A simple GIS-based model for urban rainstorm inundation simulation

Xianhong Meng, Min Zhang*, Jiahong Wen, Shiqiang Du, Hui Xu, Luyang Wang, Yan Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


With rapid urbanization, floods that occur are more frequently associated with non-riverine, urban flooding. Reliable and efficient simulation of rainstorm inundation in an urban environment is profound for risk analysis and sustainable development. Although sophisticated hydrodynamic models are now available to simulate the urban flooding processes with a high accuracy, the complexity and heavy computation requirement render these models difficult to apply. Moreover, a large number of input data describing the complex urban underlying surfaces is required to setup the models, which are typically unavailable in reality. In this paper, a simple and efficient urban rainstorm inundation simulation method, named URIS, was developed based on a geographic information system (GIS) with limited input data. The URIS method is a simplified distributed hydrological model, integrating three components of the soil conservation service (SCS) module, surface flow module, and drainage flow module. Cumulative rainfall-runoff, output from the SCS model, feeds the surface flow model, while the drainage flow module is an important waterlogging mitigation measure. The central urban area of Shanghai in China was selected as a study case to calibrate and verify the method. It was demonstrated that the URIS is capable of characterizing the spatiotemporal dynamic processes of urban inundation and drainage under a range of scenarios, such as different rainstorm patterns with varying return periods and different alterations of drainage diameters. URIS is therefore characterized with high efficiency, reasonable data input, and low hardware requirements and should be an alternative to hydrodynamic models. It is useful for urgent urban flood inundation estimation and is applicable for other cities in supporting emergency rescue and sustainable urban planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2830
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributed simulation
  • GIS
  • Rainstorm
  • SCS model
  • Urban flooding


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