All urban drainage networks are designed to manage a maximum rainfall. This situation implies an accepted flood risk for any greater rainfall event. This risk is often underestimated as factors such as city growth and climate change are ignored. But even major structural changes cannot guarantee that urban drainage networks would cope with all future rain events. Thus, being able to forecast urban flooding in real time is one of the main issues of integrated flood risk management. Runoff and hydraulic models can be essential elements of flood forecast systems, as an active part of the system or as studying tools. This paper gives an overview of current available options for pluvial flood modelling in urban areas, from basic estimations with a one-dimensional urban drainage model to detailed flood process representation with one dimensional–two dimensional hydrodynamic coupled models. Each type of modelling solution is described with pros and cons regarding urban flood analysis. The paper then elaborates on real-time flood forecast systems and the influence of their main components. A classification of real-time urban flood systems is given based on the use of urban models, i.e. empirical scenarios, pre-simulated scenarios and real-time simulations. A review of existing operational systems is done using this classification.

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