Risk Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2015

DOI: 10.1111/risa.12295

Spatial Distribution of Flood Risk and Quality of Spatial Management: Case Study in Odra Valley, Poland Dorota Rucinska

This article presents methodological solutions aimed at presenting the spatial distribution of flood risk and quality of spatial management (land use), indicating both those areas used reasonably and those requiring modification. The purpose was to identify key risk areas and risk-free areas from the point of view of human security and activity on the floodplains, based on the examples of the vicinities of Wroclaw and Raciborz in the Odra Valley, Poland. Due to recent climate change, Poland has suffered the effects of severe flooding (e.g., 1997, 2001, 2010). The analyses conducted were motivated by the European Parliament and Council’s recently implemented Directive 2007/60/WE, as well as by the demand for studies for local spatial planning. The analysis indicates that reasonably developed areas do not account for the majority of those studied, making up 36% of the Wroclaw area and 15% of the Raciborz area. KEY WORDS: Disaster risk reduction; floodplain; natural hazard; reasonable land use; spatial management


The flood that severely affected Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland in 1997, (5–7) and the floods and landslides seen in Poland in 2010,(8,9) were typical of the patterns of contemporary times. An urgent need is emerging for humans to adapt to the changes occurring in nature. Reasonable development of hazard areas is one possibility. In order to assess the reasonability of an area, it is necessary first to identify regions of different types of risk. This article contains the results of studies concerning two cities in Poland: Wroclaw and Raciborz.(10,11) Finally, this article presents a map of Raciborz and its vicinity to exemplify broader studies. The proposed method enabled a depiction of the quality of land development on land that has been subjected to intense use for many years. Maps of flood risk were obtained, which present the spatial distribution of the greatest predicted threats to humans as well as material losses. The approach used may be helpful in initial analyses of risk assessment and is in part a response to Poland’s administrative requirements relating to the implementation process of the EU Flood

Climate change and increasing population density are contributing to increasingly frequent exposure to loss caused by extreme natural events. In Poland, a warning sign of climate change can be detected in the temperature and precipitation, with knock-on effects on agriculture.(2) Temperature projections indicate global warming. Particular changes are observed in precipitation, but we cannot define a seasonal distribution in the change.(3) Rainfall intensity is increasing as a result of climate change. In Poland, there have been several extremely strong storms and winds, with whirlwinds every year. It is probable that climate change is leading to an increase in heavy rain damage and the melting of snow. But often the dominant factor is the fact that people enter the floodplain, where there is high potential for losses.(4) Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, Institute of Regional and Global Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland; [email protected]


C 2014 Society for Risk Analysis 0272-4332/15/0100-0241$22.00/1 

242 Directive.(1,11) In addition, it addresses the Ministry of Environment’s directive on ecophysiographic studies,(12) evaluating anthropogenic settlement features in terms of quality of life and human residence, while taking into account the standard and safety of developed land. Assessments based on the criterion of reasonable use according to the above-mentioned document should contain guidelines for local land-use plans. The following plans should take into account: (1) restriction in usage and housing resulting from the threat of incurring losses in those areas that are improperly used and should not be developed in the future and (2) an indication of safe and viable areas for investment related to construction in previously unused areas.(13)

2. HAZARD AND RISK Flooding can cause damage in social, material, and environmental spheres on a range of spatial scales. It contributes to disorganization, posing a threat to human health and life as well as the destruction of cultural heritage. It leads to a decline in investment, infrastructure, and loss of livestock and crops as well as environmental pollution. Hazard and risk are defined differently.(14–21) There is no homogenous theoretical perspective on risk as studied by specialists of various disciplines(22,23) or even within one discipline.(14,16) The building blocks of this study were the definitions of the UN/ISDR.(24) It was assumed that a hazard is an event or phenomenon causing death, loss, environmental destruction, and degradation, while risk is a function of natural threat and vulnerability to threat(14,25,26) —in this case, extremely high water in the Odra River and social vulnerability as related to the form of land use. The UN/ISDR understands that hazards like external or internal processes and phenomena, which are at times linked, may affect human activities and cause detrimental conditions. This fact signifies a potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon, and/or human activity that may cause loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption, or environmental degradation.(27) The phenomena of atmospheric, hydrological, or oceanographic nature and earthquakes, volcanic activity, and emissions, and related geophysical processes are linked at times.(28) The EU flood document,(15) referring to the flood hazard maps, will cover the geographical areas that could be flooded according

Rucinska to the following scenarios, taking into account floods with different levels of probability and event scenarios. According to the direction of each scenario, the extent of flooding, water depths, or water level will be shown, as appropriate; where appropriate, the flow velocity or the relevant water flow will be shown.(15) Risk definition is understood by the UN/ISDR(27) as the probability of detrimental consequences or expected losses resulting from exposure to a given hazard (a given element of danger), over a specified time period. The risk is a combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences. It is the connotation of the concept of chance or possibility, and consequences such as potential losses for a particular cause, place, or period.(28) Meanwhile, the EU Directive describes the risk map requirement, which will show the potential adverse consequences associated with the flood scenarios and be expressed in terms of the following: the indicative number of inhabitants potentially affected, type of economic activity of the area potentially affected, installations concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (which might cause accidental pollution in the event of flooding), and potentially affected protected areas, other useful information, such as the indication of areas where floods with a high content of transported sediments and flooding debris may occur, and information on other significant sources of pollution.(15) To summarize, some important differences in the two concepts at issue can be noted: probability and the social aspect. Probability is present in EU Directive hazard analysis, and in UN/ISDR risk definition. The UN/ISDR focus on the social aspect during hazard and risk definition, while in the EU Directive it is present from the risk concept and analysis perspective only.

3. METHODS 3.1. Source Materials Source materials consisted of “Atlas of the Odra Floodplain” (sheets C18, C19, C6) at a scale of 1:50,000, containing data concerning the borders of the natural floodplain(29) as well as topographic maps for Wroclaw and Raciborz at a scale of 1:10,000, containing data on spatial management from the Central Office of Surveying and Cartography. In the analysis, the Geographic Information System (GIS) and the ArcGiS software (ArcMap 10) were used. The geodatabase was created on the basis

Spatial Distribution of Flood Risk and Quality of Spatial Management of topographic maps in electronic version from Centralny Osrodek Dokumentacji Geodezyjnej i Kartograficznej in Warsaw, “C” sheets from the “Atlas of the Odra Floodplain,” and a layer of grids (regular square polygons) that was necessary for the analysis. The maps were calibrated in 1992, at UMT. 3.2. Area of Study Within the analyzed conurbations, the natural dynamics of the Odra’s flow has been largely transformed through regulation (weirs, floodbanks). Many kilometers of the natural floodplain have been developed and the predominant part of the existing polders constitutes fertile arable land.(29) The northwest region of Wroclaw was the first area of study (Fig. 1); districts both within and beyond the administrative boundaries of the city were included, covering the floodplains and stretching 1.5 km beyond the natural floodplain boundaries. This includes the following districts: Swiniary, Redzin, Pracze Odrzanskie, Lipa Piotrowska, Klokoczyce, Widawa, Polanowice, Osobowice, Lesica, Rozanka, Kleczkow, Poswietne, Soltysowice, Maslice Wielkie, Pilczyce, Kozanow, Gadow Maly, Popowice, Szczepin, Stare Miasto and part of Pawlowice district, Karlowice, Psie Pole, Stablowice, Kuzniki, Nowy Dwor, Muchobor Maly, and Krzyki; also included are the following villages: Psary, Pamowice, Szymanow, Piskorzowice, Miloszyn, and Krzyzanowice, and Wilkszyn.(10) Raciborz, along with parts of the towns of Pogrzebien, Pogwizdow, Lubomia, and Nieboczowy, was the second area of study (Fig. 2).(11) According to physical-geographical regionalization by J. Kondracki, the research area of the Odra River passes through the mesoregions of Pradoline Wroclaw and the Raciborz Basin in the macroregion of Lower Silesia. It is outside the area of Alpine West Europe.(30) Wroclaw City and Raciborz are located on the Odra River in Central Europe, in the west of Poland on the Silesian Lowlands. Wroclaw is a historical city, one of the fourth largest in Poland (631,000 residents in 2012) and is situated in the administrative province of Lower Silesia as the capitol of the region. This part of the Odra River has many natural channels. The natural Odra dynamic has been transformed by regulation or the river by dams (weirs) and levees. In the Wroclaw area, the floodplain is about 15-km long. The zone has been developed and the polders have been used for agriculture land. Raciborz City


is located in the south part of the Lower Silesia Province. It is a historical city and has more than 56,000 residents. The Odra River is strengthened there, the bottom covered by sand and gravel, where sedimentation is observed. The part of the area studied is the landscape park Cysterskie Kompozycje Rud Wielkich. Under the Odra River Programme, a reservoir is being built in the Raciborz and Wodzislaw districts and the Raciborz City region, the construction of which will be finished in 2015. The Bukow Polder already constructed in the Lubomia County mitigated the flood wave, retaining about 54 million cubic meters on May 17 and 18, 2010. 3.3. Research Stages The research was divided into the following three stages: (1) preparing maps of flood hazard on the basis of data from the atlas;(29) (2) drawing up maps of the spatial differentiation of spatial management (land use) intensity; and (3) depicting flood risk relating to the quality of land use. Regular unit grid and modified class difference methods were used (cf. Section 3.6). 3.4. Areas of Flood Hazard Natural borders determine the areas of hazard from which three types of floodplain are known: natural, present (internal area between levees and weirs), and previous (external to the area of levees and weirs) floodplains.(29) On the basis of ranges determined from the Odra floodplains, as well as areas flooded during the flood of 1997 (p = 0.1%),(29) four zones of flood hazard were established. They were covered with a regular unit grid of 500 × 500 m squares in the case of Wroclaw(10) and 250 × 250 m squares in the case of Raciborz.(11) The first zone (1) is characterized by very low flood hazard and is located outside the natural floodplain, i.e., beyond the edge of the flood terrace (relatively safe but risk cannot be excluded due to climate change). The second zone (2) demonstrates low flood hazard and contains the so-called natural Odra floodplain, which was not flooded in 1997 (it was assumed that there is a possibility of a greater flood than in 1997, or failure of the flood protection; therefore, this area could potentially be flooded). The third zone (3), with high flood hazard, was the area flooded during the 1997 flood (as well as in 1903 in the case of Wroclaw). It does not cover the present floodplain (even though it was flooded



Fig. 1. Schematic map of Wroclaw and vicinity (source of the base map: Googlemasp.com).

in 1997), since this area was included in the fourth zone (4)—that of very high hazard due to a location within the levees and other flood protection constructions. This is the area that did not undergo human development during the lengthy urbanization process. To undertake the analysis, it was necessary to determine the criteria for assigning a particular regular unit to a given zone when zone borders crossed a unit. The rules for five situations in a regular unit were established: (1) if there was one zone, the whole unit belonged to that zone; (2) if there were two zones and the line divided the unit into two even parts, the unit was assigned to the area of higher flood risk (taking into account the possibility of a greater flood than in 1997); (3) if the regular unit belonged in majority to one zone, it was assigned to the zone that covered the greatest surface; (4) if there were three risk zones in the unit, the unit was assigned to the zone that covered the greatest surface; and (5) if the surface of three zones were very similar, the unit was assigned to the zone ranking between those with the smallest and biggest surface.(10,31)

3.5. Land-Use Intensity Maintaining the previously assumed division into regular units, a land-use ratio was used (based on the existing floor area ratio [FAR], Resolution No. LXI/611/02), which includes six elements of spatial development: buildings, industrial areas, infrastructure, arable land, grassland, and bodies of water. The land-use ratio equals the sum of products obtained by multiplying the surface occupied by a particular land-use element by the respective weighting value of a given element, divided by the total surface of all elements. Particular land-use elements were assigned five weightings, depending on the level of exposure to damage. Below is the relevant formula: 4 x = i=0 4


i=0 si

, for x= {0, 1, 2, 3, 4},

where x is the index characterizing area s with weighting value x (weighting point x); si is the variable characterizing areas occupied by a particular element of spatial development; and x is the indexing

Spatial Distribution of Flood Risk and Quality of Spatial Management


Fig. 2. Schematic map of Raciborz and vicinity (source of the base map: Googlemasp.com).

element (alternatively, weighting values or weighting points). A hierarchy of the analyzed elements was assumed on the basis of the risk of loss caused by flooding, among which human life and health (physical and mental) were considered to be the most important criteria, which is why residential housing and buildings of public utility are ranked the highest. The following grading was established: buildings (4 points), industrial areas and infrastructure ex aequo (3 points), arable lands (2 points), grassland and forest (1 point), and bodies of water (0 points, as they occupy a certain area in the studied terrain and fulfill the function of an impactful factor).(10,31,32) Index values were considered to be the intensity measure of spatial development characterizing regular units, assuming that the greater the index value, the greater the land-use intensity. Four classes of land-use intensity were identified: very high (class 1), high (class 2), low (class 3), and very low (class 4). 3.6. Methodological Problems The class difference method,(33) which allows the level of connection between two phenomena to

be established, was adopted for the analysis. Regular units were used, which enabled the determination of the spatial difference of connection intensity.(34) On the basis of the assumption that the areas of high flood hazard should be accompanied by low-intensity land use, the scales of both phenomena were ordered antagonistically. Class difference was obtained in this case by deducting class of land-use intensity from class of hazard (hazard minus intensity). In some situations a value of zero was obtained, revealing a class compliance for both phenomena (i.e., fulfilling the assumption that areas of high flood hazard should be accompanied by low-intensity land use), which corresponds to reasonable land use. However, in the remaining situations, the obtained values did not demonstrate a logical compliance due to the specificity of the case study. For example, the risk categories with values [−1; +1] or [−2; +2], etc. contained combinations of hazard and land-use intensity with contradictory features, e.g., (−1) and (+1). Therefore, in the following analysis it was assumed that values diverging from zero (+) and (−) indicate different levels of incompatibility, according to the sign (character of risk) and difference value (level of risk). Positive values of class difference indicate a


Rucinska Table I. Modified Class Difference Method Used for Flood Risk Assessment (Source: Drob(11) ) Flood Hazard

Ordinal Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Land-Use Intensity

Class (Zone)




Class Difference

4 4 3 4 3 2 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 2 1 1

Very High Very High High Very High High Low Very High High Low Very Low High Low Very Low Low Very Low Very Low

1 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 4 3 2 4 3 4

Very High High Very High Low High Very High Very Low Low High Very High Very Low Low High Very Low Low Very Low

3 2 1


−1 −2 −3

high flood risk, while negative values indicate a low risk (Table I). Maps of flood risk developed in this way enable us to picture spatial variations of phenomenon intensity, with particular focus on people exposition. The method focuses on the antagonistic system. It should be emphasized that the solution is the place to order many kind of situation of hazard and land use. Many levels are the consequence of the used method, when only zero level confirms reasonable land use. Values of “0,” e.g., which was the median obtained, represent not only one situation of high flood hazard accompanied by low intensity of use but also represent terrains with low flood hazard and high intensity of land use.

(with the highest risk of loss) and when low or very low intensity land use occurs in an area of low or very low flood hazard (risk does not occur or is very low). These cases include: (1) “high-risk areas with unreasonable land use” (regular units with a positive value class difference); and (2) “low-risk areas with unreasonable land use” (regular units with a negative value class difference).

3.7. Reasonability of Land Use

4.1. Maps of Risk

The map of flood risk also yielded information about the quality of land use and allowed for the identification of areas on various levels of land-use reasonability. Within the studied area two types of terrain were distinguished: reasonable land use (with “zero” class difference) and unreasonable land use, divided into subtypes of opposite natures of risk (above normal and below normal). Reasonable land use was considered as that aimed at mitigation of flood damages. Unreasonable land use was considered as that where high or very high intensity land use occurs in an area of high or very high flood hazard

The analysis indicated that the highest flood risk occurs in the centers of both cities. In the case of Wroclaw, the Kozanow, Pilczyce, Maslice, Redzin, and Ligota districts are also vulnerable to risk of loss.(4) In the case of Raciborz, the same applies to parts of the Plonia and Ostrog districts. High flood risk also occurs in arable lands or parts of villages located in the areas of very high flood hazard. The lowest risk occurs in the areas stretching from the north to the south in the western and eastern parts of the studied areas, which are arable lands or grassland and forest (Fig. 3).(11)

4. RESULTS This study enabled us to indicate the spatial distribution of risk and quality of land use, assuming the excessive physical and functional “presence” of man as a criterion for land-use intensity.

Spatial Distribution of Flood Risk and Quality of Spatial Management


Fig. 3. Spatial flood risk distribution in Raciborz and vicinity (source: Drob(11) ).

4.2. Maps of Risk and Quality of Land Use As the final outcome, a map depicting flood risk and quality of land use in the studied areas of Wroclaw and Raciborz was obtained, which distinguishes: (1) high risk and unreasonable land use; (2) no risk or relatively low risk and reasonable land use; and (3) no risk or relatively low risk and unreasonable land use. In the studied area of Wroclaw, the areas of reasonable land-use include regions near Polanowice,

Widawa, Poswietne, Stablowice, Pamowice, Piskorzowice, and to the northeast of Swiniary (in total, 36% of the studied area). Losses will either not occur in these areas or will be minor (option [2]). Among areas of unreasonable land use (accounting for 64% of the area), two subtypes were distinguished. The first comprises areas of high or very high hazard accompanied by high or very high land-use intensity (option [1]). This includes the areas and districts of Rozanka, Ligota, Kleczkow, Stare Miasto, Szczepin,



Fig. 4. Flood risk with quality of land use in Raciborz and vicinity (source: Drob(11) ).

Popowice, Kozanow, Maslice, and Redzin (accounting for 28% of the area); these areas should not be dominated by residential housing or industrial buildings. The second subtype includes areas of low or very low flood hazard accompanied by low or very low land-use intensity (option [3]). These areas are

not exposed to flood damage; however, they are not subject to reasonable use, as denser housing should be built in areas of low and very low flood hazard. In fact, these areas are dominated by grassland and arable lands; they include: Osobowice, Muchobor Maly, and Pilczyce, as well as the areas around

Spatial Distribution of Flood Risk and Quality of Spatial Management Wilkszyn, Lesica, Lipa Piotrowska, Klokoczyce, Pawlowice, Szymanow, Psary, Osobowice, and Soltysowice (accounting for 36% of the studied area).(10) In Raciborz, the areas of reasonable land-use (option [2]) are scattered around the whole study area (15% of the total area). They are situated near the river, well developed (grassland or arable lands with low land-use intensity), or sometimes more remote from the river, demonstrating greater land-use intensity (a higher percentage of buildings, industrial areas, and infrastructure). In the Raciborz study, areas of the highest degree of flood risk were not distinguished (class 3 did not occur). Areas of unreasonable land use accounted for 85% of the study area. Among the risk areas of unreasonable land use (option [1]) were areas stretching from the south to the north in the central part of the study area (41% of the total area). Buildings and industrial areas should not occur there or should be significantly limited. The risk-free subtype with unreasonable land use (option [3]) comprises safe areas that could be used more intensely for construction; these stretch from the north to the south in two belts—in the west and east of the study area—and account for nearly half of the total area of study (44%) (Fig. 4).(11) 5. DISCUSSION The applied method enabled us to obtain a synthetic picture of differentiation of flood risk intensity in the areas of Wroclaw, Raciborz, and their vicinities, as well as to evaluate the quality of land use with a focus on the safety of residents. It required the use of topographic maps, maps of flood areas, and the flooding with the greatest range in the history. The undesirable elements arising from this method are the generalizations that result from arbitrary classification, selection of criteria, and use of grading. In order to make the analysis more detailed, four classes of phenomenon intensity were adopted (very low, low, high, very high); additionally, Geographic Information System (GIS) was used and the side length of a regular unit was reduced to 250 m in the case of Raciborz. When modifying the class difference method, the negative and positive class difference values obtained were segregated and it was assumed that each value corresponds to a feature or a group of particular features. The “zero” class difference obtained was the median and fulfilled the condition that allowed for the characterization of a particular area as


reasonably used; class difference values were divided into two types describing intensity and antagonistic character of risk. It seems justified to further segregate the “reasonable” use type into two subtypes according to hazard and intensity: very high and very low (reasonable); and high and low (acceptable from the point of view of reasonability). An important aspect of the analysis was to indicate areas of different use reasonability, as the essence of spatial planning should be to reduce housing in dangerous areas and to introduce it into safer areas. The map indicates areas that had not been used before; it stresses their prospective significance and functions that are sometimes different from those assumed in traditional spatial planning. As much as possible, high-risk areas should be excluded from development expansion, and should furthermore be subjected to a reduction of housing in favor of use for green and recreational areas. There is unanimous agreement on the negative consequences of development on flood terraces but the concept of urban development near rivers, where risk is the highest, persists. The current notion of urban area development needs to take into account the dynamics of natural phenomena so that spatial development of housing estates can occur in relatively safe areas. The proposed solution in the form of a flood risk map could be used to mitigate flood effects, modifying land-use planning through taking reasonability into account, and in ecophysiographic studies, where evaluation of the compliance of previous development with natural features and conditions is required (relevant in the case of requirements for ecophysiographic studies in Poland). The applied method makes it possible to indicate areas requiring transformation of use and development in order to simultaneously adapt to flood hazard. It could be helpful in administration units at local and regional levels. It could also contain an important informational and educational element, both for residents of these areas as well as those planning migration or investment there. The analyses may be helpful in the initial evaluation of modification of land use for human safety, following the example of the Dutch concept, “Room for the River,”(35) particularly regarding the detailed data, which allow studies of social vulnerability to be conducted.(36) Studies of this kind may also help avoid mistakes such as the construction of the Kozanow housing estate in Wroclaw on the natural floodplain (with a high flood risk(10) ), which is affected every time strong flooding occurs, as in 1997 and 2010.



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MAPS Topographic maps of Wroclaw [maps] Warszawa: Glowny Urzad Geodezji i Kartografii: Poland; 1997, 1998. 1:10,000; 60 × 60 cm.; color. Topographic maps of Raciborz [maps] Warszawa: Glowny Geodeta Kraju: Poland; 1993. 1:10,000; 60 × 60 cm.; color.

Spatial distribution of flood risk and quality of spatial management: case study in Odra Valley, Poland.

This article presents methodological solutions aimed at presenting the spatial distribution of flood risk and quality of spatial management (land use)...
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