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Christchurch model: magic or madness?

The Canterbury earthquake sequence resulted in significant changes to the land drainage network in Christchurch. In a paper presented at the 2016 Water New Zealand Stormwater Conference specialists Tim Preston and Tom Parsons asked whether the Christchurch City mega model was magic or madness.

In order to better understand the impacts of the earthquakes on flooding, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) undertook an ambitious three-way coupled hydraulic modelling project across almost all of ‘flat-land’ Christchurch.
This will be used by the land drainage recovery programme (LDRP) to support identification and prioritisation of repair and remediation options. It will also be a powerful tool for CCC to use to investigate resiliency of the city against climate change and sea level rise effects.
The goal of the modelling was to establish earthquake effects and to develop a tool to inform options assessments. The level of detail required to accurately quantify the effects and to support investigations required modelling of the road corridors, 304 kilometres of waterways and 554 kilometres of pipes down to 300mm diameter across an area of 17,195 hectares.
The high level of detail was required to capture the full extent of the earthquake changes, for example, settlement in areas remote from the main river channels. These project requirements have led to innovative modelling approaches.
The paper Parsons & Preston – Christchurch City Mega Model – Magic or Madness explains the scale of the problem, solution definition, model development and some of the early findings of the modelling.
Some of the challenges that were overcome include: building a high resolution surface model following a significant change to the land surface; deciding how a pre-earthquake model should be defined; building a large complex model that runs quickly; dealing with inter-catchment flows in very flat topography; addressing data gaps; and meeting tight programme deadlines.
The paper also explains the benefits and detriments of the approach and how an open dialogue between the council and the consultant led to the creation of a robust and powerful tool.
Tim Preston is principal engineer – water at GHD. A Christchurch born and bred civil engineer, his specialism in water engineering is inspired by the natural beauty of flowing water and the entertaining math. Significant career highlights have been leading the Christchurch City Council input into the operational response to sewer network restoration of service post the February 2011 earthquake and two years working as the resident engineer on a tertiary wastewater treatment plant upgrade design build project in Puerto Rico.
Tom Parsons (Innovate Consulting) has been helping Christchurch City Council for the past two to three years on the land drainage recovery programme as technical manager. His focus has been on developing the programme from inception through to delivery. Tom relies on his experience in stormwater concept design and modelling from a range of different environments, here and overseas.


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