The city of Riohacha (Colombia) has a complex urban setting that, under the pressure of recurring intense rains, experiences increasing flood damage. With the aim of identifying a systemic solution to flood problems, a hydrodynamic mathematical modelling exercise was conducted. Within the modelling process, calibration and validation are two fundamental actions that must precede the use of the model. However, most of the river basins around the world lack hydrometeorological information, which is indispensable for the calibration process. This paper presents an original approach to collecting such information for the calibration process, based on interviewing inhabitants. The results of this effort were surprisingly good, when considering the kind of approximations involved in using people's answers as hard data. This encouraged us to promote it as a working solution for many other similar cases, which all suffer from lack of suitable data.