Cooperation is key to successful response to floods

Mar 13, 2017

Darko Borojevic - Head of Hydrology Department of Hydro-Mateo Institute (HMI) of Republika Srpska (RS)

My name is Darko Borojevic - Head of Hydrology Department of Hydro-Mateo Institute (HMI) of Republika Srpska (RS). I work in the field of hydrology, monitoring, measurement, analysis, etc., and a part of EWS. As far as the Institute is concerned, our role in flood risk management is regulated by Laws.  HM Institute is the institution within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management RS, responsible for jobs related to hydraulics and hydrology monitoring and analysis, floods warnings, etc.

Additionally, the Institute is responsible for seismology, and environment protection. As far as floods are concerned: when we notice that there is potential hydrological or meteorological event, we have meetings within our department, then we make assessment if we are going to issue a warning and in which way, considering all hydrological and meteo data from the field, and then based on this information we issue warnings. That is our role as well as announcing potential dangerous event. Our role stops here. Key change in our work due to the Project is certainly our development in monitoring.



The automatic meteorology hydrology monitoring system was on a very low level in the RS. Practically we did not have any automatic hydrology stations. And even the ones that we used to have, were destroyed in 2014 floods. Earlier on, we only had one obsolete automatic station in Banja Luka, which did not work properly due to lack of funds for operation and maintenance. Even when it worked, it worked only from April to October and precipitation intensity in winter was not measured at all (does not work on low temperatures).

We also had one manual hydrology station in Delibasino selo, but it was also destroyed in 2014 floods. So we can say that in 2014, after floods, we did not have any single hydrology station in the entire Republic of Srpska. The Project significantly supported HMI...

What is strong significance of this project, is that 28 automatic measurement units were installed within Vrbas river basin with a capacity to real time data transfer. The new equipment purchased by the project is the biggest improvement since 1992 when the Hydro Meteorological Institute was established. When we are asked how it influences our work, let me explain how it was before: I myself together with my colleagues, at the stage of increased water levels, before automatization, had to go to the stations by cars, then we had to read the data, go back to the office to make report. In situations when we were able to have more people, i.e. someone in the field, then s/he called by phone and we make reports.

But for example, if it is a weekend, when we have only one person on duty, then he had to make circle around 50 km to visit all these areas and stations. Practically, we are much, much faster now, and we can respond in a real time. We read data every half an hour, i.e. at 11.35, we already have a data of 11.30 am. From all our stations, hydrology and hydraulically.

And what is the key, when we talk about Early Warning System (EWS), we tested it through this project and now I can say it really works and it is operational. SMS warning system works. I am very thankful that we all together managed to have this now. The stations themselves send warnings if the water level is above certain quota, or precipitation is above certain level, etc. Now, I receive this data, and the idea is to send this data to Civil Protection, too. We are also obliged by Law to send warnings to Civil Protection. Moreover, this information now is available on our web site. So, anyone interested can see real data, specifically the ones that live in vulnerable areas.  Vrbas basin is really the best now in hydrological and hydrology terms.

The main contribution of the Project in flood risk management is the fact that we shall develop hydrology forecasting model, i.e. flood forecasting model and Early Warning System. That is the key. Moreover, when we talk about floods, we cannot talk only about Vrbas river. Floods do not stop where Vrbas stops. When we talk about it, we talk about incorporating all of this into entire forecasting system of Sava river basin. And all of this will be a part of the Platform of Forecasting model of Sava river basin. We have a cooperation with neighbouring countries Serbia and Croatia.

It is impossible to do anything in this sense without cooperating with those ones upstream, downstream and across the river. So the key impact of the Project is that all people from the region recognized the importance of cooperation. This is one of the first projects that has insisted on a regional cooperation. This is also important to note that we have created a backup for our data and as far as storage of data is concerned, it cannot happen that servers in Banja Luka and Sarajevo drop down at once.

Whatever happens we have a reserve data. To improve our response to floods, we, within the Ministry have practically made a revision of our duties. As both HMI and “Vode Srpske” (Water Agency) are under the responsibility of the Ministry, the hydrology modelling part belongs to HMI institute, and when it comes to banks etc. it is responsibility of water agency. We have established a Working Group that works on amendments of Water Law, which will reflect these improvements.

As far as daily, operational cooperation between us is concerned, we have regular cooperation daily. Per existing Water Law, there are some overlapping responsibilities. However, we cooperate since simply it’s not possible to separate our activities. As soon as we have data on precipitations or increase of waters, we water agency immediately, and then the ones that work on maintenance of pump stations can react, or the ones that work on maintenance of banks can check it, etc.

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