Canada has endured several large floods in recent years. The most recent in 2021 resulted in a state of emergency and the evacuation of several residential areas. Canada’s ‘Changing Climate Report’ warns that the increase in occurrence and force of natural disasters will continue to escalate. Given the Netherlands’ extensive experience in flood management, the Consulates and Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa reached out to NWP to host an online, closed-door workshop on key flood management projects carried out in the Netherlands.
For this session, actors and experts from municipalities, ministries, universities and other organisations were invited. Four experts representing NWP members Rijkswaterstaat, Witteveen+Bos, and Deltares presented the design, process, outcomes, and conclusions of some of the flood and river basin management projects that they have conducted in the Netherlands.
Hans Brouwer, Manager of the Room for the River project at Rijkswaterstaat, began the workshop with a discussion on the successes and challenges of the project. As around half its population lives in flood-prone areas, the Netherlands implemented a project from 2000 to 2018 that used techniques such as dyke relocation, lowering floodplains, and deepening the summer bed along the delta in 33 different locations. Brouwer’s summary of the project’s success factors revealed a grassroots approach, including collaboration with local stakeholders, on creation and ownership and allowing ample time for the local debate to come to a democratic conclusion.
Suan Tie Pwa, Senior Advisor at Witteveen+Bos, expounded on the Room for the River, focusing on the details of the project process. Witteveen+Bos undertook 12 projects for Room for the River and Pwa expanded on one in Avelingen and one in Deventer. These included project aspects such as the techniques used, integration with local policies, funding arrangements, and the phases mapped out.
Leonie Straatsma, Project Leader at Witteveen+Bos, continued their joint presentation with highlights of the Meandering Meuse project that is strengthening dykes and carving more room for the Meuse River to weave through the floodplains. The project prioritises strengthening the local ecosystems and involving the local farmers in depth in the process.
Ferdinand Diermanse, Project Manager at Deltares, rounded off the presentations with a comprehensive illustration of the functions included in a system of flood risk reduction and early warning. In this case, the system includes projects like Room for the River and the Meandering Meuse. Diermanse also went through an early warning and flood forecast software called Delft-FEWS that Deltares produced and which is used worldwide.