders, engaging local communities with the water history and in raising their awareness on flood risk and protection.