Expansion of Flood Forecasting Functionality of the Operation Decision Support System (ODSS) to selected River Basin Catchments in the Central Region of Malawi

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Lilongwe, Malawi
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
International Organization
Experience Level: 
Mid-Level (5-7 Years)
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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The Government of Malawi, with the support from UNDP, has secured funding from the Green Climate Fund to scale up the use of modernized early warning systems (EWS) and climate information in the country. The project will work with communities in disaster prone and food-insecure districts to co-develop tailored weather- and climate-based agricultural advisories to be disseminated through ICT/mobile, print and radio channels. The project will also scale up best practices in community readiness to respond to disasters and mitigate key risks. Community-based EWS will be scaled up in flood-prone areas and capacities to use and respond to warnings will be strengthened at the national, district and community levels.

The project is being implemented in 21 districts by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA), in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS), Department of Water Resources (DWR), Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES), Department of Fisheries (DoF), and the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM).

The project has three expected outputs;

  • Expansion of observation networks that generate climate-related data to save lives and safeguard livelihoods from extreme climate events
  • Development and dissemination of products and platforms for climate-related information/services for vulnerable communities and livelihoods
  • Strengthening communities’ capacities for use of EWS/CI in preparedness for response to climate related disaster.

One activity under the second output is to expand the flood forecasting functionality of the Operational Decision Support System (ODSS) to river basin catchments in the central and northern region of Malawi.  ODSS was installed as part of Shire River Basin Management Programme (SRBMP) to support forecasts and decisions in the Shire river basin and to enhance productivity and reduce climate risks through timely warnings and access to information. It currently supports forecasting of a range of climate, water and flood related parameters at both short-term and seasonal timescales through the analysis and use of hydro-meteorological information collected from ground and satellite-based observations of weather/climate and hydrology. The ODSS hydrological forecasts are based on MIKE software products (models and operational framework) and are currently operated by designated staff at both the Department of Climate Change Meteorological Services (DCCMS) and Department of Water Resources (DWR).  The ODSS has been operational since the start of the 2018/2019 rainfall season and successfully issued flood warnings during the season, the most extreme of which have been the March 2019 floods in the Shire due to the tropical depression which was the precursor to tropical cyclone Idai. The M-CLIMES project intends to expand the flood forecasting element of the ODSS system in additional river systems through automated procedures (incorporating weather forecasts and automating monitoring data from AWS and hydrological censors), which will improve the lead time for flood forecasting. The improved lead time will allow people at risk of floods to take necessary action to mitigate their impacts. The expansion will be done in a phased manner.  In the first phase the system will be expanded to cover two river catchments (Linthipe and Bua) in the Central region of Malawi. In the above context, UNDP is seeking expressions of interest from individuals or institutions to support the Department of Water Resources in the expansion of flood forecasting functionality of the ODSS to central Malawi (Linthipe and Bua catchments)

Duties and Responsibilities

The scope of the assignment includes the following.

  • Support DWR in identification and digitization of data records for stations in the central regions which will be needed to calibrate hydrological models;
  • Support DWR in identifying key sites for cross-sectional surveys and quality control of survey data for river basins 4 & 5;
  • Support DWR in the identification of new stations and surveying cross sections which will give maximum benefit for flood modelling.
  • Support DWR in assessing the numbers of new gauging/water level stations and which existing stations need rehabilitating;
  • Assess the availability Automatic Weather Station (AWS) data from both DWR and DCCMS for the target basins. Work with DWR and DCCMS to access and integrate all AWS data into the expanded ODSS.
  • Calibrate hydrological models based on availability of hydrological data and cross sections. Recalibration of models as new data becomes available;
  • Operationalize hydrological models for the Linthipe and Bua basins and integrate into the existing ODSS implementation;
  • Supervise and provide support for the operational running of the ODSS system.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities:

The Consultant will undertake the following tasks:

Identify forecast locations (hotspots where communities and assets are most at risk). Identify locations where water level gauging stations should be located in the identified catchments (in addition to rehabilitating existing ones) to verify the forecast and provide greater forecast accuracy for identified hotspots. The following activities will be conducted by DWR under guidance of the consultant:

  • Extra site visits and installation of new stations if required;
  • Obtain cross-sections at both existing and new stations – undertaken by DWR & Surveys department in 2019.

Develop the combined rainfall runoff hydrodynamic model:

  • Collect all time series data (discharge, water level, rainfall), GIS data (river shapefile, catchment shapefile, cross section data) and other relevant data;
  • Identify priority old stations to be digitized if not already available in electronic format. Identify priority cross sections to be updated for older station records;
  • Process obtained data and prepare in relevant formats;
  • Delineate sub-catchments for modelling and setup the hydrological model;
  • Setup appropriate hydrodynamic model given available cross-sections (initially start with a routing model if there are not sufficient cross-sections and then upgrade to hydrodynamic model as new cross sections become available);
  • Calibrate the models;
  • Verify the models using hindcast forecasts. Recalibrate based on observed discrepancies and biases;
  • Combine the model to the existing setup for the Shire river basin so that forecasts are not provided independently of the Shire forecasts.

Operationalize the model – establish a running model by 2019/2020 season to start work on calibration and testing:

  • Establish the real-time data links in MIKE OPERATIONS (Hydro-meteorological stations – run by both DWR and DCCMS, weather forecasts run by DCCMS using the COSMO NWP model, satellite rainfall observations, etc.);
  • Define thresholds for water level, discharge and rainfall. Ensure thresholds are relevant to critical/hotspot areas and are presented as deviations from a locally relevant baseline level;
  • Operationalize the model, including ensuring that DWR and DoDMA have access;
  • Provide recommendations on bandwidth, power and other requirements which are required at each institution to be able to: a) access the cloud based system; b) locally run the forecast system.;
  • Evaluate performance of the system and highlight deficiencies and options for improving future performance, given capacity constraints.

Configure the dissemination system:

  • Update current warning message formats (including more locally relevant flood level metrics) disseminated by email and SMS including translations (based on DoDMA/DWR requirements) to reflect the severity of the forecast flood levels and to enable better interpretation;
  • Update the warning recipients (including Youth groups and NGOs) lists with relevant subscriptions.
  • Configure the dissemination product including the web interface
  • Provide clear guidelines on costs and required payments for SMS-based services.

Evaluate the forecast – starting in 2019/2020:

  • Provide an analysis of hindcast forecasts using appropriate skill measures;
  • Monitor the system and evaluate the current forecasts, identifying situations where the model underperforms. Provide written guidance on model performance in particular areas and rivers to aid interpretation and confidence in model forecasts.

Capacity building activities:

  • Training of DWR operators & 2 people from DoDMA & 2 people from DCCMS on how to operate the model and requirements for maintaining the system long-term. Training on how to troubleshoot problems with model configuration and associated IT and communication systems (hardware, operating system, telemetry and bandwidth/internet connectivity); (2 five day training workshops);
  • Workshops (two; one per region) with stakeholders (including district water officers) and operators to create awareness and explain use of the system so they know how to interpret the forecast.


Provide all technical documentation manuals and support materials:

  • Model description and performance for different rivers and tributaries. Guide to interpretation of warnings and clear articulation of technical meanings and terms;
  • Operating the system, clearly articulated in a stepwise fashion so that they can be used to train new operators with little prior experience;
  • Maintaining the system; periodic maintenance and long-term sustainability, including options for reducing costs and improving performance in the future.

Standard operating procedures, developed in partnership with DWR, DoDMA and DCCMS, for running the system and issuing alerts, including:

  • personnel requirements; capabilities and availability to ensure 24/7 operations during the rainfall season;
  • regular operation and maintenance procedures;
  • clear lines of communication (for both manual and automatic alerts) and timeframes for responses at each stage to ensure alerts are quickly evaluated and acted on.


  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills;
  • Strong analytical, reporting and writing abilities skills;
  • Openness to change and ability to receive/integrate feedback;
  • Ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines;
  • Comprehensiveness knowledge MIKE based flood forecasting systems;
  • Outstanding communication, project management and organizational skills;
  • Demonstrates integrity and ethical standards;
  • Good understanding of the development and institutional context of Malawi;
  • Displays cultural, gender, religion, race, nationality and age sensitivity and adaptability.

Required Skills and Experience


  • Minimum Master’s degree in hydrology and river basin forecast development, or related subject


  • At least 5 years of work experience in related areas;
  • Previous experience in working with national governments in Africa or other developing countries;
  • knowledge of MIKE based flood forecasting systems in a developing country context; Experience in developing hydrological and hydrodynamic forecasting models;
  • Experience with the ODSS in Malawi, as well as the institutional setup and capacity in Malawi (in particular DWR) will be an advantage;
  • Fluency in English with concise, diplomatic, and accessible written and oral communication skills;


  • Fluency in written and spoken English is essential.  Ability to write reports, make presentations


Deliverable 1 (15% of contract):

Inception report, including:

  • identification of forecast locations (including mapping communities and areas at risk in relation to forecast locations);
  • identification of hydrological stations to be rehabilitated
  • identification of new sites for hydrological stations
  • identification of sites for field survey cross sections

Deliverable 2 (20% of contract):

  • The combined rainfall-runoff/hydrodynamic model, including:
  • verification statistics from hindcasts
  • integration with existing ODSS

Deliverable 3 and 4 (20% of contract):

  • Operationalization of the model and configure the dissemination system (see 3 above)

Deliverable 5 (20% of contract):

  • Deliver capacity building trainings

Deliverable 6(10% of contract):

  • System configuration and forecast evaluation

Deliverable 7 (15% of contract):

  • Final report including all the technical manuals and support material

Institutional Arrangements:

The Consultant will report to the  Project Coordinator, M-CLIMES project and shall work directly with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) He/she is expected to work hand in hand with the relevant stakeholders in executing his/her responsibilities.

Scope of Price Proposal and Schedule of Payments:

A Lump Sum Amount payable modality is envisaged upon submission of deliverables and acceptance/approval by UNDP CO for each identified task (reflected in the agreed and signed specific TOR.  The lump sum amount is inclusive of all the costs related to the assignment. Payments are based upon output, i.e. upon delivery of the services specified in the TOR. All planned costs related to this consultancy must be specified in the proposal by contractor for this assignment. The contract will be paid in USD.

Recommended Presentation of Offer:

Interested and qualified consultants are invited to apply. The consultant must submit the following documents/information to demonstrate their qualifications online,    or   email address:

  • A technical proposal detailing applicants’ understanding of ToRs, proposed methodology, and CV.
  • A financial proposal breaking down cost for each operational line and professional fees.
  • Contacts (email and phone) of 3 former clients or referees.
  • A detailed list of similar assignments (copies of these maybe requested as necessary) that the consultant has conducted in the past.

See more details on the ToR and other Annexes on procurement-notices.undp.org website and link below: https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fprocure... notices.undp.org%2F&data=02%7C01%7Csusan.mkandawire%40undp.org%7Cc980e5675c1e45e8abc008d7051af726%7Cb3e5db5e2944483799f57488ace54319%7C0%7C0%7C636983485683443755&sdata=Splomcte0B2SVTBU0Bdu%2BIXhOj%2FltGmEGT3k%2Fa39oYI%3D&reserved=0

Criteria for Selection of the Best Offer:

The award of the contract shall be made to the consultant who has received the highest score out of pre-determined technical and financial criteria specific to the solicitation.

Technical criteria weight – 70 %

Financial criteria weight – 30 % 


  • Criteria A: Professional experience; Relevant qualifications and experience in community based early warning systems for flood forecasting – 15 points.
  • Criteria B: Technical Proposal - Understanding of the task, soundness of methodology proposed and schedule in the technical proposal – 40 points.
  • Criteria C: Skype/telephone Interview - Demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter (community based early warning systems) and competency through skype or telephone interviews – 15 points.

Financial: 30 points.