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Atlantis surfaces in London conference


Leading representatives from across the public sector are today meeting to discuss how the Atlantis Initiative is helping Britain combat flood risk in the 21st century.

Directors, government advisers, local authority chief executives and environmental experts are among 150 professionals being hosted by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London.

High on today’s agenda is the emergence of the Environment Agency’s Detailed River Network and the availability of Ordnance Survey topography and height data which is critical for flood planning. With 2 million homes already at risk from coastal or inland flooding and over £230 billion of assets sited on flood plains in England and Wales, the task is a vital one.

Run jointly by Ordnance Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Environment Agency, Met Office and UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), Atlantis seeks to provide a consistent and joined-up approach to tackling flooding. This will be a huge benefit to many organisations that can spend some 25%-50% of their time sourcing relevant information and getting different datasets to work together.

Sir Michael Pitt, whose report on the summer 2007 floods is due shortly, has given the partners his full support. “The floods of June and July 2007 were a wake-up call to us all,” says Sir Michael. “Atlantis is an excellent example of public‑sector organisations joining forces to share geographic and related information. This outstanding level of cooperation will help ensure that all stakeholders have access to the geographic information they need to plan for and respond to these types of emergencies.”

First‑hand experience comes from Peter Bungard, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council, in his keynote speech entitled “If you don’t protect, this is what you get”.

“Witnessing the total disruption of the way we live and temporary economic collapse due to flooding is an experience I will never forget,” comments Mr Bungard. “We can’t make the UK flood-proof, but we can take steps to reduce risk. Knowing how water will behave both in terms of rainfall and flow across the ground is a critical starting point, and brings into focus the significance of the Atlantis Initiative.”

The project aims to provide agreed standards for the more effective use and integration of existing geographic and environmental data. By improving flood modelling and forecasting, Atlantis will enable a consistent and joined-up approach in all aspects of the flooding life cycle – from planning and response through to recovery.

James Brayshaw, Ordnance Survey Director, the Chair of the Atlantis Initiative and a civil engineer, says: “The Atlantis group’s objective is to provide the latest information that will significantly improve how the UK understands and manages flood risk. The collaboration is improving the accuracy of the information available to engineers and scientists for all aspects of flooding. It will enable the delivery of service improvements to end-users in both the private and public sector.

“Today’s event is especially focused on engaging with the engineering community and how we can use the latest information to model flood risk, identify and protect critical infrastructure and provide better information for responders.”

ICE’s Director General, Tom Foulkes, adds: “Initiatives like Atlantis are essential in bringing together engineers and government officials to work on evaluating and improving flood-risk management.”

Comments from the Atlantis partners:

British Geological Survey (BGS)

Dr John Ludden, CEO of BGS, says: “The BGS was extremely pleased to be involved with the Atlantis project as an understanding of geology is essential in helping to assess flood risk. The BGS are pleased to be providing digital datasets relating to geology and susceptibility to flooding.”

Met Office

Willie McCairns, Business Planning Manager, Met Office says: “The Met Office is committed to support the delivery of the Atlantis Initiative and proud to be one of its original founders. Through collaboration with Atlantis, the Met Office will work to ensure the needs of our customers are met and the compatibility of our datasets more suited to their needs, which will help them to better determine and predict future flooding events.”

SeaZone, a wholly owned subsidiary of UKHO

Dr Mike Osborne, Managing Director at SeaZone says: “Contributing data that helps understand and mitigate flood risk within the coastal zone is a key aim for our long‑term development of SeaZone’s digital marine mapping product, Hydrospatial. Access to marine reference information and a DEM comparable to and harmonised with OS MasterMap Topography Layer and Land‑Form PROFILE Plus will deliver key benefits to our customers.”

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)

Professor Alan Jenkins, Director of the CEH Water Programme, says: "As the organisation responsible for determining probable flood flows on UK rivers, and as a long-established provider of hydrological datasets, CEH looks forward to building on the new Atlantis river network and terrain model to develop the next generation of flood estimation procedures and products”.

Environment Agency

David King, Director of Water Management, says: “Atlantis is making an important contribution to helping us to better understand, plan for and manage flood risk and we are pleased to be involved with the initiative”.


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