Forensic Analysis in Hydrology
Forensic hydrology investigates the causes and effects of water damage in legal and insurance cases, including flooding, erosion, drainage and culvert problems. It is in the intersection of environmental science forensics and engineering forensics where we can locate forensic hydrology. Here, the main objective is to determine the probable cause of an event or the human sources that contribute to material and property damages or even loss of human lives.
BCI provides comprehensive forensic hydrology and scientific services for property owners, private companies, as well as insurance and legal organizations. Our experienced team of hydrologists and civil engineers use targeted research methods, engineering analysis, statistical methods and data analysis, as well as hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to investigate issues such as:
- Flooding of property from heavy rain events, thunderstorms, or hurricanes
- Land development that prevents water from flowing in its natural watercourses
- Soil erosion caused by the flow of surface water across unprotected or poorly protected soil
- Uncontrolled discharge or releases of water, which can cause flooding downstream
Our hydrology team uses a combination of different methodologies to reconstruct an actual flood event or analyze a hypothetical design event. We aim to determine what happened (or would happen) during the storm event, what failed, what factors contributed to the failure or loss, and if there was a responsible party. While rain is a naturally-occurring phenomena, flood damage is not necessarily natural. At BCI, we integrate geographical, meteorological, hydrologic, hydraulic, social, and legal principles with the help of technical computer modeling and simulation tools to perform the forensic hydrology analysis.
BCI Strategies in Forensic Hydrology Investigations
In summary, our team has organized the methodological guide for flood forensics into five main phases based on the work of Ramirez and Herrera (2016):
- Compilation of geographic, meteorological, hydrologic, hydraulic, socioeconomic and legal information
- Status and quality of meteorological and hydrological data
- Geographical Information Systems
- Geomorphological characterization of the stream and watershed
- Construction plans, design criteria, and manuals
- Spatio-temporal variability analysis
- Time series analysis and statistical parameters estimation
- Probabilistic frequency analysis
- Excess precipitation estimation (event runoff)
- Establishment of return period of the event (precipitation and discharge)
- Modelling and simulation of the rainfall – runoff process (e.g., HEC-1, HEC-HMS modeling)
- Simulation models of the river networks and structures (e.g., HEC-2, HEC-RAS modeling)
- Model verification
- Lessons learned
- Comparisons with known historical events
- Comparisons to previous calculations
- Objective conclusions on causes and effects
- Mitigation measures
While not all points listed above are applicable to all situations, each phase often includes several activities and stages. For example, some actions involve basic field measurements while others involve the creation of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) or numerical models. However, all of them require significant natural science and engineering experience.
Flood Protection Support and Expert Witness Services
Our team can also help communities protect against flood damage. We identify flood hazard areas and also minimize encroachment using recommended riparian buffers. By studying historical records, geologic maps and aerial photographs, our team of hydrologists and engineers can make recommendations regarding zoning ordinances for the community.
For each case, we first fully assess the technical evidence, document the collected data, and accurately interpret the facts. Then, we utilize the laws of physics, science, and engineering principles to develop and/or critique the associated repairs and specifications for repairs. Because of this, our highly accredited experts have been very successful in addressing the task at hand with outstanding forensic investigation and expert witness testimony.