This brochure describes the flood warning system operated by the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology throughout Queensland. It assists individuals and  agencies responsible for managing and responding to flood disasters to understand the flood warning system. More details are given in specific information brochures describing the warning system for each River Basin.

The Balonne River in flood at Surat, Queensland. 
The Balonne River in flood at Surat, Queensland.  January 1996.
Photo courtesy of Wimera Aviation.
Contained in this document is information about:
(Last updated November 2017)

Flood Warning

Flood warning is an integral component of counter disaster arrangements for a community at risk from flooding.

The aim of the warning system is to minimise loss of life and property damage by warning people of the likelihood and size of a flood so that they may evacuate, shift property or stock to higher ground, or implement other temporary flood loss reduction measures.

Warnings are of limited value unless they are delivered in a timely and effective manner and property owners and residents in the flood-threatened area believe the warning and take appropriate action in advance of being flooded.

Roles & Responsibilities

The responsibility for flood forecasting and warning services in Australia rests with the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology.

In Queensland, the effectiveness of the flood warning system depends on the cooperative involvement of the Bureau of Meteorology, State Government agencies and Local Government working with flood-threatened communities.

The Queensland Flood Warning Consultative Committee (FWCC) is a joint Commonwealth, State and Local Government Committee which coordinates the development and operation of flood warning services in Queensland.

The roles of the primary agencies involved in the flood warning system, as recommended by the FWCC, are outlined in the figure below. 

For a detailed brakedown of the Bureau's flood forecasting and warning services in Queensland refer to the Service Level Specification document which can be found here.

Roles and Responsibilities Diagram

Flood Classifications

At each flood warning river height station, the  severity of flooding is described as minor, moderate or major according to the effects caused in the local area or in nearby downstream areas. 

Minor Flooding : Causes inconvenience. Low-lying areas next to watercourses are inundated. Minor roads may be closed and low-level bridges submerged. In urban areas inundation may affect some backyards and buildings below the floor level as well as bicycle and pedestrian paths. In rural areas removal of stock and equipment may be required.

Moderate Flooding : In addition to the above, the area of inundation is more substantial. Main traffic routes may be affected. Some buildings may be affected above the floor level. Evacuation of flood affected areas may be required. In rural areas removal of stock is required.

Major Flooding : In addition to the above, extensive rural areas and/or urban areas are inundated. Many buildings may be affected above the floor level. Properties and towns are likely to be isolated and major rail and traffic routes closed. Evacuation of flood affected areas may be required. Utility services may be impacted.   

Example Flood Classification Diagram

The zero level of a river gauge ("gauge zero") is typically set at the low flow level of the stream, i.e. the water level of the stream after a long dry spell. River heights are measured in metres above the gauge zero. For example, a river height reading of 5 metres means that the water level has risen 5 metres above its lowest level. In tidal areas, the gauge zero may be set at the mean tide level.

Each river height can be converted to its equivalent on Australian Height Datum (AHD) by applying the AHD value of the gauge zero. Contact the Bureau of Meteorology if this is required.

Flood Warning Operations

The development and provision of flood warning services in Queensland is the role of the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre  in Brisbane.

The Flood Warning Centre operates up to 24 hours per day depending on the severity and extent of flooding.

The basic components of the flood forecasting system are shown in the diagram below.

Flood Warning Operations Diagram

Data Collection & Transmission

Rainfall and river height data is collected from over 1000 sites throughout Queensland via radio and telephone telemetry from automatic stations and via telephone-computer links from volunteer observers.

Meteorological & Hydrological Forecasting

The collated data is analysed using a range of techniques including simple empirical relationships and complex computer catchment simulation models to predict the likely timing and severity of flooding. The impact of forecast weather and rainfall conditions is also assessed.

Flood Warning Services

  • River Height Bulletins.
    These contain the latest observed river heights at selected locations within a river basin and are issued regularly.
  • Flood Warnings
    Flood Warnings contain a summary of existing conditions within a river basin and predictions of river heights at key locations (towns, bridges, rural centres).
  • Professional Advice
    FWC staff provide direct assessments of flood conditions to emergency agencies and Local Government officers.
  • Media Briefings
    Extensive briefing of radio television and newspapers news services are provided as requested.

Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins

The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for most Queensland river basins regularly during floods. 

They are sent to radio stations for broadcast, and to the local Councils, emergency services and a large number of other agencies involved in managing flood response activities.   They  are available via:

Radio stations, particularly the local ABC and local commercial stations, broadcast  Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins soon after issue.

Local response organisations
These include the Councils, Police, and State Emergency Services in the local area.

Internet/World Wide Web
Flood Warnings, River Height Bulletins and other weather related data is available on the Bureau's Web page at http://www.bom.gov.au . The Queensland Flood Warning Centre website is http://www.bom.gov.au/qld/flood .

Telephone Weather
Flood Warnings are available through a recorded voice retrieval system, along with a wide range of other weather related and climate information.
Main Directory Phone 1900 955 360
Flood Warnings Phone 1300 659 219

Telephone Weather Services Call Charges:
1900 numbers: 77c per minute incl. GST; 1300 numbers: Low call cost - around 27.5c incl. GST.
(More from international, satellite, mobile or public phones)

River Basin Information

River basin brochures which contain more detailed information such as flood level classifications, flood history, peak flood heights and maps have been prepared for most river basins in Queensland. They are available via the Queensland Flood Warning Centre page. 

Futher Information

For further information, contact:
The Flood Services Manager, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001