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Challenge Sponsor organisation

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)


Flood Unit


Communications and Customer Service Manager 

Apply now!

You can now send your application for this challenge through Public Contracts Scotland.

Challenge timeline

Submission deadline: Monday 1st August 9AM

Top 6 announced: Friday 5th August

Skype interview: Monday 15th August

Exploration stage kickoff: 22nd August

Pitch day: Wednesday 31st August (Edinburgh)


Challenge narrative: what the problem is, its background and context; why it’s important to solve the problem, the benefits solving it would trigger, and the parts of society that would receive those benefits

How can we reach more, and smaller, Scottish communities with flood forecasting and flood warning information to help them be aware of the potential for flooding?

SEPA has flood forecasting information which - due to its more technical nature - is currently shared only with professional flooding responders (e.g. police/fire/local authorities etc.). We also have a network of river and coastal gauging stations, which sends data into online displays. These are usually part of formal flood warning schemes, and the data feeds our analytical tools, which helps us create the public-facing flood warnings through Floodline.

In many areas we are unable to provide formal flood warning schemes, so smaller at-risk communities cannot receive more localised and timely alerting to potential flooding.

We want to create the best, most accessible flood forecasting and warning information service possible using all data out there, in a way which improves communication and reach to responders AND the public, especially those in areas outwith formal flood warning schemes. 


Why the Challenge Sponsor is focused on this

We are Scotland’s lead on flood forecasting and warning and believe:

  • our existing products could be improved;
  • there are other sources of information out there which aren’t harnessed;
  • developing technology could help our outputs benefit more people;
  • creative digital development could help stretch finite resources.

Climate change forecasts suggest flooding will continue to be an increasing issue for Scotland, and flood forecasting and warning is an important part of our adaptation actions.

Forecasting technology is developing in a way which means we now may be able to predict potential flooding impacts in smaller areas where we don’t have physical monitoring in place.

In addition, there are other non-SEPA water monitoring datasets out there which may be able to contribute to providing a better overall flooding impact service for Scotland.

  1. MetOffice and SEPA data and expertise already enables us to produce a daily Flood Guidance Statement (FGS) that provides a five-day outlook on the likelihood of flooding and real-time flood forecasts throughout flood events. This output currently focuses on the needs of the responder community, but it is now recognised that they could have a much wider use if they were made publicly available in an appropriate format and through more accessible channels.
  2. Many rural and urban communities are prone to very localised flooding from small watercourses, the sea or surface water. SEPA will never be able to install full ‘traditional’ flood warning schemes for most but some may have other water level monitoring which could be utilised as part of a bigger picture, showing local flooding prediction.
  3. Emerging technologies and information products in forecasting and new communication technology means there’s potential for gathering and sharing information. How could we best combine these, alongside developing plans for our Flood warning dissemination platform and digital output?
  4. Limited or reducing budgets, and peoples’ increasing use of digital technology (especially smartphones), mean there is a real benefit if we deliver more through our own and other orgs’ digital channels and products.


The attempts [if any] the Challenge Sponsor has made to find a solution to the problem - and why they’re not fit for purpose

No, although there are elements of it within development aspirations and plans for our existing flood warning dissemination system (HTK Horizon platform) and internal social media channel development.



Who are the end users?

  • Those travelling through and living or working in flood risk areas of Scotland
  • Scotland’s flooding responders (e.g. police, fire & rescue, local authorities etc.)
  • Businesses based in flood risk areas or whose activities are affected by flooding (e.g. transport and utilities), other sections of the general public


What the Challenge Sponsor would like to see from the solution

  • Better equipped Scottish public (and responder professionals) through access to forecast and live flood warning and water level information from SEPA and other providers wherever the customer is or the information exists.
  • Reduced flooding impacts on people’s lives through better more accessible information and response.



What would success look like in measurable terms?

What is the one metric that matters?

Financial: something within budget and which is affordable annually for the long term
Sustainable: an output which is easy and affordable to maintain and improve (change)
Accessible: 24/7, quick to share, simple to view, free to use and easy to understand by all
Use: take-up and use of the solution by professionals and the public to take action.


Systems including software, APIs and databases the solution will need to work with and / or integrate with

HTK Horizon system (platform on which our flood warning system is based)

FEWS – Flood Early Warning System (commercial product on which our flooding analysis/modelling is done)

WISKI - water-related data management software

SODA – telemetry system managing our remote data collection / alarm management

Social media platforms

Possibly other digital products delivering flooding and non-flooding emergency alerting (e.g. Red Cross app or similar)



What’s in it for the successful solution provider: the commercial opportunity from initial contracts to national and international potential

Interesting funded safety project which involves analysis / design and also output creation
It has scalability potential for sales elsewhere
There’s kudos and cash in flooding safety solutions, with a rare public sector appetite/availability for funding if it enables something effective to be designed, created and implemented.
There‘s potential for multiple licensing elsewhere as solution could be attractive to other providers of flooding information (countries/agencies)


The stakeholders that would be involved, and the team would require access to

SEPA forecasting & warning team
SEPA communication and customer service team
SEPA IS department (web team)
Other information or channel owners (e.g. local authorities and commercial product providers)
Floodline customers
Publics in areas not served by SEPA flood warning schemes
Community stakeholders, e.g. local community resilience groups for testing
Hard to reach/access potential customers (e.g. language, remoteness, other access)

Other information, links [if any]

SEPA leads on flood forecasting and warning in Scotland and operates river and coastal schemes across the country with 269 flood warning areas, serving more than 26,000 customers with direct warnings, with hundreds of thousands using our online live flood warning pages. The system we use to deliver these is HTK’s Horizon platform.

The National Flood Risk Assessment estimates that there are over 100,000 properties at risk of flooding in Scotland, and many of these are in areas not covered by formal flood warning schemes.  A SEPA formal flood warning scheme is a detailed and expensive investment which needs to meet a range of technical, geographic and financial cost benefit criteria, and takes years to create and implement. Therefore there will never be a time when everywhere which might benefit from flood warning will be able to have a ‘traditional’ scheme. (See note 1 below)

Local authorities operate some river level warning schemes, and SEPA has river, coastal, loch water and rainfall level information supplied by its network of gauges. Many of these are visible online, and a project is ongoing currently to link many to a Twitter account. A company also uses SEPA public data currently to feed its Gaugemap and Facebook Flood Alert online products

Other products/services in existence we’re aware of include Farson’s digital river camera network, and the products/services provided (often to local authorities) for small scale gauging by organisations like Hydro-Logic. There are no links between any of these products and services which make it easy for a consumer to access the nearest flood warning information to them.

To be eligible for consideration for a SEPA flood warning scheme communities must have >50 properties at risk of flooding and be within an area where it is regarded technically feasible (within the bounds of current technology) to provide accurate and timely flood warning and be affordable. Such communities are then prioritised for flood warning scheme development through Scotland’s Flood Risk Management Strategies.

We have a flood warning strategy in place and being updated in 2016 for the next six years. By 2021 most of our larger at-risk communities will have flood warning in place. The focus in future for new flood warning services will be on smaller at-risk communities where the current costs of implementing flood warning may not be justifiable given the benefits. It is therefore important to explore alternative low-cost methods of producing a robust alternative service than can be delivered for communities either by SEPA, local authorities or by communities themselves.  Any such solution must include the ‘total flood warning service’: Prediction, Warning and Communication.


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