Waterproofing Data Project - Full report and resources

How citizen science can mitigate the impact of floods.

Almost one quarter of the world’s population is directly exposed to significant flood risk. Floods can be particularly devastating in physically and socially vulnerable areas such as deprived urban areas in Brazil.  

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Award winning, Waterproofing Data project engaged local people from some of these marginalised communities, including school children and the elderly, to map flood prone areas and generate new data on past and present flood events.

The process of co-producing and circulating flood-related data has:  

  • Enriched the education of school pupils as they learn how to produce, record, and share useful data from homemade rainfall gauges.
  • Drawn on the memories and experience of elderly people sharing their local knowledge of past floods.
  • Deepened community understanding of flooding and flood risks and improved their capacity to take preventative measures and early action in response to extreme weather events.
  • Enabled infrastructure improvements and the design of more effective risk-reduction strategies such as early warnings.  

The project oversaw the development of a guide for schoolteachers and a citizen-science mobile app which have, so far, informed the practice of teachers in 25 schools, and agents in 17 civil protection agencies, in nine cities, across several states in Brazil.  

In schools, students learn concepts about flooding risk, vulnerability and resilience, and act as ‘citizen scientists’ generating and analysing data from their own neighbourhoods. Using the dedicated app, they then send rainfall measurements and flooding events to Brazil’s national agency for flood early-warning, CEMADEN.  

From late 2021 up to Spring 2023 alone – despite the added complexity of expanding the project during the global pandemic - the use of these project outputs resulted in the generation of more than 7,483 rows of data by 388 citizen reporters.

The scheme has informed the policy and practice of CEMADEN who can use community-generated data streams to develop better flood models incorporating lessons from past rainfall and flood events along with current, up-to-the-minute citizen data to improve flood accuracy and early warning systems.

This innovative approach to citizen engagement and data generation, which can easily be scaled up, has the potential to empower communities around the world to prepare and defend themselves against floods and other extreme weather hazards associated with climate change.

ESRC Celebrating Impact Award

The UBDC and partners project that’s increasing community resilience and enhancing the capacity of residents of flood-prone areas in Brazil to take protective action has won an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize.

The ‘Waterproofing Data’ project was announced as the winner of the Outstanding Societal Impact category.

The project, which was ESRC-funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, developed an innovative approach combining community-generated data and analytics to increase community resilience, and enhance the capacity of residents of flood-prone areas in Brazil to take protective action.

Read the full University of Glasgow press release here.

Resources for schools

Leaflet for international schools: Waterproofing Data Project for schools
Short video documentary series on waterproof memories
Mobile app for inputting citizen data: Waterproofing Data Project app
An introduction to the Waterproofing Data Project Dashboard
Waterproofing Data Project Impact Summary

Resources for policy makers

University of Glasgow press release: Waterproofing Data Project
Waterproofing project: policy brief
Waterproofing Data Project Impact Summary
Impact piece from the International Science Council
An introduction to the Waterproofing Data Project dashboard

Resources for researchers

Porto de Albuquerque, J., Anderson, L., Calvillo, N., Cattino, M., Clarke, A., Cunha, M. A., Garde-Hansen, J., Klonner, C., Lima-Silva, F., Marchezini, V., Martins, M. H. da M., Pajarito Grajales, D., Pitidis, V., Rizwan, M., Tkacz, N., & Trajber, R. (2023). Dialogic data innovations for sustainability transformations and flood resilience: The case for waterproofing data. Global Environmental Change, 82(October 2022), 102730. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2023.102730
Short video documentary series (see above) on waterproof memories
Framework on the role of data: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343521000816
Analysis of flood risk governance in Brazil and UK: https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-01-2022-0016
Data diaries method: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951721996036
Sketch map Tool: https://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/10/3/130 and website: https://sketch-map-tool.heigit.org
Participatory flood research methods: https://doi.org/10.1142/S2345737622410020

Media coverage

Project coverage and interview with Professor Joao Porto de Albuquerque on national Jornal Hoje news programme (Portuguese)
News item on a local TV programme in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. (Portuguese)
CNM News Article - Collaborative mappings and community data can assist municipalities in disaster prevention and mitigation
Dr. Fernanda Lima (FGV) talks with the student Walmira Lopes (UFRA) about the methods and results of the Waterproof Data project in the context of risk governance in this podcast. (Portuguese)
Webinar on the Waterproofing Data Project explains the social and cultural approach to ​​flood risks in the state of Acre, Brazil. (Portuguese)


The Waterproofing Data Project was financially supported by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Transformations to Sustainability, which is co-funded by DLR/BMBF, ESRC (ES/S006982/1), FAPESP, and the European Commission through Horizon 2020 under grant agreement No 730211.

The UKRI GCRF Translation Award project (EP/T015683/1) is a UKRI Collective Fund Award supported by EPSRC and the Global Challenges Research Fund.

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