Location matters: A framework to investigate the spatial characteristics of distributed flood attenuation

Federico Antolini, Eric Tate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Distributed attenuation in flood management relies on small and low‐impact runoff attenuating features variously distributed within a catchment. Distributed systems of reservoirs, natural flood management, and green infrastructure are practical examples of distributed attenuation. The effectiveness of attenuating features lies in their ability to work in concert, by reducing and slowing runoff in strategic parts of the catchment, and desynchronizing flows. The spatial distribution of attenuating features plays an essential role in the process. This article proposes a framework to place features in a hydrologic network, group them into spatially distributed systems, and ana-lyze their flood attenuation effects. The framework is applied to study distributed systems of reservoirs in a rural watershed in Iowa, USA. The results show that distributed attenuation can be an effective alternative to a single centralized flood mitigation approach. The different flow peak attenuation of considered distributed systems suggest that the spatial distribution of features significantly influences flood magnitude at the catchment scale. The proposed framework can be applied to examine the effectiveness of distributed attenuation, and its viability as a widespread flood attenuation strategy in different landscapes and at multiple scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2706
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


  • Distributed attenuation
  • Flood mitigation
  • Green infrastructure
  • Natural flood management
  • Small reservoirs
  • Wflow


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