A pragmatic, performance-based approach to levee safety assessments

Stephan Johannes Hendrikus Rikkert*, Matthijs Kok, Kasper Lendering, Ruben Jongejan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Flood prone areas are often protected against flooding by an extensive network of flood defenses. To ensure their structural integrity, these flood defenses are periodically assessed. Many levees have been functioning well for decades, and have survived several relatively high hydraulic loads within their lifetime. However, information on survived load conditions is seldom included in levee safety assessments. Observed degradation from levee inspections is also not taken into account. That way, information that is useful to improve the accuracy of estimations of the actual strength of the levee remains unexploited. This study proposes a pragmatic approach to include observations of survived loads and levee degradation in the levee safety assessment. This approach consists of three steps: (1) a prior estimation of the failure probability, based on levee characteristics, (2) a posterior estimation of the failure probability, based on observed hydraulic loads, and (3) correction of the posterior failure probability estimation, based on levee inspections. In a case study, the estimated failure probabilities using this approach were much lower than when information on levee performance was not included. This study demonstrates the value of levee performance observations and how they could be included to improve levee safety assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12836
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Flood Risk Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • embankments and levees
  • risk analysis
  • risk assessment
  • statistical methods


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