The floods of 1999, 2005 and 2007 caused severe damage across Switzerland. The biggest impacts have been recorded for lakes at the verge of the Alps (also known as Jurarandseen), Lake Lucerne, Lake of Zurich and the downstream midland rivers. Analyses of the floods revealed that a stronger collaboration between the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the cantons of Switzerland was necessary. To support the cantons in flood protection, an operational river model was put in place to manage floods more holistically.

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There is a delicate border between lake protection and lake control. The lakes play an important role for water management in the region. On the one hand, they are important for water balance; and on the other, they can support flood protection. As the lake system is complex and dependent on different factors, the Swiss government developed dedicated control strategies to be followed in the event of forecasted floods. These strategies help protect both the upper regions of the lakes as well as the cities and towns located downstream.

Acknowledging the challenges, the FOEN initiated a model development process to ensure robust forecast data for decision-making. Information from these models form the core of future decisions.


To better manage the lake system and rivers connecting them, the FOEN decided to establish a forecast model to support the cantons in flood management and mitigation.

Driven by MIKE Powered by DHI software, hydrodynamic models (MIKE 11 – now MIKE HYDRO River) were developed and operationalised (MIKE OPERATIONS), covering the Swiss river systems Aare, Reuss, Limmat and Rhine.

The system includes different weather forecast data, hydraulic models and workflows with the goal to support the FOEN in deciding if an operational action is needed while identifying possible consequences. The system provides and visualises data from gauges and models, performs analyses and produces flood maps for visualisation and estimation of damages.


Scientific robust tools for stakeholder dialogue and decision-making

Covers numerous Swiss controlled lakes in one solution

Validated data to support flood mitigation and protection

‘The system enables the FOEN to better support cantons in coping with floods today. The powerful model and intuitive interface has contributed to more holistic flood management in Switzerland.’

Gian Reto Bezzola, Head of Section
Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

About the client

The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is a division of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications in Switzerland. Its mission is to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources including soil, water, air, quietness and forests. It is responsible for the protection against natural hazards, safeguarding the environment and human health against excessive impacts, and conserving biodiversity and landscape quality. It is also responsible for international environmental policy.

Software used

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