The Google Flood Forecasting Initiative, the flood prediction system that uses artificial intelligence (AI), is now active all across India. Google had first launched this tool in India back in 2018 for certain parts of the state of Bihar. Now, the prediction tool covers all of India and uses machine learning to identify areas that are prone to flooding and can alert users in case there is a chance of the flood waters arriving in their region. Google says this tool now covers 200 million people living in more than 250,000 square kilometers in India. This forecasting model is designed to give governments and millions of people advance notice to prepare for a potential flood situation.
Google partnered with Yale to understand how advance flood notifications may help citizens. They say that in one of their surveys while visiting flood affected areas ahead of the monsoon season, it was found that as many 65% of people who receive flood warnings before the flooding began started to take action to protect themselves or their belongings. The Yale Economic Growth Center data says that tradition early warning systems (EWS) provided only basic information—that is only 20% of households report receiving information on the flood arrival time in their region. For this machine learning based flood prediction tool, Google uses range of data to compute and predict.
The Inundation model is used to measure the input of water in a river, for instance, and then simulates how the water flow would occur in a certain region based on its topography. They also get real-time water level measurement data from the Indian Central Water Commission which has hourly measurements of water levels from over a thousand stream gauges across rivers in India. This data is necessary as an input into the model calculations. Then there is the creation of maps using data from Google Maps, to get exact details of the terrain.
“In recent months, we’ve been expanding our forecasting models and services in partnership with the Indian Central Water Commission. In June, just in time for the monsoon season, we reached an important milestone: our systems now extend to the whole of India, with Google technology being used to improve the targeting of every alert the government sends,” says Yossi Matias, VP Engineering & Crisis Response Lead at Google.
Google has also expanded this tool to now cover the regions of Bangladesh that have a population of more than 40 million. This is part of the partnership with the Bangladesh Water Development Board to enable warnings and notifications.