How past floods are
shaping France's future

In January 1910, vast parts of central Paris were flooded by a large-scale event, the likes of which most people had never seen before. Overflowing sewage, flooding to property basements and metro links, and an eight-metre rise in the River Seine left hundreds of thousands of people affected. Yet, fast-forward over one hundred years, present-day Parisians are still at risk from the same problems as their forebears.

In recent years, flood events in France have not gone unnoticed; the intense rainfall events of 2015, the spring floods of 2016, and the winter floods in early 2018 caused a whirlwind of media interest.

These events caused flooding to properties in and around Parisian suburbs (and across France in general), highlighted by the worldwide news of the evacuation of priceless artefacts from the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. Consequently, questions have been raised about adequate flood risk strategy in the country.

Highlighting the need for industry change

Unlike many other European countries, France has taken the approach of mandatorily adding flood cover (as well as other natural disaster coverage) to property insurance policies since 13 July 1982.

The Nat Cat Scheme, as it is known, assists in compensating French citizens, businesses and territorial municipalities that have been impacted by floods and other natural phenomenons. 

Financial implications from flood stretch into hundreds of millions of Euros in insured losses (Moncoulon et al., 2014). Major flood events such as the December 2003 Rhodes flood, which cost an estimated 730 million Euros in insured losses, and the June 2010 Argen flash floods, which cost an estimated 450 million Euros in insured losses, (Moncoulon et al., 2014) only intensify many French insurers’ concerns about frequent large flood events and the danger they present to the insurance market.

In fact, past statistics estimated by the French insurance industry found that on average, the France insurance market was paying out close to 664 million Euros per year for flood related property damage across France. Further research by the French Insurance Association found that this pay-out may double in valuation by 2040 (AFA, 2015).

Whilst Météo France and Caisse Centrale de Réassurance (CCR), a state-owned reinsurance company, forecasted only a 20% increase by 2050 based on mean annual losses (Moncoulon, 2015), it’s still evident that these increases could severely impact the French insurance market.

The increase in flood events has prompted more French insurers to become active in reducing their risk and exposures related to flooding. Intelligent investments are being made in understanding the impact of flood risks.

As a result, market-leading projects like JBA’s 2018 France Flood Map are paving the way, enabling insurers and reinsurers to combat their exposure to flooding from a financial stand point.

The JBA way

The delivery of JBA Risk Management 5m resolution river and surface water flood maps can assist government-backed organisations and the private insurance market to make better judgements in the future when exposed to large-scale flood events in France.

With over 600 defended areas identified in France such as Rennes, Paris, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon, we can bring accurate information to loss adjusters to deliver quick and effective assessments during all stages of a flood event.

Past and present floods in France clearly demonstrate that these events are here to stay. The 1910 and 2003 floods gave us a glimpse into the future for France. The insurance industry must ready itself for the next event.


For more information on our France Flood Map, get in touch today or read our executive briefing.

AFA (I’Association française de I’assurance/French Insurance Association). 2015. Synthesis of climate change analysis and insurance, climatic risks: What impacts on natural disaster insurance on the 2040 horizon (Synthèse de l’étude changement climatique et assurance, Risques climatiques: quels impacts sur I’assurance contre les aléas naturels à I’horizon 2040?).

Modelling and R&D Services Technical Studies Department Public Reinsurance Direction - CCR December 2015: Modelling the impact of climate change on losses insured under the natural disaster compensation scheme (

Moncoulon, D., Labat, D., Ardon, J., Leblois, E., Onfroy, T., Poulard, C., Aji, S., Rémy, A., and Quantin, A.: Analysis of the French insurance market exposure to floods: a stochastic model combining river overflow and surface runoff, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 2469–2485,, 2014.

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