Flood protection- Room for the River


In 2010-12 Landscape Interface Studio (LIS), Kingston University supported the communication and dissemination of the ‘Waterways Forward’ project, funded by the European Union Interreg IVC programme. The project brought together 17 partners from 11 EU countries plus Norway and Serbia and was led by SRN (Dutch Recreational Waterways Foundation, Netherlands).  During the project partners were asked to identify examples of good practice in water management and LIS analysed the results using the best examples to illustrate as leaflets for download.  The following describes the Room for the River project which has been fundamental to the Netherlands management of rising water levels. Larger versions of these good practices can be downloaded from the Good Practice Posters & Leaflets page.

good practices1

The Netherlands – Water Management and Flood Control Good Practice:

“The area available for the rivers has decreased continually during the past centuries. The rivers are confined between high dikes and more people live behind the dikes. At the same time the land behind the dikes has sunk due to soil subsidence. In addition, since it now rains harder and more frequently the rivers need to discharge more water to the sea. A flood in the current conditions would put the safety of 4 million people at risk..” Room for the River, SRN

The residents in the northern region of the Rhine River were confronted by anxious times in 1993 and 1995. The water levels were extremely high and the dikes just managed to hold. A quarter of a million people had to be evacuated.  Extremely high river discharges will occur more frequently in the future and for this reason it was decided in 2007 to ensure that the rivers would discharge the forecast greater volumes of water without flooding. The Government approved the Room for the River Plan (Planologische Kernbeslissing Ruimte voor de Rivier) .

The Plan’s main objectives:

  1. by 2015 the branches of the Rhine will cope with a discharge capacity of 16,000 cubic metres of water per second without flooding;
  2. the measures implemented to increase safety will also improve the overall environmental quality of the river region;
  3. the extra room the rivers will need in the coming decades to cope with higher discharges due to the forecast climate changes, will remain permanently available.

A range of measures have been implemented to create more room for the river and reduce high water levels, such as lowering the floodplains, relocating dikes further inland, lowering groynes in the rivers and deepening the summer beds. Strengthening dikes is a measure that will be implemented only when the alternatives are too expensive or inadequate. The programme also aims to boost the economy, ecology & scenic value of the rivers region; investing in its environmental quality will make the region more attractive & appealing, and will offer more room to nature & recreation.

“The continued strengthening of the dikes is an option that would reduce the risk of flooding. However, any flood that occurred would result in even greater damage since more water would flood to the sunken land behind the dikes. A trend has to be broken if the Netherlands is to be a safe, comfortable and pleasant country for its inhabitants. The answer is given by the ‘Room for the River’ plan. The Dutch government is taking action to improve safety and to protect the land and people living behind the dikes from floods. The river will be given more room at the total of 39 locations covered by the ‘Room for the River’ Programme. The main objectives of this programme are to complete the flood protection measures by 2015 and to improve the overall environmental quality in the river region.” Source: Manon van Meer, Dutch Recreational Waterways Foundation (SRN)

The Room for the River project:

  • To complete the flood protection measures by 2015/16
  • To improve the overall environmental quality in the river region
  • Special attention paid to conserve and develop the region’s protected natural environment.
  • To make the area more attractive and improve quality of life by integrating water with other spatial functions.
  • However, in the event that the main objective of this project (achieving the required safety levels) conflicts with its secondary objective (spatial quality), the main objective will prevail.

Further info: https://www.ruimtevoorderivier.nl/english/

Good practice poster designs: Helena Rivera.



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