Natural Hazards

, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 1355–1378 | Cite as

An operational flood warning system for poorly gauged basins: demonstration in the Guadalhorce basin (Spain)

  • P.-A. VersiniEmail author
  • M. Berenguer
  • C. Corral
  • D. Sempere-Torres
Original Paper


This paper deals with the presentation of a flood warning system (GFWS) developed for the specific characteristics of the Guadalhorce basin (3,200 km2, SE of Spain), which is poorly gauged and often affected by flash and plain floods. Its complementarity with the European flood alert system (EFAS) has also been studied. At a lower resolution, EFAS is able to provide a flood forecast several days in advance. The GFWS is adapted to the use of distributed rainfall maps (such as radar rainfall estimates), and discharge forecasts are computed using a distributed rainfall–runoff model. Due to the lack of flow measurements, the model parameters calibrated on a small watershed have been transferred in most of the basin area. The system is oriented to provide distributed warnings and fulfills the requirements of ungauged basins. This work reports on the performance of the system on two recent rainfall events that caused several inundations. These results show how the GFWS performed well and was able to forecast the location and timing of flooding. It demonstrates that despite its limitations, a simple rainfall–runoff model and a relatively simple calibration could be useful for event risk management. Moreover, with low resolution and long anticipation, EFAS appears as a good complement tool to improve flood forecasting and compensate for the short lead times of the GFWS.


Flood Warning system Hydrology Ungauged basin 



The authors would like to thank Red HIDROSUR (Southern Andalusia Hydrological Network) and the AEMET (Spanish Meteorological Agency) for providing historical hydrometeorological data on the Guadalhorce basin. We would also like to thank the Joint Research Centre (JRC) for providing preliminary EFAS outputs for the studied cases. This work has been carried out within the European 7th FP project IMPRINTS ( and the Spanish projects FFGRad (CGL2009-13139) and ProFEWS (CGL2010-15892), and has been supported by the environmental management company EGMASA (currently, Agencia de Medio Ambiente y Agua de Andalucía, Consejería de Medio Ambiente—Junta de Andalucía). The second author is supported by a Ramón y Cajal grant of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (RYC2010-06521).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • P.-A. Versini
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. Berenguer
    • 1
  • C. Corral
    • 1
  • D. Sempere-Torres
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre de Recerca Aplicada en HidrometeorologiaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratoire Eau Environnemnent et Systèmes UrbainsEcole Nationale des Ponts et ChausséesChamps sur MarneFrance

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