Australian Hydrographers Working Together to Protect Kuala Lumpur City from Natural Disasters and the effects of Climate Change

Mark Wolf - Greenspan Technology , 22 August, 2008

The Malaysian Department of Irrigation and Drainage has recently completed an A$750m mega project to protect the City of Kuala Lumpur from flooding. The project is called SMART.

Much of the budget was allocated to infrastructure but close to $6m was spent on the flood forecasting, warning and automated stormwater diversion and release system. Designed and developed by an Australian team of: Hydrographers, Modellers and Engineers, assembled from four different organisations including from government and the private sector, this project (including the Australian team’s innovative work) is now the leading finalist in the British Construction Industry Award for Best International Project 2008.

In 2005 the Australian team was successful in winning the international tender to design the flood forecasting and diversion system due to its sound knowledge of hydrological data collection, its ability to develop the SCADA, communications and database systems so as to enable hydraulic and hydrological models to run at high speed and automatically control gates and pumps. At all times the team stressed that for the project to be a success the new hydrological monitoring network to be designed and built by the project team and for the exclusive use of the project had to be accurate, reliable and technically advanced whilst meeting the International standards for hydrological data collection. Without this the system SMART could not function as the designers intended.

Since July 2007, the hydrological monitoring network, telemetry, hydrological database and modelling system established for Malaysia’s SMART system now operates as planned and has saved the City of Kuala Lumpur from major flooding on at least three occasions and minor flooding on sometimes a weekly basis!

Australian expertise founded in the field of hydrological data collection coupled with home grown engineering and modelling skills is now not only responsible for the success of SMART but is now being courted by governments of the world for the design and development of systems based on the SMART Flood Detection and Diversion System.

The purpose of this paper is not only to showcase the SMART project but more importantly to highlight:

  • the importance of the Hydrographer in today’s rapidly changing world especially as hydrography and engineering merge
  • the possibilities that exist for Hydrographers in roles that go beyond the traditional collection of hydrometric data which are still founded in the collection of hydrological data but are helping to push hydrography into the professional arena alongside mainstream engineering
  • the benefits that can result for the Australian water industry when Australian public and private sector hydrographic groups combine strengths and stretch their limits
  • the relevance of hardware and software that support open systems based protocols usually reserved for the power and water industry but are now very relevant