Natural Hazards

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 305–323 | Cite as

An evaluation of the impacts of land surface modification, storm sewer development, and rainfall variation on waterlogging risk in Shanghai

  • Xiaodan Wu
  • Dapeng Yu
  • Zhongyuan Chen
  • Robert L. Wilby
Original Paper


Despite continuing efforts to upgrade the urban storm sewer system since the late 1950s, the City of Shanghai is still vulnerable to persistent rainstorm waterlogging due to excess surface runoff and sewer surcharge, which frequently cause significant damage to buildings and disruption to traffic. Rapid urbanization and associated land cover changes are the major factors contributing to waterlogging. However, it is unclear to what extent changes in rainfall variability over the past few decades are also involved. This paper investigates the combined impacts of land use and land cover change, storm sewer development, and long-term variations in precipitation. Evidence of persistent waterlogging is presented first. We then give an account of land surface modifications during the process of urbanization and the development of the city’s urban storm sewer system. Statistical analysis suggests that the increase in runoff coefficient due to conversion of lands from agricultural to industrial, commercial, and residential uses is a major factor driving greater waterlogging risk. In particular, historical analysis of aerial photographs reveals the rate and extent of modification to river networks in the past few decades. The natural drainage network has shrunk by 270 km, significantly reducing the city’s capacity to transport excess surface flow. In line with other studies, we find no significant overall trends in annual rainfall totals (at Baoshan and Xujiahui). However, seasonal and monthly rainfall intensities have increased. At the daily scale, we find that compared to pre-1980s: (i) there has been an increase in the number of wet days with precipitation exceeding 25 mm (Heavy Rainfall) and decrease in those below 25 mm and (ii) the number of consecutive wet days with precipitation maximum and average exceeding the threshold known to cause waterlogging shows an increasing trend. Since rainfall intensity is expected to increase under climate change, this could further compound the impacts of land use changes and place even greater pressure on the existing storm sewer system.


Waterlogging Flood risk Urban drainage Land use change Precipitation extremes Climate change 



This study was supported by an East China Normal University Overseas Study Fellowship (52YB2030) awarded to Xiaodan Wu, which enabled her to visit the Centre for Hydrological and Ecosystem Science in the Department of Geography, Loughborough University, for 6 months between October 2010 and March 2011. The authors thank the anonymous referees for their constructive remarks.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaodan Wu
    • 1
  • Dapeng Yu
    • 2
  • Zhongyuan Chen
    • 3
  • Robert L. Wilby
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Centre for Hydrological and Ecosystem ScienceLoughborough UniversityLeicestershireUK
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal ResearchEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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