Smart rainfall monitoring and alert

The “Flood Alert and Water Monitoring System” SMART project, led by IRD (Institut de Recherche por le Developpement), tested the operationalization of a mobile-data driven system for monitoring rainfall and its potential for issuing real-time alerts in an urban African context. This cost-effective system addressed gaps in climate, rainfall and water data and helped authorities improve urban flood and water management on a sustainable basis. It also captured feedback and built awareness and capacity for scaling of this technique.

This project addressed the following SDGs: SDG 6 - Clean water and sanitation, SDG 11 - Sustainable cities and communities, and SDG 13 - Climate action. The technological approach for SMART was a 3-stage processing/visualization of the data: 

  1. Collection and provision through a dedicated server of the radio signals transmitted/received levels over the mobile phone networks (with 15-minute time steps); 
  2. Open-source software for the transformation of signal level into rainfall intensities and 2D maps, and,
  3. Integration of rain maps into a visualization tool and assessment of possible inclusion in flood model and visualization of flood risk maps – including possible diffusion of flood alerts through mobile networks.

Technical outcomes included the real-time provision of high-resolution rain maps in two major African cities (Yaounde and Douala, Cameroon) and demonstration of potential use for flood early warning systems (EWS) and alerts. Capacity-building activities included building awareness and acceptance within Telecom Operators to ensure the raw data flux; presenting the SMART novel concept for rainfall monitoring and flood alerts to authorities and other local decision-makers; and informing international agencies (World Meteorological Organization, etc.) to ensure operationalization and scaling.

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