Delta Technology

Few natural resources are as vital and as volatile as water. The Dutch understand this duality, and have developed an integrated approach to water management that has made them global leaders in flood control. Discover their story here, and learn how they are partnering with America to better protect US cities against rising waters.
Few natural resources are as vital and as volatile as water. The Dutch understand this duality, and have developed an integrated approach to water management that has made them global leaders in flood control. Discover their story here, and learn how they are partnering with America to better protect US cities against rising waters.
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  • History

    To tell the history of the Netherlands is to tell the story of flooding. From the All Saints flood of 1170 (illustrated below) to the North Sea flood of 1953 and major river flooding in the 1990s, Dutch history is replete with rising waters. In fact, the Netherlands has experienced two major floods on average every century in the last millennium, claiming tens of thousands of lives and forever changing the landscape.

    But these floods have also left a potent legacy in the Dutch DNA. They have taught the Dutch to strengthen dikes, find new ways to battle water, and manipulate the landscape. Through the creation of the Delta Programme and polders, the Dutch saved the Netherlands.

    Learn more about the history of Dutch delta technology by swiping through the panels or clicking the dots below.

    To tell the history of the Netherlands is to tell the story of flooding, from the All Saints flood of 1170 (illustrated below) to the North Sea flood of 1953 and major river flooding in the 1990s.

    But these floods have taught the Dutch to strengthen dikes, find new ways to battle water, and manipulate the landscape. Through the creation of the Delta Programme and polders, the Dutch saved the Netherlands.

    Learn more about the history of Dutch delta technology by swiping through the panels.

  • Early Floods

    The Netherlands has experienced two major floods each century over the last millennium. Whether it was the All Saints floods of 1170 (illustrated below) and 1570, the St. Elizabeth flood of 1421, or the countless other floods in between, these early tragedies claimed thousands of lives and forever changed the Dutch landscape.

    But the Dutch responded to each one with resolve, altered their thinking, and created new technologies based on their experiences to prevent future flooding.

    Once the Industrial Revolution took hold, technology caught up to the innovations the Dutch could imagine. They started to harden their systems with bigger, stronger and more impressive flood-control measures, starting with their response to the Zuyderzee flood of 1916.

    The Netherlands has experienced two major floods each century over the last millennium. But the Dutch responded to each one with resolve, altered their thinking, and created new technologies based on their experiences to prevent future flooding.

  • Zuyderzee flood of 1916

    • The storm had been brewing for days, but the wind peaked on Jan. 14 at 100 kilometers per hour.
    • The combination of high water and driving wind eroded dikes.
    • The economic damage was enormous.
    • The storm played a key role in the decision to seal off the Zuyderzee from the North Sea (pictured below).

    The storm had been brewing for days, but winds peaked on Jan. 14 at 100 kilometers per hour. High water levels and the continuing wind eroded dikes, causing enormous economic damage. The flood played a key role in the decision to seal off the Zuyderzee from the North Sea (pictured below).

  • North Sea flood of 1953

    • A high spring tide and a severe wind storm caused the water to rise more than 18 feet above sea level, flooding the Netherlands, Belgium,and the United Kingdom.
    • The death toll reached 1,836 people and 30,000 farm animals in the Netherlands.
    • The water flooded 9 percent of the farmland, and destroyed 10,000 buildings and damaged 47,300 more.
    • In response, the Dutch created the Delta Works, an ambitious flood-defense system.

    A high spring tide and a severe wind storm caused the water to rise more than 18 feet above sea level, killing 1,836 people and 30,000 farm animals in the Netherlands. In response, the Dutch started the Delta Works, an ambitious flood-defense system.

  • Major river floods of 1993 and 1995

    • Heavy rain made the Rhine and Meuze rivers surge beyond their banks.
    • More than 250,000 people were evacuated, but there were no casualties.
    • The floods led to the design of a Delta plan for the rivers and the Room for the River program.

    Heavy rainfall made the rivers Rhine and Meuze surge beyond their banks. No one died, but more than 250,000 people were evacuated. The floods led to the design of a Delta plan for the rivers and the Room for the River program.

  • Polders

    A polder is an area of grassy land (picture below) that has been reclaimed from the water through a combination of structures, such as dikes and dams. The Netherlands has more than 3,000 polders that encompass cities, towns, villages and farms.

    Dutch history with polders began in the 12th century, when farmers began managing water by building hills to keep the land dry so they could grow crops to feed their animals and themselves.

    They created water boards, the oldest democratic institutions in the country, responsible for dams, water quality and managing the waterways.

    Their early efforts succeeded, as the nation continues to thrive with land that once was under water. If the dikes protecting the polders fail, it would fill up with water like a bathtub.

    A polder is an area of grassy land (pictured below) that has been reclaimed from the water through a combination of structures, such as dikes and dams. The Netherlands has more than 3,000 polders that encompass cities, towns, villages and farms.

  • Delta Programme

    The Delta Programme is the Delta Plan for the 21st century. It is aimed at guaranteeing that the Netherlands remains safe and attractive, now and in the future, and that the freshwater supply is adequate.

    It is a national program that involves collaboration between the national government, provincial authorities, municipal authorities and water boards. Civil society organizations, the business community and knowledge institutes are actively involved. It is this joint approach, with input from many parties, that leads to better solutions.

    The 2013 program takes a multi-layered approach: prevention (dikes, dunes, barriers and dams); spatial planning behind the dikes to limit the effects of flooding; and emergency management.

    The Delta Programme is the Delta Plan for the 21st century, and is aimed at guaranteeing that the Netherlands remains safe and attractive.

    It  takes a multi-layered approach: prevention (dikes, dunes, barriers and dams); spatial planning behind the dikes to limit the effects of flooding; and emergency management.

More History Resources

  • The Dutch Integrated Approach

    Water will find its way, but the Dutch will find a way to tame it. As they say, “Het is niet en van beide of, het is en en.” Or in English: “It’s not either or. It’s and and.”

    In other words, the Dutch choose many methods to manage water and employ different techniques where appropriate. The Dutch integrated approach combines water safety, provision and infrastructure to control floods and build eco-dynamically. For example, Scheveningen combines a new underground dike with an eye-catching designed seaside resort (pictured).

    This approach has developed throughout the Netherlands’ history into a network of dikes, ditches, polders, flood gates, and room for rivers to flood. Meanwhile, the Dutch use today’s technology to gain valuable insight. Within a few years, all water flow in the Netherlands will be visible on a digital dashboard. Dikes will indicate the location of weak areas where water has reached critical levels and linked to flow models to prevent flooding.

    The Dutch Integrated Approach

    Water always finds its way, but the Dutch always find a way to tame it, working from the macro to micro level.

    The Dutch integrated approach combines water safety, water provision and infrastructure to control floods and build in an eco-dynamic way. For example, Scheveningen combines a new underground dike with an eye-catching designed seaside resort (pictured).

    This approach has developed throughout the Netherlands’ history into a complex network of dikes, ditches, polders, flood gates, and flood areas where rivers are given room to expand.

  • Governance

    None of the water management techniques the Dutch employ could be effective if it weren’t for water boards.

    Water boards are regional government bodies charged with managing water in their respective regions, and are among the oldest forms of local government in the country, some dating as far back as 800 years.

    They are democratically elected, have the power to levy taxes, and act independently of the national government to manage the country’s continuing struggle against water in the Netherlands.

    Water boards work closely with the provincial and national governments, as well as the National Water Partnership, a comprehensive network of private companies, government officials, knowledge institutes and non-government organizations that acts as a center of information on water expertise, policy developments, and market opportunities.

    This streamlined governance allows all levels of government to work together to ensure the safety of all residents for the greater good while planning for a prosperous economy. An important role of a water board is to decide how much water pumping stations (pictured) can handle.

    Governance

    None of the water management techniques the Dutch employ could be effective if it weren’t for one key element: governance, and central to this governance are Dutch water boards.

    Water boards are regional government bodies charged with managing water in their respective regions, and are among the oldest forms of local government in the country, some dating as far back as 800 years.

  • Flood Control

    You can compare the Dutch integrated approach to water management to the legs of a stool: each one represents a different method of water management, whether it’s flood control, eco-dynamic building, or even the way the Dutch government works.

    Perhaps the most visible leg on the stool, or method of water management, is flood control. After all, it’s hard to miss the sight of the impressive Maeslant and Oosterschelde barriers.

    Few would question that these technological wonders are the crown jewel of the Dutch defenses, but they tell only part of the story. Relying solely on these barriers would prove to be an error because they cannot prevent all types of flooding.

    Take stormwater as an example, particularly in the more urban areas of the Netherlands. We have created urban floodplains, essentially linear parks with a meandering creek that has room to swell during periods of heavy rain, preventing costly stormwater backups. But between periods of heavy rainfall, these parks are available for the public to enjoy.

    Flood Control

    Perhaps the most visible sign of the Dutch expertise in water management is flood control. After all, it’s hard to miss the sight of the impressive Maeslant and Oosterschelde barriers.

  • Eco-dynamic Building

    The Rich Dike is a prime example of the eco-dynamic building. The project combines flood protection with ecological development by constructing ecological sea walls, wave breakers, jetties and breakwaters.

    The “Eco-Xblocs,” tested in the jetties of the port city of Ijmuiden in North Holland, provide an optimal habitat for macro algae and shellfish. That in turn makes the dike a part of the environment instead of an intrusion.

    The pilot in IJmuiden is a Deltares project, in cooperation with BAM-Delta Marine Consultants and the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat.

    Eco-dynamic Building

    The Rich Dike is a prime example of the eco-dynamic building. The project combines flood protection with ecological development by constructing ecological sea walls (the “Eco-Xblocs” pictured) , wave breakers, jetties and breakwaters.


It is said that  God created the World,
but the Dutch created the
Netherlands.


  • Living with Water

    If the Dutch have learned one thing in the last millennium, it’s that water will always find its way to the lowest ground, even if it has to carve its own path through the landscape to reach it.

    The Dutch understand this power thoroughly, and have learned to respect it. They have become masters at adapting to our environment, and are always willing to change course if they find a better way.

    By making room for the river to flood, building up protections with materials found in nature, and developing a complex system of storm surge barriers, the Dutch have learned to live with water.

    Swipe or click the dots below to learn details of these strategies.

    By making room for the river to flood, building up protections with materials found in nature, and developing a complex system of storm surge barriers, the Dutch have learned to live with water.

    Swipe to learn details of these strategies.

  • Room for the River

    The Netherlands lies in a delta of three major rivers: the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt. In 1993 and 1995, the rivers swelled to unprecedented levels, leading to the evacuation of 250,000 people and 1 million farm animals.

    As a result, the Dutch started “Room for the River,” a €2.3 billion program to restore the rivers’ natural flood plains in places it is least harmful to protect areas that need to be defended.

    By 2015, the program will make room for the river by deepening summer beds, storing water, moving and strengthening dikes, and much more.

    Learn more about the program on our Resources page. ‎

    By 2015, the program will make room for the river by deepening summer beds, storing water, moving and strengthening dikes, and much more.

    Learn more about the program on our Resources page. ‎

  • Building with Nature

    Humankind’s preference for taming a dynamic coast has been hard, engineered structures: jetties, sea-walls, sea-dikes.  These structures are often essential for people to live safely near water.  But these structures are also expensive to build and maintain, and aggravate problems they were supposed to solve.

    Hybrid-engineering is the foundation of the Dutch way of Building with Nature.  The Sand Engine, willow trees in front of the dike at Noordwaard, oyster reefs (pictured) in front of many of delta dikes, and planting forests that feature an intricate web of underwater roots that build soil and store organic matter are good examples.

    Building with Nature is a research program that can solve delta challenges and demonstrate quite clearly the benefits of using the ecosystem.

    Hybrid-engineering is the foundation of the Dutch way of Building with Nature.  The Sand Engine, willow trees in front of the dike at Noordwaard, oyster reefs (pictured) in front of many of delta dikes, and planting forests that feature an intricate web of underwater roots that build soil and store organic matter are good examples.

  • The Sand Engine

    Some high-tech solutions may not look high-tech. In fact, they may look like just part of the landscape, as the Sand Engine, or Sand Motor, shows.

    The Sand Engine, a large volume of dredged sand added to the coast of South Holland at Ter Heijde in 2011, is a prime example of how the Dutch build with nature to prevent flooding.

    It consists of 21.5 million cubic meters of sand that created 10,000 acres of land for nature and recreation. Sea currents and wind will continually change the Sand Engine, and eventually become fully incorporated into the landscape, creating 3,500 acres of new beach and dunes.

    As a result, the coast will be broader and safer against rising sea levels. Scientists will also monitor the evolution of the Sand Engine to determine if the technology can be applied elsewhere in the Netherlands and around the world.

    Watch this video about the Sand Engine.

    The Sand Engine, a large volume of dredged sand added to the coast of South Holland at Ter Heijde in 2011, consists of 21.5 million cubic meters of sand that created 10,000 acres of land for nature and recreation.

    Sea currents and wind will continually change the Sand Engine, and eventually become fully incorporated into the landscape, creating 3,500 acres of new beach and dunes. As a result, the coast will be broader and safer against rising sea levels.

    Watch this video about the Sand Engine.

  • Storm Surge Barriers

    Despite all the Dutch efforts to plan and design smart solutions to live with water, Mother Nature has the potential to create a fierce storm that sends water surging beyond any initial defenses.

    That’s when storm surge barriers come into play, and in this field of technological innovation, the Dutch play to win.

    In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers has included the North Sea protection barriers on its list of Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

    Despite all the Dutch efforts to plan and design smart solutions to live with water, Mother Nature has the potential to create a fierce storm that sends water surging beyond any initial defenses.

    That’s when storm surge barriers come into play, barriers the American Society of Civil Engineers has included on its list of Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

  • The Oosterschelde Barrier

    Perhaps the most impressive storm surge barrier is the Oosterschelde  in Zeeland, between Schouwen-Duiveland and Tholen. At an eventual cost of 2.5 billion euros, Queen Beatrix officially opened the Oosterschelde on Oct. 4, 1986. It is expected to last 200 years, and reduces the chance of flooding to once every 4,000 years.

    At 11 kilometers in length, the Oosterschelde barrier crosses three channels: the Hammen, the Schaar van Roggeplaat and the Roompot. It consists of 65 prefabricated concrete piers (each between 30.25 and 38.75 meters tall and weighing 18,000 tons), and 62 steel slides (each weighing 480 tons).

    The Oosterschelde  in Zeeland, between Schouwen-Duiveland and Tholen, is expected to last 200 years, and reduces the chance of flooding to once every 4,000 years.

    At 11 kilometers in length, the Oosterschelde barrier crosses three channels: the Hammen, the Schaar van Roggeplaat and the Roompot. It consists of 65 prefabricated concrete piers (each between 30.25 and 38.75 meters tall and weighing 18,000 tons), and 62 steel slides (each weighing 480 tons).

  • Maeslant Barrier

    A year after the Oosterschelde barrier opened, the Ministry of Waterways and Public Works began preparing another barrier, the Maeslant barrier between the New Waterway located at Hoek van Holland and the Scheur river along the cities of Maassluis and Vlaardingen. It opened on May 10, 1997, and protects 1 million people in South-Holland from the sea. It also protects the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest seaport, and therefore the vast majority of the Dutch economy.

    It consists of two steel doors, each 240 meters long, that could be sunk down and turned away into the docks in the shores. It is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower and weights four times as much. The doors only close when necessary, and remain open most of the time so ships can access the Port of Rotterdam.

    The force against the surging wall during a storm creates a pressure difference that is so large a ship of equal measurements would capsize instantly. But the unique shape of the barrier prevents this from happening

    The Maeslant barrier protects 1 million people in South-Holland from the sea. It also protects the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest seaport, and therefore the vast majority of the Dutch economy.

    It consists of two steel doors, each 240 meters long, that could be sunk down and turned away into the docks in the shores. It is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower and weights four times as much.

Learn More

Delta Management

The Dutch are dedicated to sustainable and climate-proof water management. The Dutch go with the flow of water, but steer it with finesse and respect.

The Dutch are dedicated to sustainable and climate proof water management. The Dutch go with the flow of water, but steer it with finesse and respect.


  • Partners in water Relevance for the United States

    Americans like to talk about win-win situations, but the Dutch prefer “this and  that” solutions over “either-or” situations.

    Dutch and U.S. companies, experts, non-governmental organizations and government leaders are collaborating to protect America’s shorelines, cities and people from climate change, storms and other natural disasters through healthier waterways and coastal ecosystems.

    Several of these collaborations are “win-win, this and that” projects that have benefited knowledge and innovation in the US and the Netherlands.

    The pages that follow include projects in Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

    Partners in water Relevance for the United States

    Dutch and U.S. companies, experts, non-governmental organizations and government leaders are collaborating to protect America’s shorelines, cities and people from climate change, storms and other natural disasters through healthier waterways and coastal ecosystems.

    The pages that follow include projects in Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

     

  • Hurricane Katrina Deepening relationships

    After Hurricane Katrina, Dutch and US scientists, engineers and policymakers deepened their relationship to work on delta and climate change issues. For all its devastation, Katrina created a Louisiana-based nucleus of hyper-creativity in flood-protection, and wetland restoration.

    Perhaps the most ambitious project involves a Dutch-American team that has developed New Orleans’ first integrated planning and water management strategy as a result of the Dutch Dialogues — a series of cross-cultural, cross-discipline workshops.

    This project is generating creative, new ideas and a sustainable path forward for New Orleans, and other cities are clamoring for their own Dutch Dialogues.

    Hurricane Katrina Deepening relationships

    After Hurricane Katrina, Dutch and US scientists, engineers and policymakers deepened their relationship to work on delta and climate change issues. For all its devastation, Katrina created a Louisiana-based nucleus of hyper-creativity in flood-protection, and wetland restoration.

  • Hurricane Sandy Planning Together

    After Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, a growing chorus arose to “call in the Dutch to build us barriers.” But the Dutch recommended that US and state officials assess the entire region’s vulnerabilities to storm surge before making any decisions.

    The Dutch are helping the US Department of Housing and Urban Development imagine, design, plan and evaluate the costs and benefits of rebuilding and protecting the region.

    This could lead to a broad, regional plan that will guide decision-makers on ways to protect New York and New Jersey from storm surges. It could serve as a toolkit of options – large and small, technical and non-technical – that will help mitigate near- and mid-term coastal events.

    HUD has organized a competition, Rebuild by Design, to determine the best course of action, and several Dutch firms are participating. The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force also recently released a report on strategies to rebuild the region. To learn more, check out the resources page.

    Hurricane Sandy Planning Together

    The Dutch are helping officials in New York and New Jersey assess, investigate, evaluate the costs and benefits, imagine, design and plan to prevent the damage similar to what  Hurricane Sandy caused.

    This could lead to a broad, regional plan that will guide decision-makers figure out ways to protect New York and New Jersey from future storm surges.

    The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force recently released a report on strategies to rebuild the region. To learn more, check out the resources page.

  • St. Louis Coming together

    The 2011 Mississippi River floods were devastating, and showed an overflowing river system that touches 31 states and drains 41 percent of the US. But just 12 months later, a lengthy drought sent water levels to their lowest in a generation.

    Dutch experts were eager to help when Mississippi River stakeholders asked for it, and they organized a five-day workshop in St. Louis to evaluate the situation. Scenarios were imagined, landscape and hydraulic conditions were investigated, and a research agenda was developed.

    The partners intend to produce river management, planning and landscape strategies that can be implemented in communities up and down the Mississippi.

    St. Louis Coming together

    Dutch experts were eager to help when Mississippi River stakeholders asked for it, and they organized a five-day workshop in St. Louis to evaluate the situation. Scenarios were imagined, landscape and hydraulic conditions were investigated, and a research agenda was developed.

  • Los Angeles Restoring a River

    The Los Angeles River was once free flowing, accessible, and full of wildlife, wetlands, and recreation. But when the river was confined within a concrete channel to speed discharge, what Los Angeles gained flood safety it lost in green heart.

    Since the 1980s, residents have been trying to restore and reopen the river. They see new design, recreation and environment, and water quality benefits. They see the river as more than stormwater channel or a drain.

    Reopening the river won’t be easy, as 80 municipalities along its 50-mile stretch have diverging interests in the river. But as the new LA River Master plan is being developed, Los Angeles stakeholders see the Dutch Room for the River program as a model.  And the Dutch are trying to help.

    Looking for more information? Check out our resources, contact us, or read about the Dutch expertise in water use and technology.

    Los Angeles Restoring a River

    The Los Angeles River was once free flowing, accessible, and full of wildlife, wetlands, and recreation. But when the river was confined within a concrete channel to speed discharge, what Los Angeles gained flood safety it lost in green heart.

    Reopening the river won’t be easy. But as the new LA River Master plan is being developed, Los Angeles stakeholders see the Dutch Room for the River program as a model.  And the Dutch are trying to help.

    Looking for more information? Check out our resourcescontact us, or read about the Dutch expertise in water use and technology.