Government to team up with Google for flood forecasting

Central Water Commission (CWC), India’s apex technical organization in the field of Water Resources, has entered into a collaboration with USA-based technology giant Google to develop and employ effective flood management innovations

June 18, 2018

Under the the agreement, CWC would use technological advances made by Google in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and geospatial mapping for effective management of water resources

India’s Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari, has expressed hope that the latest collaboration with Google will help in alleviating the nation’s flood concerns

The technological partnership with Google comes after India launched the National Hydrology Project (NHP) during financial year 2016-17. NHP, a World Bank assisted central sector scheme with pan India coverage

This is likely to result in considerable financial savings which otherwise would have to be spent by the Government on acquiring high resolution DEM, high-end computational resources and developing dissemination platforms

Central Water Commission (CWC), India’s apex body in the field of water resources management, has entered into a collaboration with the USA-based technology company Google to employ effective flood management innovations. Under the aegis of the agreement, CWC would use technological advances made by Google in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and geospatial mapping for effective management of water resources. The collaboration will focus on flood forecasting and dissemination of flood related information using the platforms developed by Google. India’s Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari, has expressed hope that the latest collaboration with Google will help in alleviating the nation’s flood concerns.

This initiative will help crisis management agencies deal with extreme hydrological events in a better manner. CWC and Google will jointly improve analysis of hydrological data to collaborate on – (i) flood prediction systems, which will help provide location-targeted, actionable flood warnings; (ii)  high priority research utilizing Google Earth Engine to improve flood management; and (iii) a cultural project to build online exhibitions on the Rivers of India. The latest partnership comes after India launched the National Hydrology Project (NHP) during financial year 2016-17. NHP, a World Bank assisted central sector scheme with pan India coverage, is aimed at improving the extent, quality, and accessibility of water resources information and to strengthen the capacity of water management institutions.

Every year, India records considerable losses, both in terms of life and property as well as national income, owing to flooding. Hence, the initiative on flood forecasting is likely to meet the much awaited demand of the inhabitants of the flood prone areas for inundation warnings with sufficient lead time. Till 2016, CWC was disseminating flood levels with maximum lead time of one day. During the flood season of 2017, CWC resorted to rainfall based modelling and issued flood advisories on trial basis with three days lead time. Under collaborative arrangement, Google would use high resolution Digital Elevation Model and vast computational resources and its expertise in the field of Artificial Intelligence to generate flood maps utilising the level forecast input provided by CWC with a lead time of up to three days.

For the flood season of 2018, flood forecasting would be done on trial basis and the same would be up scaled in near future. The collaborative arrangement is likely to result in considerable financial savings which otherwise would have to be spent by the Government on acquiring high resolution DEM, high-end computational resources and developing dissemination platforms widely used by the masses.  This would enable the Government as well as disaster management organisations to identify well in advance the locations and population, which are at risk from floods and require warnings and information. This initiative is expected to be a milestone in flood management and in mitigating the flood losses in India.