Climate change is here. We need to adjust. If you don’t want to do it for the planet, or for your safety, you should do it for your wallet. — Peter Glas, Delta Programme Commissioner
Climate change is here. We need to adjust. If you don’t want to do it for the planet, or for your safety, you should do it for your wallet. — Peter Glas, Delta Programme Commissioner
How the Netherlands is Avoiding River Flooding
The Netherlands, accustomed to wet weather, was midway through what would become one of the wettest Julys on record, and Patrick van der Broeck was getting edgy.

Germany and Belgium were experiencing epochal floods that would ultimately kill 220 people, and the surging waters were bearing down on the low-lying Netherlands. “All the rain that falls across the border, inevitably will make its way to us,” said Mr. van der Broeck, the senior hydrologist for Limburg Province.

Earlier that month, though, Dutch officials had celebrated the completion of a new flood control project, one that turned previous such efforts on their head. Instead of further damming the Maas River and its tributaries, as conventional flood control would do, they’d decided to work with nature — diverting the waters into a 1,300-acre flood plain created to duplicate the river’s old overflow channels.

“I was nervous,” Mr. Van der Broeck said. “I wondered whether our project would hold up.”

He had reason to be. Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common, in Europe and worldwide. The deadly torrential rain in Europe this summer was considered a 400-year event; in China, over 20 inches of rain fell in just two days; New York City set records for an hour’s rainfall, setting off flash floods that killed dozens of people in the region; the drought-stricken American West is ablaze.

Yet no one died in the Netherlands in the July flooding. Some tributaries did wreak extensive damage in the border region, but along the Maas River, which swelled to epic proportions, large urban centers stayed safe and dry.

The Dutch are experienced in water management, having dealt with sea-level rise and river floods long before climate change became a concern. More than half the country lies beneath sea level, and while the ocean is held back by more conventional flood control methods, river management has changed drastically.

... Disasters have always propelled Dutch water management. In 1953 the North Sea flood, set off by a combination of strong winds, high tides and low pressure, killed 1,835 people after dikes were breached on 67 locations in the western part of the Netherlands. In response, the Dutch embarked on a plan called Delta Works, creating massive sea defenses aimed at preventing one-in-10,000-year floods.

Since then, the government has created not only Room for Rivers but also Delta Program, which now oversees all the country’s water management issues. July’s extreme rainstorm, however, suggests it is once again time to re-evaluate the country’s water defenses, Mr. Dircke said. “Increasing dikes by 10 centimeters is useless,” he added, “and we should map sensitive places.”

By these he means hospitals, schools, nursing homes, computer server facilities and critical infrastructure — all crucial to evaluate for their vulnerability to flooding. “If an elderly care home is next to a river, we should consider replacing it, as evacuating such vulnerable people during an emergency takes up too much time,” Mr. Dircke said.

Such measures need a lot of investment, he and other experts agree. Yet, “if we do nothing, the costs will be much higher,” said Peter Glas, the head of Delta Program. He warned that if the Netherlands fails to take sufficient measures to protect critical infrastructure, credit rating companies might lower its bond rating from its current triple A status.

“Climate change is here,” Mr. Glas said. “We need to adjust. If you don’t want to do it for the planet, or for your safety, you should do it for your wallet.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/europe/dutch-rivers-flood-control.html