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 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.  

Further information:
An introduction to the Waterproofing Data Dashboard
University of Glasgow press release on Waterproofing Data Project 
Mobile app for inputting citizen data: Waterproofing Data app
Full project paper on the Waterproofing Data project

For schools:
Leaflet for international schools: Waterproofing project for schools
Short video documentary series on waterproof memories

For policy makers:
Waterproof project policy brief
Impact piece from the International Science Council