Fathom’s specialist flooding expertise gives CReDo’s climate change adaptation platform powerful scientific foundations.
CReDo (Climate Resilience Demonstrator) aims to protect infrastructure industries against climate impacts. The project is developing a climate change adaptation digital twin of the UK’s critical infrastructure assets, such as energy, water and telecoms facilities.
Providers of critical infrastructure face greater disruption and costs under climate change as floods and other natural disasters become more common and severe.
When an asset floods, the ensuing disruption is not limited to the network to which the asset belongs. A flooded electricity substation, for example, could knock out power for assets in other interconnected networks, such as water treatment plants and telephone exchanges.
As a flood’s effects cascade across interconnected asset networks, so do its wider impacts on society and the local economy.
To enhance the overall infrastructure network, providers need to work together to plan and invest in climate change adaptation and resilience measures. But because utilities and other asset owners work independently from one another, individual companies find it hard to model exactly how they depend on each other’s critical assets.
This challenge is recognised well by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s climate change advisory body. In April 2023, the CCC wrote a joint letter with the National Infrastructure Commission that urged ministers to improve the climate resilience of key infrastructure services.
Meeting the challenge is CReDo, an innovative solution for infrastructure providers in the UK. Its goal is to help providers integrate data and adapt to climate challenges together, focusing initially on flooding.
The project is steered by Connected Places Catapult, who is working with Anglian Water, UK Power Networks, and the BT Group. It plans to create a digital twin of the UK’s infrastructure networks. This will provide interactive maps that show how assets connect across traditional sector boundaries.
The platform is still in development. However, CReDo’s technical team knew early on that they needed to bring in specialist flooding and climate change expertise for the platform to work.
CReDo’s technical lead, Elliot Christou, explains: “In the early phases of the project, our first instinct was to try and run flood simulations and generate data ourselves. But we found that to be very challenging because, while we have many technical experts on the team, we don’t have any hydrologists.” They set out to find an external provider of flood-risk intelligence.
“Asset owners really need to know who they are dependent on—it’s crucial both for the integrity of assets but also for the service you give your customers. Understanding the risks in advance and how we can mitigate them is key.”
Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Chair of the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Adaptation Committee, speaking in a CReDo film
CReDo explored the market for flood-risk intelligence providers. It chose Fathom for its strong scientific reputation, transparent peer-reviewed data, and enthusiastic, flexible working style.
Fathom provided CReDo with pluvial (rainfall), fluvial (river) and coastal data for the East Anglia region of the UK under a range of climate scenarios for 2030 and 2050, as well as today’s climate state.
CReDo’s developers used the data to build a prototype of the platform with East Anglia as the test area. To support CReDo’s innovation goals, Fathom allowed CReDo to adapt the data so that it could meet the varied needs of the project’s many partners across industry and academia.
The prototype can illustrate the potential effects of flooding on assets by predicting:
- which sites would be affected by high water levels under different climate scenarios, for the different types of flooding – fluvial, pluvial and coastal – and across a range of return periods;
- which assets in the network might fail or suffer as a result of cascading impacts;
- the resulting economic costs to the providers, and the wider societal impacts and costs.
Further, Fathom’s support and transparency put CReDo in control of the data. Fathom explained fully how to:
- use the data and hazard maps;
- combine them with other types of data, such as economic data;
- interpret the data in light of how they were created.
Quote Fathom’s methods of peer review give it a different kind of credibility. We knew that they were the experts and the right people to work with. The team was really enthusiastic about supporting our innovation goals and very generous with their time explaining how to use and interpret the data.
Fathom has enabled CReDo to make big steps towards its end goal of creating a digital twin that supports critical decisions and protects communities and businesses.
Having demonstrated its vision with a credible and fully functioning prototype, CReDo is now able to scale up the platform across new regions and partners, including the transport sector and local authorities, and for additional climate risks, starting with extreme heat.
“The national coverage of Fathom’s data enabled us to demonstrate the extensibility and scalability of the CReDo approach. The data describing different types of flood enables the possibility to investigate the impact of different types of flood event on different types of infrastructure,” added Toby Greenwood, Business Development Manager with CReDo project partner, CMCL.
CReDo visualisation using Fathom data. This shows how a network of electricity, water, telecoms and healthcare assets are affected by fluvial (green), pluvial (red) and coastal (blue) flooding. Assets with red rings indicate severe impacts, orange rings indicate second order impacts. Arrows indicate the direction of the cascading impacts.
CReDo is a collaboration across research and industry led by Connected Places Catapult.
Fathom’s peer-reviewed data and expertise have supported CReDo’s progress by giving the prototype powerful scientific foundations. These reassure network providers of the platform’s credibility. “Our project partners in industry are very interested in where the data come from,” Christou explains.
The prototype has also been key to CReDo’s successful funding application for £913,000 to Ofwat, the UK water regulator, to incorporate the effects of extreme heat on water networks. “Fathom’s work on the prototype really helped open up that opportunity for us,” says Christou.
“Fathom’s pro-innovation and flexible approach has been invaluable to CReDo’s progress. It gives us extra credibility with partners and funders that we’re using reliable and well-tested flooding data for lots of different scenarios. Fathom’s helpfulness and support for our goals have also been hugely valuable. They always got back to our questions, no matter what they were. They fulfilled all our requests in a short timescale, including data-sharing agreements, so we could do what we needed to do.”
Elliot Christou, CReDo
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Quote We would like to express our gratitude to both the physical risk open data providers as well as to the plethora of technical experts for all of their contributions to this exercise over the past two years.
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