Support for flood early warning systems in the Pacific

Every year flooding in the Pacific is responsible for millions of dollars of damage, disruption to business and communities, and too often the loss of life. Support for the provision of timely, and effective flood early warnings has been a long-standing need for Pacific countries that suffer from flood impacts.   

Fiji Meteorological Service Hydrology team members installing the Nakauvadra streamflow and rainfall monitoring station, nearby the Vatukacevaceva village, in the Ra province, Fiji.

To help address this gap, AWP has engaged Australian expertise to undertake a project to provide technical support in hydrology to enhance flood early warning systems in Pacific Island Countries. The project is executed under a partnership arrangement, led by Alluvium International, with a full-time hydrologist seconded to the Pacific Community (SPC) based in Fiji for two years, drawing on technical expertise from Australia, in addition to locally engaged staff at SPC.  

SPC is the principal scientific and technical organisation that supports development in the Pacific region and partnership allowed SPC to further develop and retain technical skills within SPC and the Pacific while also providing access to technical specialists in Australia that would otherwise be limited under traditional funding models.  

The project team have been working closely with the hydrology team at the Fiji Meteorological Service to provide targeted technical support and that builds on existing capacities, infrastructure and needs, and that is relevant to the Pacific setting. 

Project objectives include the improvement of understanding and knowledge of flood risk to major catchments, strengthening flash flood preparedness and response by extending technical support to improve the application of existing flood Early Warning Systems (EWS) that are in place across the Pacific region, and to support the long-term sustainability and potential for upscaling of hydrological services that strengthen flood early warning within the Pacific Region. 

The strong people-centered approach of the project aims to bridge the gap between technical staff and communities to ensure that flood warnings are not only more accurate but also more accessible, allowing communities to be more resilient to flooding. For example, the project team co-hosted several workshops with the Fiji Meteorological Service, engaging with a diverse cross-section of stakeholders and community members about hydrology and flood early warning. Workshops were undertaken using a gender sensitive and inclusive approach to ensure equal representation and participation by all.  

The Vatukacevaceva community shared their knowledge about flooding in the region at flood early warning workshop co-hosted by the Fiji Meteorological Service and SPC.

An activity highlight has been the piloting of methodologies and processes to improve flood early warning in the Penang catchment, a flood prone region in northern Viti Levu, Fiji, where the Rakiraki township experiences frequent flooding. 

The project focused on improvements in hydrological data collection, creating synergies between existing initiatives and projects, and undertaking community engagement. This knowledge contributed to a comprehensive understanding of flooding issues in the catchment and assisted the development of a flood model which furthered the understanding of catchment flood dynamics and risk. Working closely with the Fiji Meteorological Service and sharing skillsets and knowledge between the relevant agencies to improve data collection, analyse and interpret results, and apply findings has provided a valuable set of tools and methodologies for continual improvement to existing processes within the Fiji Meteorological Service.

“This was the first time for our hydrology division at the Fiji meteorological service to have a stakeholder engagement at a community level in terms of flood forecasting and flood warning. This was very helpful because we got to actually meet people at a community level and gather local information gather their feedback on the products and services that we provide and also it gave us the opportunity to create awareness around the flood forecast and monitoring products that we have at the Fiji meteorological service.” – Ms Ana Degei, Media Liaison Officer, Fiji Meteorological Service.

Featured image:  Participants of the flood early warning workshop held in the Vatukacevaceva village, Fiji. (Source: SPC)
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