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Title: A global open-source database of flood-protection levees on river deltas (openDELvE)
Abstract. Flood-protection levees have been built along rivers and coastlines globally. Current datasets, however, are generally confined to territorial boundaries (national datasets) and are not always easily accessible, posing limitations for hydrologic models and assessments of flood hazard. Here, we bridge this knowledge gap by collecting and standardizing global flood-protection levee data for river deltas into the open-source global river delta levee data environment, openDELvE. In openDELvE, we aggregate levee data from national databases, reports, maps, and satellite imagery. The database identifies the river delta land areas that the levees have been designed to protect. Where data are available, we record the extent and design specifications of the levees themselves (e.g., levee height, crest width, construction material) in a harmonized format. The 1657 polygons of openDELvE contain 19 248 km of levees and 44 733.505 km2 of leveed area. For the 153 deltas included in openDELvE, 17 % of the land area is confined by flood-protection levees. Around 26 % of delta population lives within the 17 % of delta area that is protected, making leveed areas densely populated. openDELvE data can help improve flood exposure assessments, many of which currently do not account for flood-protection levees. We find that current flood hazard assessments that do not include levees may exaggerate the delta flood exposure by 33 % on average, but up to 100 % for some deltas. The openDELvE is made public on an interactive platform (, 1 October 2022), which includes a community-driven revision tool to encourage inclusion of new levee data and continuous improvement and refinement of open-source levee data.  more » « less
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
4087 to 4101
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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